Need to strengthen inclusive education


THERE needs to be a framework of measures to strengthen inclusive classrooms within the education ecosystem, to enable equal access to education for students of all abilities and needs.

That is the firm belief of Datin Seri Umayal Eswaran, who is Rythm Foundation chairperson and special needs education school Taarana founder.

Speaking at the Special Education: Moving Beyond Boundaries (SEMB) 2021 virtual conference, she said schools need to have the proper infrastructure to accommodate children with special needs.

“Teachers must acquire the skills needed through training and support to help them understand and teach children with different special needs.

“With proper early diagnosis by therapists, teachers and parents can better prepare appropriate teaching strategies for their students,” she said in a press release.

“Integrating career coaching and job placement programmes into the school system will also help connect school leavers with special needs and learning disabilities to vocational training opportunities,” she added.

Organised by Quest International University (QIU), the two-day conference held on Dec 4 and 5 drew over 250 participants from around the world and saw a total of 38 keynote addresses, plenary speeches and workshop presentations conducted to discuss and share best practices for inclusive education.

It is hoped that through the conference themed “Embracing Uniqueness, Empowering Lives”, the participants comprising special needs educators, community specialists and parents would be equipped with the latest knowledge and understanding of special needs education, empowering them to support their special needs children and students.

SEMB 2021 organising chairperson and QIU Faculty of Social Sciences dean Prof Dr Chan Nee Nee said the aim of the conference was to break the boundaries between game changers in the field and frontliners like educators, specialists and parents.

“This would empower them with the skills they need to support children and students with special needs,” she said.

Describing the conference as “impactful”, QIU Bachelor of Special Needs Education (Honours) student Amanda Nathan said it helped participants grasp the potential solutions that could help special needs students worldwide.

“It was a pleasure to be a part of the SEMB 2021, as I managed to engage with many professionals and gain insights into topics that were extremely beneficial for those in the special education field,” she said.

Presenters at the conference came from a diverse range of fields and backgrounds, including academics, teachers and special needs advocates from Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Among them were Sydney University professor of special and inclusive education Prof David Evans, National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) vice president and paediatrician Dr Toh Teck Hock, and NECIC advisor and consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS.

Anthony Alexander Chong Vee Yee, who is Universiti Malaya’s first deaf doctorate recipient who communicates using Malaysian Sign Language (BIM) instead of speech, also gave his presentation in sign language, assisted by an interpreter.

To access the conference recordings and documents which will be available for three months, go to qiu.edu.my/semb/.

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