We often look to the West—with an almost wistful fatalism—for many symbols of progressiveness in societal structures. Schooling is no exception. In Canada, for example, all school-aged children are entitled to a full educational programme regardless of any disabilities they may have. This is according to The School Act, which has been revised to cater for a non-segregated way of education, ensuring the needs of all students are met. It should go without saying that this is a shining example of inclusion, right?
However, what if I told you that revolutionary education isn’t just a pipe dream for Singaporean kids, that we need not look to other countries as ‘examples’, and that it’s already right here in our backyard?
Nuance is important here — while inclusive education is present in Singapore, that’s not to say it’s prevalent. Unlike our example, Canada, where children with special needs can mingle alongside neurotypical students, Singapore has seen to it that these children should be placed in a special education school instead. This is more so the norm.
Needless to say, there’s still a lot of work to be done. So what do we do, as parents of kids who aren’t given the opportunity to explore such learning settings that embrace diversity and practice inclusion?
Is Singapore Ready for Inclusion?
Putting this into practice aside, I urge parents to examine why we find these inclusive classrooms so desirable, yet believe that inclusion is still an elusive unlikelihood here in Singapore. The existence of Imagine If can attest to that.
For that to happen and make its way into the mainstream, we should look toward applying this here and continuously making it a norm in Singapore before we place our educational philosophies entirely in the hands of governmental bodies to permit us to empower our children’s learning.
Inclusion has been right in front of us all along. It’s up to us to seize it and put it into practice as believers in governing our kids’ learning and letting our children take the reins on it; because as much as learning is a setting, it is comprised of a crucial philosophy and meaningful pedagogy that seeks to make learning a tailored approach around the child—not the other way around. Perhaps the idea of inclusion wouldn’t feel so foreign and whimsical then, once we understand that this should form the framework of a meaningful education that applies to all children regardless of their backgrounds.
It’s this that makes it possible, but will you take the steps necessary to get there?