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Education

Depending on their individual needs and abilities, children and youths with special needs may attend a mainstream school or a special education school. The former has a largely standardised curriculum with additional support for students with special needs, while the latter caters specifically to students with special needs who require more intensive and specialised assistance.

Key points

  • It is compulsory for all Singaporean children above six years old and under 15 years old to attend a national primary school, even if they have disabilities1.
  • Your child with special needs may attend a mainstream school or special education (SPED) school, depending on their needs.
  • Vocational education, one of the seven core learning domains offered by some SPED Schools, equips students with technical and soft skills that will prepare them for employment after graduation2.

Preschool

Actions to take

  • Approach the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) if you need help finding a preschool for your child.
  • Look into subsidies for your preschool fees from the ECDA website, or from the Money Matters page.


Kindergartens and child care centres

Preschools refer to kindergartens and childcare centres. Most kindergartens run three to four-hour programmes; if the child requires centre-based care for the whole day, parents may need to explore childcare centres.

Choosing a kindergarten or childcare centre can involve many considerations, more so if the child has special needs. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) can help parents and caregivers navigate the preschool landscape.

Schools that cater to children with special needs include Kindle Garden, ABC Centre, KidsFirst and Bridge Learning amongst others.

Government-appointed anchor operators such as My First Skool and Sparkletots also offer Development support (DS) and Learning support (LS) Programme for preschoolers with mild developmental needs, in addition to their regular curriculum.

You can find more information on early intervention and therapy for children with special needs on our Therapy & Intervention page.

Financial assistance

Your family may be eligible for preschool fee subsidies such as the Basic and Additional Subsidy for centre-based infant care and child care, as well as ComCare Child Care Subsidies.

Considerations when selecting a preschool

When deciding between enrolling your child in a mainstream or dedicated special needs preschool, you can consider the following:

  • Visit the preschools and find out what support is available
  • Share your child’s needs with the preschool and determine whether its services are aligned
  • Seek recommendations from other caregivers whose children have similar special needs
  • Consider your child’s education and therapy needs, bearing in mind that therapy needs can also be met outside of school (e.g. through EIPIC)

You can also seek advice on other suitable options from professionals such as paediatricians, occupational therapists, and psychologists.
 

Compulsory Education

Under the Compulsory Education Act, a child of compulsory school age (i.e. above 6 years old and under 15 years old), who is a Singapore Citizen and residing in Singapore, has to attend a national primary school (this includes government funded special education schools) unless they have been granted compulsory education exemption due to their disability.

 

Mainstream Education

Actions to take

  • Discuss with your child's medical and allied professionals and/ or early intervention (EI) professionals on the recommended educational setting for your child.
  • Consider your child's interest, home-school distance and learn more about the specific support available in the school(s) that meets the needs of your child by visiting the school's website, attending open houses, arranging school visits or speaking to the schools' personnel. 
  • Seek approval from MOE if you wish to consider other educational settings, e.g., home-schooling, full-time care, or specialised private educational institutions.  


Publicly-funded schools

Mainstream schools do enrol children with special needs. Its curriculum is largely standardised and better suited for children with the cognitive abilities and adaptive skills to access the national curriculum and mainstream learning environment (e.g., large-group settings), and only require some additional support. Cognitive abilities refer to the ability to think, concentrate, formulate ideas, reason, and remember3. Adaptive skills refer to the ability to handle daily demands independently in areas such as communication, self-care, motor, and social skills.

Children with special educational needs in mainstream schools are supported by trained school personnel, school programmes and interventions, as well as educational support and specialist services. 

All mainstream schools also have some degree of barrier-free access. A list of schools with full barrier-free accessibility for students with physical disabilities is available. In addition, there are designated mainstream primary school and secondary schools that provide specialised support for children with moderate to profound hearing loss or visual impairment. 

Admission to a mainstream primary school takes place through the Primary One Registration Exercise.

You can refer to this guide to identify a school that best suits the support needs of your child. 

Engaging the school

To provide your child with the necessary support in school, you can work with the school to develop an Intervention Plan and discuss support strategies, such as:

  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) Officers who can provide learning and behaviour support through individual or small group intervention or skills training, or in-class support4 .

  • Access arrangements for school and national examinations such as provision of additional time.

You can arrange to meet the school staff including, teachers and SEN Officer to discuss:

  • The needs of your child and what has worked well for them in the previous school, EIPIC environment or at home
  • Intervention plans and appropriate strategies for your child.
  • Support arrangements for your child (e.g. the school can allocate a first-level classroom for your child if they face mobility challenges)

The school’s professionals can help in assessing the needs of your child and recommending adjustments to be made.


Foreign System Schools (FSS)

Some FSS - also known as "international schools" - cater to students with special education needs. However, as these schools are intended primarily for expatriates' children, Singaporeans who wish to enrol in FSS (excluding preschools) will need to seek approval from MOE. Learning disabilities may be a factor of consideration in the approval process. 

 

Special education

Actions to take


Government-funded Special Education (SPED) schools

SPED schools cater to children and youths with special needs who require more intensive and specialised assistance. Students enrol at around the age of seven and graduate at 18-21 years old.

Different SPED schools cater to students with different types of disabilities; some cater to students with multiple disabilities. SPED schools follow the MOE SPED Curriculum Framework in the design and delivery of their curriculum, while having the flexibility to customise the curriculum to meet the needs of their students.

