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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 aged six to 15 to attend a national primary school, even if they have disabilities.
  • Your child withspecial needs may attend a mainstream school or special education (SPED) school, depending on their needs. Learn more here.
  • Vocational education, offered by SPED Schools, help and train students with special needs to be employable when they leave the school system.


Compulsory education

Under the Compulsory Education Act, a child of compulsory school age (i.e. six years old but under 15 years old), who is a Singaporean and residing in Singapore, has to attend a national primary school unless they have been granted exemption. National primary schools include government-funded special education (SPED) schools. The Act covers children with mild Special Education Needs (SEN) as well as children with moderate-to-severe SEN.

The Ministry of Education has specific criteria regarding what ‘moderate-to-severe SEN’ entails. Details on this, and compulsory education can be found on their website below:

 

Pre-school

Actions to take


Kindergartens and child care centres

Pre-schools refer to kindergartens and child care centres. Most kindergartens run half-day programmes; if the child requires centre-based care for the whole day, parents may need to explore child care centres.

Choosing a kindergarten or child care centre can be rather complicated, more so if the child has special needs. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) can help parents and caregivers navigate the pre-school landscape.

Selected child care centres offer the Integrated Child Care Programme (ICCP) for pre-schoolers with mild special needs, for them to learn and play alongside their typically-developing peers. Intervention and therapy services are not provided, though the mainstream curriculum may be modified to accommodate children with special needs. Consult a doctor at a polyclinic or a paediatrician to see if the ICCP is more suitable for your child and ask them for a referral.

Most pre-schools do not provide long-term care and support for children with special needs. The links below provide a list of those that do.

Government-appointed anchor operators such as My First Skool and Sparkletots offer Development support (DS) and Learning support (LS) Programme for pre-schoolers with mild developmental needs, on top of 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

Regardless of whether a child has special needs, he/she may be eligible for pre-school fee subsidies. These include Basic and Additional Subsidy for centre-based infant and child care, and the ComCare Child Care Subsidies.


Mainstream education

Actions to take

  • Consider enrolling your child into mainstream schools that provide specialised support for students with special needs.
  • Seek approval from the Ministry of Education if you wish to enrol your child into an international school.
  • Refer to this list of private education institutions and this list for international schools in Singapore.


Publicly-funded schools

Mainstream schools also enrol children with special needs. The school curriculum is largely standardised and better suited for children who have the cognitive abilities and adaptive skills to learn in large-group settings.

These schools provide a range of support for students with special needs from teachers trained in Special Needs (TSNs), allied educators, educational support services provided by SSAs, and assistive technology.

Some of these schools welcome students with physical disabilities. In addition, a few schools provide specialised support for children with moderate to profound hearing loss or visual impairment, who are able to follow the mainstream curriculum.

Admission to a mainstream primary school is through the usual Primary One Registration Exercise.


Foreign System Schools (FSS)

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

 

Special education

Actions to take

  • Take note that different SPED schools cater to students with different disabilities.
  • Find out more about special education on the MOE website and in this information guide to SPED schools in Singapore.


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 7 and graduate at around 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 own students.

To better understand how a 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.

 

Vocational education

Actions To Take

  • Consider vocational training which can help students find employment after completing their studies. SPED schools such as Metta School, APSN Delta Senior School, and Mounbatten Vocational School provide such training.
  • Check your child’s eligibility to participate in transition-to-work programmes to prepare him/her 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 students with special needs be employable when they leave the school system. The type of programmes can vary from school to school and not all children may participate. 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 disability from the age of 16 years. These eventually lead to national (WSQ and NITEC) certification, which are the same as those awarded to students from the 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 are in a better position to look for jobs; they can also explore further training e.g. at the Institute of Technical Education to pursue the National ITE Certificate (NITEC).

For more information about vocational education in SPED schools, click here.


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 our Training & Employment page.

 

Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs)


Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support office

All publicly-funded IHLs, including universities, polytechnics and ITE Colleges - have an SEN Support Office 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, student activities that are inclusive, dedicated support for internships and job search etc. For more information, check with the respective IHL’s SEN Support Office.


SEN fund

This fund helps to defray the costs of buying MOE-approved assistive technology (AT) devices or support services. Only Singaporeans who are polytechnic and ITE students with physical or sensory impairment are eligible to apply for the fund.

Publicly-funded universities and arts institutions such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) have their own SEN Funds. Students with special needs can check with the school for more information.

For more information, please refer to the write-ups on assistive technology devices and software 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. The schools and community organisations may also provide financial support to students, so it could be worthwhile to check with them.

There are dedicated financial assistance schemes for persons with disabilities too, such as the SkillsFuture Study Award for Persons with Disabilities and Mediacorp Enable Fund. Find out more on these financial assistance education schemes on our Money Matters page.

Resources and Support