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Special Education Timeline

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1952 - Singapore Children’s Society

In 1961, a subcommittee of the Singapore Children’s Society spearheaded a pilot project to start a class for intellectually disabled children. The Rotary Club of Singapore offered a $10,000 grant which aided to start a class for 26 children in a single room at Towner Road.

1961 - Singapore Association for the Retarded Children (SARC)

The Singapore Association for the Retarded Children formed with Warren Fox Founding President. As the Towner Road premises were not large enough, and so the school moved to a new venue at Ah Hood Road. Through Ng Fook Kah at the Ministry of Singapore the school received two teachers. Eventually, the student enrolment had increased to eighty.

In 1965, an old community centre at Sims Avenue was taken over for another school. It was named the Geylang Centre. It was here that a sheltered workshop was also started and in 1983, when the Towner Gardens School was started, the younger children were transferred there.

In 1968, the Singapore Government leased out a piece of land at Margret Drive to build a special school. By 1970, another SARC school was started at the Jurong Christian Church which was named Jurong Gardens School. In 1983, the Griffiths Primary School was taken over for a new SARC School, and this was renamed the Towner Gardens School.

In 1986, another new school for the intellectually disabled children was established at Yio Chu Kang Gardens School.

1969 - Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA)

Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), founded in 1969 by a group of 23 persons. It was first registered as the Singapore Handicaps Friendship Club. It later became known as Singapore Association for the Disabled in 1975. In 1976, it adopted the present name - Handicaps Welfare Association. The Association has since grown to a large and respected organisation with over 1,700 members, most of whom are physically-disabled. Handicaps Welfare Association, is now occupying an old school building at Whampoa Drive.

1969 - Tampines Home was established

A residential home was set up in 1969 to support those who were very severely disabled and came from an inadequate family support. The home was called The Tampines Home which was situated at Tampines Road. Due to frequent flooding, the home which housed 41 residents had to be moved to a new venue in 1976, relocated at Lorong Buangkok. The number of residents increased to 53 after the relocation. Due to the redevelopment project of Woodbridge Hospital which is today known as Institute of Mental Health, the home was moved next to Mount Alvernia Hospital in 1992.

1970 - Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA)

In 1970, The Asian Women Welfare Association was formed by volunteer ladies. The motive for such an initiative was to provide social services for the disadvantaged. It started off as a Family Service Centre, which expanded to begin a Handicapped Children’s Playgroup for children with multiple disabilities in 1979.

1976 - Association for the Educationally Subnormal (AESN)

In 1971, a subcommittee of the Singapore Association for Retarded Children (SARC) was formed for the less severely retarded children. It began with two classes at Lee Kong Chian Gardens School.

In 1976, the AESN was formed and with the increasing number of students, they applied for the use of a disused school, which was The Tanjong Katong Malay School. Upon approval, the Katong Special School was born.

1985 - Movements for the Intellectually Disabled Singapore (MINDS)

Singapore Association for Retarded Children was changed to the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) after a comment made by one of the lecturer of National Institute of Education (NIE), Low Guat Tin. The new name was effected in 1985.

1987 - Margret Drive Special School

In 1983, when MINDS embarked on its first class for young intellectually disabled children who were three years and below known as Early Intervention Programme. Several other agencies were interested in starting such Early Intervention Program, too. So they approached Community Chest of Singapore to start such a programme.

In 1986, the late Dr Ee Peng Liang, then President of the Community Chest of Singapore requested for a pilot project to be started to explore the possibilities of centralising all these various Early Intervention Programmes. A committee was set up for this purpose and it was decided to bring together the Early Intervention Programme and to start a new program for the Multiply Handicapped at the then recently vacated Margret Drive Primary School.

In 1987, the Margaret Drive Special School was set up as a pilot project of the Singapore Council of Social Service and funded by the Community Chest.

1988 - Advisory Council for the Disabled was set up

In 1988, under the chairmanship of Dr Tong Tan, Minister of Education at that time, an Advisory Council for the Disabled was set up. Its major achievement was that the Singapore Government became an equal partner with the National Council of Social Service for the funding and management of Special Education.

Following the Advisory Council’s recommendations, the Government agreed to give financial support up to a maximum of twice the cost of educating a primary school child in Singapore.


1991 - Dyslexia Association of Singapore

The Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) was started as a result of a Community Service Project of the Rotary Club of Raffles City, Singapore. The "Dyslexia Association of Singapore" was registered as a non-profit organization in October 1991. The People's Association, Kallang, kindly provided the newly-formed Association with office premises free of charge. With the funds raised from a Golf Tournament organized by Four Lions Clubs, our first teacher was employed in 1993.