SPED school’s support for children with special educational needs5  include:

  • More opportunities for your child to develop adaptive social and living skills
  • Higher levels of educational and specialised support based on their needs (e.g. drawing up of individual education plan)
  • Smaller class sizes for personalised attention to your child
  • Specialised personnel which may include therapists and psychologists
  • Special physical facilities which may include sensory modulation rooms, vocational training rooms, depending on the needs of their students

Considerations when selecting a SPED school:

Additionally, in selecting a SPED school for your child, you can consider these other factors6:

  • Your child’s needs and education pathways
  • Distance from home to school – A nearer school means reduced transport costs and shorter travelling time
  • Your child’s interest and whether the school offers CCAs and activities that matches these interests; and
  • School identity, including the school’s vision, mission, culture.

Depending on your child's abilities, you can enrol your child into different types of SPED schools:

  • Those that follow the National Curriculum (e.g. Pathlight School)
    • Your child will need to have adequate cognitive and adaptive skills to keep up with the mainstream curriculum
    • Your child will receive support in daily living and social-emotional skills
  • Those that follow a Customised Curriculum (e.g. Eden School)
    • The curriculum is designed to provide a child-centred, holistic learning experience for students with special needs
    • It follows the SPED Curriculum Framework and is intended to develop students' potential and equip them with essential knowledge and life skills

You may refer to this guide on deciding which school would be best for your child.

To better understand how your child with special needs can enrol into and progress through the SPED school system, and the choices you have, please refer to the links below.

If your child had attended or is currently attending a government-funded SPED school, they are also eligible to apply for the Accessible Membership offered by the National Library Board, which provides benefits such as longer borrowing periods and free reservation of items.

Engaging the school

Speaking to school staff to learn more about the school’s accessibility features and provisions for students with special needs can help you understand how your child can be supported. It can also help when greater personalisation of support or additional arrangements are needed for your child. These discussions may cover:

  • The needs of your child and what has worked well for them in the previous school, EIPIC environment or at home.
  • Curriculum adaptation and support, which enables teachers to provide better attention and aid to your child7.

Post-school transition planning

The transition out of school can be challenging for both caregivers and students with special needs. Every SPED school has a Transition Planning Coordinator to support secondary-aged students and their families in preparing for meaningful post-secondary pathways, including employment and continual learning, taking into consideration students' strengths and interests.

SPED schools provide vocational preparation to help students with disabilities be employable when they leave the school system. Other students may be better suited for various community programmes, lifelong learning opportunities or adult disability services. SG Enable’s Post-18 Interactive Guide offers such information that support persons with disabilities during the transition upon graduation from SPED schools.

Vocational education

Actions To Take

  • Check your child’s eligibility for transition-to-work programmes which prepare them for employment.
  • Explore other initiatives to help SPED school students prepare for work, including internships, mentorships, and vocational training provided by SSAs.


Vocational education in Special Education (SPED) schools

SPED schools provide vocational training to help increase the employability of students with special needs upon their graduation from the school system. The type of programmes can vary from school to school and may not be open to all. Parents can find out more from the respective school and refer to the SPED pathways chart.

Metta School and APSN Delta Senior School offer vocational education programmes to eligible students with mild intellectual disabilities from the age of 16. These eventually lead to the students attaining national certification, which are the same as those awarded to students from mainstream schools. For pre-requisites for the programmes, please check with the schools.

Mountbatten Vocational School offers the ITE Skills Certificate in Food Preparation or Food & Beverage Service to youths with various learning disabilities. Applicants need to be assessed by the school and they must be between 14 and 19 years of age.

The national certification courses take about two to three years to complete. With these qualifications, students will be in a better position to look for jobs; they can also explore further training such as at the Institute of Technical Education to pursue the National ITE Certificate (NITEC).

Click here for more information on vocational education in SPED schools.


Other vocational training

SPED students, who are not in a certification course, may be eligible to participate in transition-to-work programmes, to prepare for supported or open employment.

There are other initiatives to help SPED school students prepare for work, including internships, mentorships, and vocational training provided by SSAs. More information can be found on Training & Employment.

 

Institutes of Higher Learning


Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support office

All publicly funded Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), including universities, polytechnics and ITE Colleges - have SEN Support Offices on campus. These offices serve as a first-stop support for students with SEN who are, looking into transitional support, in-class learning assistance and access arrangements.

Other support provided by IHLs include barrier-free accessibility, inclusive student activities, dedicated support for internships and job search etc. For more information, check with the respective IHL’s SEN Support Office.


MOE SEN fund

This fund supports full-time Singaporean Citizen polytechnic or ITE students with physical or visual impairment, hearing loss or learning and behavioural disabilities to purchase MOE-approved Assistive Technology devices or support services for their education. Students would need to approach their institution’s SEN support offices to apply.

Students with special educational needs from the autonomous universities and arts institutions also have access to similar financial support in their respective institutions for AT devices and support services. Students with special needs can check with the school for more information.

For more information, please refer to the write-ups on Assistive Technology and Financial Support.

 

Financial assistance for education

MOE provides financial assistance to Singaporean students from lower-income families who are enrolled in publicly-funded schools. Schools and community organisations may also provide additional financial support.

There are dedicated financial assistance schemes for persons with disabilities, such as the Goh Chok Tong Enable Fund. Find out more about these financial assistance education schemes on Money Matters.