KUCHING: Only 14% of special-needs children are estimated to be registered in special education programmes in government schools, says Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.
Calling the percentage low, she said the ministry was taking steps to train more teachers in special education and to raise awareness among parents in order to increase the number of special-needs children in school.
"It's very important for us to encourage more parents to send their children to school so that we can ensure that they also have the chance to receive education.
"I think publicity and awareness are very important.
"Parents need to know that they don't have to give up on their special-needs children and that it doesn't mean they don't have a right to education," she told reporters after visiting the integrated special education programme (PPKI) at SJKC Bintawa here on Thursday (Apr 4).
Teo said the ministry was working with Permata to design online courses for mainstream teachers to equip them to handle special-needs children in their classrooms.
"We will train more teachers in special education. We want to take in more special-needs children, so we need to make sure our facilities and teachers are available and capable to take care of this group," she said, adding that the online courses would be launched soon.
In addition, she said the ministry would continue to promote its zero-reject policy for special-needs children as it wanted as many of them as possible to go to school.
As at Jan 31, 83,039 special-needs children are registered in government schools nationwide.
In Sarawak, there are 5,804 registered special-needs children as at Jan 31, up from 5,766 last year. Of this total, 147 are registered in Sekolah Pendidikan Khas, while 4,432 are in the PPKI programme and 590 in the inclusive education programme (PPI), in which special needs children attend mainstream classrooms.
Teo said the ministry wanted to see progress and improvement among special-needs students as they attend PPKI and PPI classes.
"When they progress further (in the PPKI programme), we will put them in the inclusive programme.
"We believe that by putting them in the mainstream classroom, it's not only advantageous to the special-needs children because it can build up their confidence, but at the same time it's good for the normal kids to appreciate and learn to assist those with different abilities.
"So I would like to urge all parents to support the ministry, schools and teachers to create a friendly environment for all the children," she said.
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