1992 - Rainbow Centre

The Margaret Drive Special School became independent from the National Council of Social Service in 1992. That year, The Rainbow Centre was established as a charitable organisation under the Charity Act, and was affiliated to the National Council of Social Service. The Rainbow Centre serves as the umbrella organisation for both the Margaret Drive Special School and the Balestier Special School.

1992 – Learning Support Coordinators introduced to Primary Schools

(LSP) is an early intervention programme aimed at providing additional support in literacy skills. This programme was first introduced to primary schools in 1992. Under this programme P1 and 2 pupils with difficulties in basic literacy skills are taught in small group sizes of 8-10. The LSP supports 20% of P1 pupils and 10% of P2 pupils. The classes are conducted by 214 Learning Support Coordinators (LSC). Each of our primary schools has at least one LSC, today to support students who have difficulties with basic literacy.

1992 – Autistic Association of Singapore

Through the initiative of a group of parents The Autism Association (Singapore) was set up in August 1992, with the Registry of Societies. On 28 January 1995, it became a charitable organization under the Charity Act, Singapore.

1995 - Balestier Special School

With the waiting list for children to enter the Margaret Drive Special School increased, there was a need to have a second school to be able to accommodate the children. Thus, a second school was started in the vacated premises of Balestier Primary School.

1998 - Society for the Promotion of ADHD Research and Knowledge (SPARK)

In 1998, through the initiative of a parent with a ADHD child who underwent tremendous personal frustration not knowing where to go to, decided to help other parents in the same boat by setting up the ADHD Parent Support Group.

Having to successfully help other parents to understand and accept their children and thus they realized that the public to have to be educated to bring out the awareness.

In response to this need, SPARK was formed by a number of parents from the Support Group to continue with, and expand on the scope of the work done previously by the Group.

2004 - Pathlight School

Pathlight was set up in 2004, by the non profitable organisation Autism Resource Centre. The school in Ang Mo Kio provides mainstream curriculum for children with autism. Students are able to sit for PSLE and GCE ?O’ Level examinations, as well as learn life skills for independent living. (The Straits Times, Saturday August 5 2006)


2005 - Special Needs Officers (SNOs) were introduced in Primary and Secondary Schools

With the number of students with learning disabilities on the rise in mainstream schools, Ministry of Education introduced Special Needs Officers in 2005. Special Needs Officers will be specialised in either dyslexia or autism intervention and will be deployed to schools to aid students with such disabilities.

All primary schools will have at least 1 to 3 Special Needs Officers by 2010 and 20 Secondary schools will be identified as a resourced school for either dyslexia or autism, with 1 -3 Special Needs Officers to provide adequate support such withdrawal or in class support .

Currently, 130 Special Needs Officers (SNO) have been deployed to 80 primary and 23 secondary schools supporting students with either dyslexia or autism. By 2010, the number of Special Needs Officers deployed to mainstream schools will rise to at least 236. This new initiative was announced by MOE in May 2005. SNOs provide support for students with mild to moderate Dyslexia and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in mainstream schools and to help them integrate better with their school community through in-class support, small group specialised remedial work and skills training.

It was also important that teachers were aware of such learning differences and thus a core of teachers, which will make up 10% of teaching staff in all schools, will be trained to enable them to better support students with mild special needs in their respective schools.


2005 - Mainstream School Teachers trained in Special Needs (TSNs)

It was also important that teachers were aware of such learning differences and thus a core of teachers, which will make up 10% of teaching staff in all schools, will be trained to enable them to better support students with mild special needs in their respective schools. It involves the training of mainstream teachers through a part-time course conducted by the National Institute of Education. Mainstream teachers who take this certificate course receive 108 hours of further training in special needs.

The Education Ministry’s aim is for every school to have a group of teachers who possess a deeper understanding of the nature of these learning disabilities, and who are able to apply a range of strategies to improve teaching and learning for these pupils in regular classrooms and to help their colleagues in doing so where possible.

By 2008, there will be 1125 teachers in primary and secondary schools that would have completed the TSN training. In addition , teachers from Junior Colleges will be selected to attend this TSN training. The training will be customize to suit the needs of Junior Colleges. .

With the positive outcomes of the TSN initiatives in schools, Ministry is also planning to increase the percentage intake for Teachers training in Special Needs for Secondary School from 10% to 20% in five years time.


2007 - Learning Support Coordinators (Math) were introduced in Primary Schools

With the success of introducing Learning Support Coordinators to primary schools, Ministry of Education embarked on the next pilot project. A similar programme for mathematics for students who are weak in numeracy skills is currently being piloted. Mathematics Support Teachers (MaSTs) have been specially trained to administer this programme.