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Issue has evolved in the last few years

Identify and describe an emerging social issue that concerns social workers in Singapore today.

Singapore is known for its dual system of education and promotion of inclusive schools. The country has made a mark for itself in the domain of inclusive education for disabled children, however as envisaged by the social workers, there are disturbing attitude that continue to dominate Singapore. In Singapore there is a considerable population of students with disability who study in mainstream schools but the wider  attitude of the people speaks of their apathy towards the disabled community. The aim of the paper is to examine disability and inclusive education as a key issue on the context of Singapore society, the ways the issue have evolved over the years and identification of gaps in the policies and schemes of the government. In addition, the paper also examines the policies of UK and EU in regard to inclusive education for the disabled people and proposes recommendations for the improvement in the current policies.

According to Humphrey & Symes (2013), Singapore has fared moderately better in its treatment of the children with disabilities. During the period of 1980s and the 1990s, families preferred to keep their disabled children within the confines of the private sphere. This may be attributed to the stigmatization of people with disability and the lack of coping mechanisms to deal with the situation. There is a segregation between the disabled people in Singapore and the Singaporeans (Poon,, Musti-Ra & Wettasinghe, 2013). Surveys have shown that people in Singapore feel uncomfortable whilst interacting with the disabled people, thus alienating them (Loreman, Sharma & Forlin, 2013). According to the Lien Foundation, only two third of the total population in Singapore are interested in inclusiveness and voluntarily share the public space with the disabled. Even parents are uncomfortable about letting their children interact with their disabled peers. According to the findings of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) 62 per cent of the disabled people felt excluded and are not provided with opportunities

The government of Singapore has made robust efforts to transform the lives of the disabled children and promote inclusion; the undercurrent of Singapore narrates a story of pessimism. There needs to be a change in the attitude of the people rather than mere financial support. It is found that 5 to 6 per cent of the children born in Singapore suffer from some kind of developmental problem. 2.7 per cent of the students in Singapore show symptoms of requiring special education and mainstream school being not a suitable option (TAN, 2016). It is predicted that the number of disabled children in Singapore are expected to rise higher. It is predicted that more children will be diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

Identification and discussion of gaps in social services provision

In Singapore 75 per cent of the children with special needs are studying in the mainstream school (Boyle, Topping & Jindal-Snape, 2013). Children with special needs are labelled as stupid. On the surface level, Singapore appears as a country that is pro-disability and the government has made considerable efforts. However, there are certain shortcomings that the government needs to improve. It is reported that individual experiences vary and not in line with the vision of the government. The initiative of satellite partnership may expose children to the 25 per cent of the student population who have more challenging needs but it has been criticized for lacking in depth and number (Florian, 2013). The Strait Times have reported that very few schools in Singapore have courses and modules that create awareness about disability. The schools do not provide meaningful opportunities to the students to engage with children who have special needs.


A major recommendation would be the early integration of children with disability with those who are able-bodied (Thaver, Lim & Liau, 2014). The executive director of Disabled People’s Association, Marissa Lee Medjreral-Mills is of the opinion that not growing up and socializing with children with disability will create awareness among the able-bodied children. It will make them familiar about the ordeals and experiences of the disabled people and will make them more sensitive. According to Poon-McBrayer & Wong, (2013), in case of workplace, employers who did not have experience with disabled children during their growing period are less likely to recruit disabled candidates for any job. On encountering disabled people first time in the workplace can turn out to be an alienating experience. Adults will find it difficult to communicate in the right manner with people with disability. Able-bodied children should be taught in their formative years the values of mutual respect towards their disabled counterparts. Therefore, both the agencies of school as well as parents need to guide children in a proper way.

