“The satellite partnership between some Special Education (SPED) and mainstream schools is set to be expanded so that more SPED students can share playtime during recess and school events with their mainstream school peers” (More Partnerships For SPED, Mainstream Schools, Miss Ng Jing Yng).
The news report “More Partnerships For SPED, Mainstream Schools” (March 20, 2012) by Miss Ng Jing Yng: the decision by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to expand satellite partnerships between some Special Education (SPED) and mainstream schools is well-intended and extremely productive. The benefits are manifold: students get the opportunity to significantly expand their networks when they take the initiative to befriend pupils; the institutions enjoy scholastic and social integration; and individuals – including parents and teachers – would develop sensitivities and awareness of pedagogies or approaches in varying schools.
It is therefore heartening to know that the MOE has acknowledged these advantages, and are – at the present moment – looking to include the remaining twelve SPED schools. The administration can certainly do more to raise public cognisance of these programmes, and to introduce collaborative projects between the schoolchildren; more importantly, the bureaucrats involved can duplicate these schemes and partnerships throughout the education system. This could be especially poignant within the community of Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL), because of the differing methodologies adopted, and the dissimilar focuses in the information disseminated.
Introducing More Partnerships Between Schools
There is tremendous value when students are encouraged to go beyond their respective schools, and expand their exposure either in terms of academic-scholastic pursuit, or vocational instruction (here). Interactions between youths at the IHL-level can also go a long way to address preconceived notions or stereotypes, and greatly heighten cross-curriculum or inter-disciplinary learning. Even within unique classroom settings, these students would get a grasp of what is done in the assortment of institutions, and simultaneously find out more about courses and academic streams.
Cooperative partnerships can also go beyond superficial exchanges, or one-off events per se (such as one-day Racial Harmony celebrations, or Total Defence commemorations). Following the scholastic or course-based learning, the students could work constructively together to organise national conventions and seminars, form core teams for community initiatives, or even manage events or major activities at the grassroots levels. Opportunities for these out-of-the-classroom commitments should be seized.
My primary gripe is that too many schools are becoming too “insular”, and largely confined within their individual communities: those offering the Integrated Programme, those offering the performing arts, the vocational institutions et cetera. Students are too confined within these comfortable sanctuaries, and rarely get the opportunity to explore or to make new acquaintances beyond their myopic spheres. Change can be the new constant; the possibilities for these partnerships are endless, and the MOE should grab the bull by its horns and establish first steps for many more institutions to come.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.