Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang
Nee Soon GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development in light of the higher number of children below the age of seven years with speech delay, autism and at risk of moderate to severe disabilities and the longer waiting time for early intervention services at VWOs, whether the Ministry will consider
(i) funding or increasing subsidies to the preschools to train and employ additional manpower similar to the role of a shadow teacher or allied educator in schools and
(ii) making recommendations to increase the ratio of teachers to students in preschools who accept these children in the interim.
Today, pre-schools may accept children with mild to moderate developmental delays and who may benefit from integration into the mainstream environment. To support this, the Ministry for Social and Family Development funds the Development Support Programme (DSP) at more than 300 pre-schools. Under DSP, therapists and specially-trained Learning Support Educators (LSEds) provide targeted learning and development for the children, and also work with the main teacher during classes to integrate the child in a group setting. We will expand the DSP to 30 more centres this year.
In addition, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has been collaborating with training institutes to provide subsidised modular Continuing Professional Development courses to equip pre-school teachers with the skillsets to support pre-school children with developmental needs. Given the diversity of needs, ECDA does not prescribe a specific staff-child ratio for preschools with these children. However, pre-schools with these children are able to deploy more teachers if needed. Pre-schools are also encouraged to work with the child’s parents and developmental specialists for the child’s development.
For children with more severe needs, there are currently 17 Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) centres supporting some 2,600 children in their developmental needs. The EIPIC centres also support the integration of children into mainstream pre-schools. MSF will increase the capacity to 3,200 places by 2018.
Beyond expanding current services, MSF will work with our partners to develop a continuum of services for children with different needs and to train a multi-disciplinary team of pre-school teachers, LSEds, therapists and psychologists to support more children with special needs in the learning environment that is most appropriate for their development.