• By Edie Ballantyne

The Visiting Professorship in Education was set up to attract top minds to Singapore National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to contribute to the vision of Singapore’s education system for the future, starting with the development of educational programmes and research.

As first recipient of this award for 2022-2023, Professor Vivienne Riches was privileged to spend part of August based at NIE, Singapore. In line with Singapore’s 3rd Enabling Masterplan 2030, that provides a national roadmap for people with disabilities to be integral and contributing member of society, the current focus is on inclusion and lifelong learning.

The visit involved meetings and conversations with faculty, and research consultations with postgraduate students and NIE Psychology and Child & Human Development staff.  A constructive conversation was held with lead educators from special and mainstream education settings across Singapore who are participating in a 6 months intensive programme Inclusion Matters run by NIE to facilitate inclusion advocacy and change management.

During the visit Vivienne presented a public lecture for educators supporting students with special needs across Singapore entitled “Educating for an inclusive future” and a seminar at NIE for NIE staff, teachers in special education schools, officers supporting students in mainstream schools and institutes of higher learning.

Opportunity was also provided to see first hand some of the curriculum and teaching practices being used to prepare students with special needs for an inclusive future. The Delta Senior Special School provides a 3-5 year Work Skills Qualification Certification program for students with mild intellectual disabilities and comorbid conditions that includes foundational academics, and a 2 year School to Work programme for students with intellectual disabilities on a purely vocational track. Impressive state of the art industrial training facilities means onsite training and structured community-based work experiences are of high calibre and result in open employment. Northlight School is a hybrid school for students who could not pass the national exam at age 12 years, many of whom are disadvantaged in significant ways and need a customised curriculum that focuses on character development, foundational education, and vocational education. A three-tiered support model is used and person-centred planning and practices are exemplary.  The Canossian Village provides inclusive education to local mainstream children and children with hearing loss in an educational hub that includes a fully inclusive preschool, a special education school, a catholic primary school and a student care centre. Established by the Canossian sisters, it is a collaboration between the Canossian Sisters and the Singapore Ministry of Education and is a lovely examples of truly inclusive services that address social, emotional, spiritual, and academics outcomes for all its students. The Enabling Village is an inclusive space dedicated to integrating people with disabilities into society. It is a collective of individual and organisations that showcases assistive technologies and is home the Enabling Academy that addresses lifelong learning, as well as several social enterprises.

Overall, the visit was intensive but extremely productive and enlightening, the highlight being interactions between academic staff and numerous leaders and educators from across the island state. We look forward to further collaboration and research opportunities.

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