Prioritise special needs students in Education Blueprint — Council

Posted on September 28, 2012, Friday

KUCHING: The National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) is urging the Ministry of Education (MOE) to prioritise teacher training for students with special needs (SNS) to improve the quality of teaching under the final version of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB).
The council also took the MOE to task for not taking a more inclusive and comprehensive stand on special needs.
“Not only has very little attention been given to this group, the attention is superficial in comparison to the meticulous analysis and documentation in other parts of the blueprint. Worse, the actions suggested for this group go against the principles of Best Practice and Inclusive Education,” noted the council in a press statement.
“The blueprint acknowledges that SSN makes up an estimated 10 per cent of every cohort. But, in fact, it is generally accepted that if a broad spectrum of learning difficulties is included, the proportion of students needing specialised teaching and attention may be as high as 15 to 20 per cent.
“For a 268-page document with 91,800 words, outlining the nation’s educational direction over the next two decades, only a mere 1,070 words (spanning three pages) is devoted to SSN. One wonders how a national blueprint could fail to provide due attention to such a significant proportion of Malaysian students,” said the council.
The council also highlighted the discrepancy between key weaknesses identified in the blueprint and the recommendations for the first wave of action for improvements in education for special needs which did not address those weaknesses.
“An Inclusive Education seeks to bring SSN, except for the severely disabled, into mainstream education through Individual Education Plans implemented by well-trained teachers and professionals, not segregate them by different levels of ‘competency’.
“It calls for teachers to be creative and classroom practice to be flexible so that SSN can learn together with their peers. Accepting students of diverse abilities in the same classroom has been proven to bring benefits to all students. It is the mark of a progressive, humane and high quality education system,” said the statement.
The council said it supports the blueprint’s statement on Best Practice in Education, which calls for immediate action in improvements in skills, training and quality of teachers; working closely with families; and building partnerships with relevant local organisations for mainstream education.
However, it urged the government to address education for SSN with “at least equal urgency” as that of their more-abled peers by immediately implementing those improvements for special needs students under Wave 1, instead of Wave 2 (2016 to 2020).
The statement suggested that along with Wave 1, the MOE should work with families of SSN and collaborate with NGOs already familiar with the education of SSN immediately and with minimal costs.
“We take this opportunity to reiterate our willingness to engage in discussions and to provide whatever support we can in the move to transform education for SSN in Malaysia to meet the highest international standards in the coming two decades.
“No child must be left behind, but just saying this does not make it happen. We say again that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. The council would like to advocate for our best teachers (and the education system) to support our weakest children so that as a nation, we can all move forward without leaving any behind,” concluded the statement.
Last April, the NECIC submitted a Memorandum on Inclusive Education as National Policy for Children with Special Needs to the MOE, which was written by the council and supported by over 60 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) nationwide.
Amongst others, the memorandum contained a long list of suggestions and recommendations for long-term actions towards improving education of SSN.
The council has yet to receive any response from the ministry.
The council is a registered coalition of parents, therapists and professionals from NGOs and government agencies advocating for children with special needs.

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