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04/08/2016
Society, Blackbox in the Media

Singapore No ‘Playground’ for Special Needs Children

Blackbox’s Findings Stir Up Societal Debate

Following a study commissioned by the Lien Foundation, Blackbox’s research findings have contributed to a constructive debate in Singapore on the inclusion and education of special needs children.  Although the study found many Singaporeans supporting the idea of inclusive public spaces, far fewer were willing to interact with the special needs community, indicating some disparity between Singaporeans’ tolerance and actual acceptance.

Members of the special needs community often face difficulties trying to integrate themselves into Singapore. The study shone a spotlight on the fact that less than a third of Singaporeans believe they live in an inclusive society today. Likewise, only ten per cent feel comfortable interacting with special needs individuals, suggesting the lack of exposure and public education is a key problem.  A majority of respondents indeed agreed that increased education would allow for greater understanding.

In a later study widely reported in local media, parents of special needs children were surveyed by Blackbox and asked about the hurdles their families face. The Straits Times reported that ‘most parents of children with special needs [72%] want new laws to promote the rights of their children, and better pre-school education for them’.  This contrasts with findings in our earlier study which showed that less than half of Singaporeans support the introduction of such laws.

Blackbox also found over 50% of parents of special needs children have experienced difficulty in finding a pre-school willing to enrol their child.  With only half of Singaporeans, however, being comfortable with the idea of their child attending classes together with special needs children, changing community attitudes remains a challenge.

The Lien Foundation has called on the Singaporean Ministry of Education to make education for special needs children compulsory by the end of 2016.  Programme manager, Ng Tze Yong, stated that whilst ‘Singaporeans embrace the idea of inclusion’, it is time that we note the divide ‘between what we think and what we do’.

Blackbox’s findings were published in three Singaporean newspapers – The Straits Times, TODAY and Zaobao.  In addition, our research was mentioned in three online articles. You can read them here:

Straitstimes – “Singaporeans Don’t ‘Walk the Talk’ on Special Needs Kids”

Straitstimes – “New Laws to Protect Kids with Special Needs, More Support in Pre-Schools Needed: Survey”

TODAY – S’poreans support inclusive education but do not walk the talk: Study