Under the bilingual education policy, all students in our primary and secondary schools are required to offer a Mother Tongue Language (MTL).
In implementing the policy, we exercise some flexibility and allow students with exceptional circumstances to offer an approved Foreign or Asian Language in lieu of MTL. There are broadly two groups of students who can be given this permission. They are either students who join the school system mid-stream from non-MTL speaking countries, or students with at least one parent who is foreign born and of non-Chinese/Malay/Indian ethnicity.
Over the past five years, the group of students offering an approved Foreign or Asian Language has remained small, at around 1% of a PSLE cohort on average. The proportion of Singapore students doing so has remained stable, at around 0.2% of each cohort.
The recommendations of the 2012-2016 Enabling Masterplan (EM) cover a range of issues, including those relating to improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of Special Education (SPED).
To improve quality, we have reviewed the SPED curriculum and built teacher capacity.
The SPED Curriculum Framework was launched in 2012 to guide the design and delivery of curriculum in SPED schools. A well- designed curriculum will better enable SPED students to achieve quality living, learning and working outcomes. We have helped every SPED school to set up curriculum teams to translate the Curriculum Framework into quality learning experiences based on the student profile in the school. Schools have also set up Professional Learning Teams to support teacher-led curriculum innovation. MOE has supported these teams with training and consultancy in curriculum development. Curriculum improvement is a long-term undertaking and MOE will continue to work hand-in-hand with SPED schools to meet our students’ needs.
Skilful and committed teachers are essential if we are to teach well. To enhance the professionalism of teachers in the SPED schools, MOE has worked with the National Institute of Education (NIE) to introduce courses such as the Diploma in Special Education and the Advanced Diploma in Special Education. MOE has also provided training funds to expand the opportunities for professional development for all SPED teachers. SPED schools have used these training funds to conduct workshops and support teachers’ participation in local and overseas conferences.
To address accessibility, MOE has been monitoring the SPED landscape and studying disability trends so that we could work with the SPED sector to provide sufficient places for students of different disabilities.
MOE has made significant investments in SPED school infrastructure over the years to increase the capacity of SPED schools catering to different disability profiles. We funded the construction of 15 purpose-built SPED schools and refurbished 5 SPED schools with customised facilities. We have also expanded the capacity of specific SPED schools to meet the rising demand for places catering to specific disabilities. For instance, in 2012, a new wing was constructed for Metta School, and the new and larger campus for Delta Senior School was completed in 2013.
Overall, there are sufficient vacancies within the SPED schools for new student admissions. However, we are seeing an increase in the number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and higher demand for schools catering to ASD. Some of these schools now have waitlists for admission. To reduce these waitlists, MOE is expanding the physical capacity of these ASD schools, and working closely with the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) and SPED schools to recruit more teachers.
Moving forward, MOE, together with the NCSS, will continue to monitor SPED school places, infrastructure and manpower situation, to ensure that all students with moderate to severe special educational needs have timely access to SPED schools.
MOE has also been working to enhance the SPED curriculum to better equip students with the knowledge and skills for independent living and integration into society.
We have introduced vocational education in SPED schools to develop work habits and skills that prepare students for work in a regular workplace so that they integrate better into society. Gainful employment can enable our SPED graduates who are capable of work to develop a sense of self-worth, independence and dignity.
We are also enhancing transition support for SPED students to post-school living, learning and working options in ways which are suited for different profiles of student. MSF recently set up SG Enable, which will look into enhancing training and employment options for adults with disabilities. MOE is working closely with MSF and SG Enable to better facilitate students’ transition from school to work and to expand the range of vocational training opportunities, work experience and employment opportunities for students.
The Ministry of Education is monitoring the provision of school bus services. In recent months, we have received feedback from some parents regarding the availability and affordability of school bus services as well as feedback from the school bus operators on the challenges and cost pressures that they faced.
We appreciate the need for school bus services to be affordable for parents and financially viable for bus operators. We are looking into the feedback provided, and will be engaging school bus operators to discuss the issues. We will also work with LTA on these.
The vast majority of students across our publicly-funded schools and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) are Singaporeans.
Having international students (IS) benefits Singaporeans. First, the diversity of students from different backgrounds adds vibrancy to the campus, and enhances global awareness and cross-cultural skills that prepares Singaporean students for the global market place of the future, where such soft skills will matter. Second, by augmenting our labour force, we ease the shortage in our labour market and make it easier for companies to continue to invest in Singapore to create good jobs for Singaporeans. Third, the reservoir of goodwill, friendship and trust generated among those who study here enable Singaporeans to form strong ties with them and expand opportunities for Singaporeans in the future.
Out of the total enrolment in our national schools (Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Junior Colleges), around 9% are PRs and another 5% are IS.
At the tertiary level, in each year, IS make up around 1% of the Institute of Technical Education’s (ITE) intake, around 10% of the Polytechnics’ intake, and around 15% of the Autonomous Universities’ (AUs) intake. PRs make up another 3-5% of the cohort.
Over the past five years, the average number of students given MTL exemption in the five schools with the highest number of exemption cases is 178.