Disability is considered to be within the ambit of European Union (EU) and this also pertains to education which can be especially manifested in the case of inclusive education. The  European Union is in charge encourages its Member States to promote policies and schemes through supplementing and supporting the action of their action whenever it would be necessary. According to Oliver, (2013) the EU has adopted certain pertinent policies in the direction of inclusive education. The EU supports the member states to foster the full integration of disabled children and the young people with special needs through appropriate education and proper training.  The European Union has come up with the Disability Strategy 2010-2020. This is an important drive in promoting the principles of lifelong learning among people and inclusive education. The Strategy comprises of a series of strategies that schools need to adopt in their general education system to catalyse education and promote effective individualized support (Oliver, 2017).  This was provisioned with the aim of enhancing the academic development and social development that would be in consonance with the broader objective of inclusion. The EU has the Youth and Move Initiative the objective of which is to foster the exchange the exchange of good practises on the issues of dissemination of materials and inclusive education. The larger initiative of the programme is to minimize the drop-out rate and enhance the chance of participation in the sectors of tertiary education. These policies provided an impetus to inclusive education and job placement schemes for people who have disabilities. In USA, it was reported that 17. 5 per cent of people with disability have been employed (Schoolchildren's attitude towards those with special needs worrying, 2018). In case of EU the rate of employment is 47. 3 per cent.  In case of Singapore as of now only 270 people with disability have been employed. According to Zhuang, (2016), from the perspective of social model of disability, there are certain limits that are posed on the lives of children with disability. One such illustration is the state control on the providers who provide their service in terms of subsidized services for the disabled people. Secondly, it is only the social service and medical professions that remain the arenas of accessing compatible services for the disabled people (Zhuang, 2016).

Examples of social policies/schemes implemented in welfare states, like UK and other European countries and criticism of the current social services in Singapore

Instead of an approach that concerns with providing financial aid to the victim, there should be government initiatives to sensitize the public and raise awareness. This can be done through public education. Usually pity and sympathy hover in the interaction between the disabled child and the able-bodied person. There is a need for empathetic understanding of the children with disability. According to TAN (2018), the Government has decided to spend 400 Singapore dollar for people with disabilities. The objective of this program is to focus on expansion of the jobs and adequate training of the children enrolled in special schools. There should be the implementation of the Enabling Village that would provide a space to the disabled children to attend adequate training and orientation to enter the job market. It has been found that SG Enable has played an important role in training the beneficiaries and preparing them for employment. There is a need to raise awareness about disability through public education. Skits, street plays, distribution of pamphlets, documentary shown to children in school and advertisements that focus on the lifeworld of the disabled children should be the agenda of the contemporary social workers.

Conclusion

From the above findings it can be concluded that Singapore is definitely one of the frontrunners in the segment of disability and inclusive education, however, the country needs to amend on certain areas. The general attitude towards disability reeks of apathy and insensitivity. Children with disability needs to be treated as equals. Able-bodied children needs to socialize more with the disabled children to understand their problems and reflect on their behaviour. Awareness towards the plight of disabled students can be done through the adoption of creative methods like showing documentaries and street plays that entrenches the cause of inclusive education.

References

Boyle, C., Topping, K., & Jindal-Snape, D. (2013). Teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion in high schools. Teachers and Teaching, 19(5), 527-542.

Florian, L. (Ed.). (2013). The SAGE handbook of special education: Two volume set. Sage.

Humphrey, N., & Symes, W. (2013). Inclusive education for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in secondary mainstream schools: teacher attitudes, experience and knowledge. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 17(1), 32-46.

Loreman, T., Sharma, U., & Forlin, C. (2013). Do pre-service teachers feel ready to teach in inclusive classrooms? A four country study of teaching self-efficacy. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (Online), 38(1), 27.

Oliver, M. (2013). The social model of disability: Thirty years on. Disability & society, 28(7), 1024-1026.

Oliver, M. (2017). Defining impairment and disability. Disability and Equality Law, 3.

Poon, K., Musti-Ra, S., & Wettasinghe, M. (2013). Special education in Singapore: History, trends, and future directions. Intervention in School and Clinic, 49(1), 59-64.

Poon-McBrayer, K. F., & Wong, P. M. (2013). Inclusive education services for children and youth with disabilities: Values, roles and challenges of school leaders. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(9), 1520-1525.

Schoolchildren's attitude towards those with special needs worrying. (2018). The Straits Times. Retrieved 9 April 2018, from https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/schoolchildrens-attitude-towards-those-with-special-needs-worrying

TAN, T. (2018). The hard - and heart - part of inclusiveness for the disabled. The Straits Times. Retrieved 9 April 2018, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/the-hard-and-heart-part-of-inclusivenes-for-the-disabled

Thaver, T., Lim, L., & Liau, A. (2014). Teacher variables as predictors of Singaporean pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward inclusive education. Published by International Association of Social Science Research, 1(1), 1-8.

Zhuang, K. (2016). Inclusion in Singapore: a social model analysis of disability policy. Disability & Society, 31(5), 622-640.

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