‘Cradle to career’ learning model for special needs kids


KUALA LUMPUR: Universiti Malaya (UM) has recently completed a study for the Rythm Foundation, culminating in a model learning programme for the holistic education of children with special needs in Malaysia.

UM and the Rythm Foundation, in a joint statement yesterday, said the research project by its Consultancy Unit had crafted a proposal for a comprehensive Special Education Needs (SEN) curriculum that it hoped would contribute to the advancement of SEN in the country.

Led by Assoc Prof Dr Rafidah Aga Mohd Jaladin of UM’s Educational Psychology and Counselling Department, the research team is supported by two senior UM scholars – Assoc Prof Datin Dr Thilagavathi Shanmuganathan and Dr Donnie Adams Paramasivam, according to Bernama.

The first of the study’s three phases drew data from surveys and interviews on the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities for improvement of the current school-based programmes at government and selected private schools.

In refining their findings, Rafidah said the team had also conducted a focus group discussion with industry professionals and experts in the second stage of the study before making their recommendations in the final phase.

The focus group delved deeper into the issues highlighted in phase one to design the structure of the proposed model, dubbed “Unlock My Potential: A School-Based Programme” (UMP).

Rafidah said the team outlined a noble goal that highlights students from “cradle to career”, echoing Rythm’s vision for an education system that produces confident and independent individuals who succeed in life and pay it forward.

“This model seeks to help children discover and gain awareness of their strengths early and develop their talents throughout school into adulthood.

“In ensuring a correct cradle-to-career approach, the model also emphasises vocational training for school leavers to support them with the confidence and knowledge to navigate tertiary education, the job market, and overall life, so they can likely succeed as independent adults,” she said.

Another compelling element proposed in the UMP model is citizenship education, where awareness of civic knowledge could help SEN students better understand their value and role in society.

In addition to the recommended curriculum, Rafidah said the concept’s success also depended heavily on the involvement of parents and the community, factoring into other pillars that require urgent attention – teacher development, resources, services, and facilities and infrastructure.

Rythm Foundation chairman Datin Seri Umayal Eswaran lauded the research team’s comprehensive findings as an excellent model that aligned with their vision of an educational programme that caters to all differently-abled children in Malaysia.

“As an organisation that aspires to impact the SEN landscape through collaborative ecosystems, we look forward to forging ahead with the research team and the university to encourage the incorporation of this programme in Malaysia’s education system,” she said.

Rythm commissioned the study based on its unyielding belief that all children have varying degrees of potential waiting to be unlocked by a more inclusive, equitable, and holistic education system that nurtures their strengths.

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