30 April 2021

 

​NEW INITIATIVES TO ENHANCE INCLUSION AND SUPPORT
FOR CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS

 

1.   As part of the Government's continuing efforts to give every child a good start, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced new initiatives to enhance inclusion and support for children with developmental needs. These initiatives are guided by the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup's (IPWG) recommendations released today to enable children with developmental needs to learn, play, contribute and participate meaningfully, alongside their typically developing peers in preschools and the community. Typically developing children will also stand to benefit from these efforts, in areas such as the provision of differentiated instruction and development of prosocial behaviours.

 

Recommendations and Initiatives Arising from the IPWG​

2.   The IPWG is one of three workgroups set up under the Third Enabling Masterplan (EMP3) in 20191. The IPWG sought to study and develop recommendations to better support children with developmental needs in preschools. The cross-sectoral workgroup is co-chaired by Minister of State for Social and Family Development, and Education, Sun Xueling, and Associate Dean (Education Research) of the National Institute of Education, A/P Kenneth Poon2, and comprises members from the health, education and social service sectors.

3.   Over the past two years, the IPWG consulted and engaged about 60 participants over two focus group discussions3 and 900 participants from an online survey for parents4.These engagement efforts are in line with the Singapore Together movement to more directly involve Singaporeans in the co-creation of policies and initiatives. The workgroup also conducted visits to local and overseas inclusive preschools to study their experiences with inclusion.​


1 Apart from the IPWG, there were two other workgroups formed to review the areas of (a) Employment and (b) Independent Living for Persons with Disabilities. Their workgroup reports were released earlier this month.

Prior to Aug 2020, the workgroup was co-chaired by former-Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Social and Family Development, and Education) Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

Participants in the focus group discussions comprised early childhood educators, early intervention professionals, preschool operators, early intervention service providers, and parents of preschool-aged children.  The focus group discussions were held in Nov 2019.

The online survey for parents was held from June to July 2020.

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4.   The IPWG has now completed its work and has put forth seven key recommendations to enhance support for children with developmental needs and move towards greater inclusion within preschools. The workgroup has mapped out a 4-tier framework to enhance support for children with developmental needs. The tiered framework also signals that all preschools have a part to play in enhancing support and inclusion for children with developmental needs. A description of the tiered framework and the full list of recommendations and initiatives in response to the recommendations can be found in Annex A, while the IPWG's report can be found in Annex B.

5.​   The Government supports the IPWG's report and has begun implementing initiatives in response to the recommendations, several of which were earlier announced at the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Committee of Supply debates in March 2021.


Inclusive Support Programme

6.  In line with one of the IPWG's key recommendations,ECDA plans to pilot a new Inclusive Support Programme (InSP) at selected preschools for children requiring medium levels of early intervention support. To ensure that InSP pilot preschools are able to provide a better and more inclusive learning experience for both typically developing children and children with developmental needs, ECDA will be developing the pilot with the following key features:​

              a.         Child – Supporting children's early intervention needs within the preschool

i. InSP preschools will be resourced with full-time early intervention professionals and visiting allied health professionals, who will provide specialist support to children that require medium levels of early intervention support.

ii. Children who require medium levels of early intervention support will be supported by an Individualised Programme Plan, which will be executed through a combination of in-class support and pull-out sessions depending on the child's needs and progress made. ​

              b.         Class – Cultivating inclusive practices in the classroom

i. Early intervention professionals and early childhood educators will work collaboratively towards co-planning and co-teaching classes. They will strive to employ differentiated teaching practices to ensure lessons are tailored to children's learning abilities, and embed early intervention support within daily preschool routines.

               c.         Centre – Fostering an inclusive preschool ecosystem

​​i. The majority of InSP preschools' enrolment will continue to comprise typically developing children. This ensures classroom dynamics remain led by typically developing children, while catering to children with developmental needs.

​​ii. InSP preschools will work towards cultivating an inclusive mindset by facilitating activities that encourage meaningful interactions among children. The preschool environment will also be modified where necessary and viable to improve accessibility for children with developmental needs.

              d.         Community – Families as core partners

​​i. InSP preschools will foster family-centred partnerships, where parents and/or caregivers are actively and regularly involved in their child's progress and development.

​7.   Further details on the InSP pilot providers and sites will be released later this year.

 

Enhancing Capabilities in Inclusive Education

8.   To better equip early childhood educators with the skills to support children with developmental needs, ECDA has been working with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) to enhance pre-service training for students and continuing professional development for in-service professionals respectively. As part of these efforts, NIEC will launch a new 120-hour Certificate in Inclusive Practice (CIP) in June 2021, to enable in-service early childhood educators to acquire inclusive strategies to support children with varying needs in preschools. Modules under the CIP can be taken individually or stackable towards a full Certificate. Educators may also choose to embark on the full 120-hour certificate. More details on the CIP can be found in Annex C.

Strengthening Screening & Referrals, and Parent Education

​9.  The IPWG has also recommended strengthening system-level support for more timely and systematic identification of developmental needs, and support for parents through parent education. MSF/ECDA and MOE, in consultation with experts from the education, health and social sectors, have released a set of professional practice guidelines for preschool-aged children in Feb 2021. The guidelines aim to improve support by professionals for children and their families, and ensure a smooth transition beyond preschool. The guidelines can be accessed at the following link. ECDA will also work toward publishing a parents' version of the guide and work with SG Enable to enhance the Enabling Guide, to address parents' feedback to curate resources that will deepen caregivers' understanding of developmental needs and provide information on support resources/strategies.​

 
Moving Towards A More Caring and Inclusive Society Together

10.   The IPWG recommendations build on good efforts thus far to foster inclusivity in our community.  MSF/ECDA is committed to continue working closely with partners to provide a good start for every child, and to build a stronger, caring society that benefits all.

11.   Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development, and Education, said, “A large part of early years education is about developing socio-emotional competencies and instilling values such as kindness, respect and empathy. We hope to instil inclusive mindsets from the early years, benefiting both typically developing children and children with developmental needs, and lay the foundation for a more caring and inclusive society. The journey towards inclusion requires a whole-of-society effort involving preschools and early intervention providers, parents, and the wider community."​


    

• Please refer to the Annex A to F here.

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