Disability Awareness in Teacher Education in Singapore

Disability Awareness in Teacher Education in Singapore

Levan Lim (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Thana Thaver (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7703-4.ch013
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As the sole teacher education body in Singapore, the National Institute of Education (NIE), plays a pivotal role in equipping Singaporean teachers with the knowledge and skills to work with and support students with disabilities for both mainstream and special schools through its teacher education programs. In addition to the learning of strategies and skills to work with students with disabilities, it is also imperative for teacher education to promote positive attitudinal change among teachers towards persons with disabilities. This chapter describes the disability-awareness approach adopted by the NIE for its preservice teachers and the rationale behind adopting such an approach to foster inclusive attitudes that is grounded within relevant literature and situates disability within Singapore's socio-historical context.
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Background: Contextualizing Disability In Singapore

Since 1965 when Singapore gained its independence, students with and without disabilities have been pervasively viewed as belonging to the special and mainstream education systems respectively. This dual system of education, where the mainstream education system is separate from the special education system – comprising of special schools run by voluntary welfare organizations instead of the Ministry of Education (Lim & Nam, 2000) has continued to the present. It is therefore not surprising that many Singaporeans without disabilities have grown up apart from their peers and other persons with disabilities. The lack of personal practical knowledge and experience with persons with disabilities on the part of many Singaporeans have, in turn, contributed to the generally negative societal attitudes and their reproduction over decades towards persons with disabilities (Lim & Thaver, 2008). Such attitudes are also representative of many teachers the authors have encountered at the NIE (Lim & Thaver, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Disability Awareness Approach: An approach which seeks to encourage critical reflection of attitudes, values and beliefs towards people with disabilities and inclusion and the structures, policies, and practices in society that have contributed to exclusionary practices and the limited participation of people with disabilities in mainstream community life.

Disability: This chapter adopts the social-cultural model of disability that views the experience of disability as resulting from an interaction of factors, the physiological or cognitive condition of the individual as well as elements in the environment such as socially constructed beliefs and assumptions underlying notions about and attitudes towards disability.

Inclusion and Inclusive Education: Advocate for the promotion of universal access, participation, and equality as well as the removal of barriers in education and society so that all persons can be full members of mainstream communities and society. Inclusion involves reforming school and societal practices, policies, structures, institutions, and cultures in order for all members of society to experience a sense of belonging while contributing to their communities through their unique gifts and abilities.

National Institute of Education: An autonomous institute of the Nanyang Technological University that is located at the western part of the island republic of Singapore. It is the sole national teacher education body in Singapore.

Pre-Service Teachers: Pre-service teachers in Singapore refer to students who are in preparation at the National Institute of Education for becoming full-time teachers in mainstream or special schools.

Singapore: A small independent city-state located at the base of the Malayan peninsular in South-East Asia. It achieved in independence in 1965 and since then, has steadily progressed over five decades to become one of the most economically successful countries in the world. Singapore is also well-known for its rigorous and excellent education system.

Attitude: It is defined as tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor. Attitudes are viewed as socially constructed, and are context and time dependent.

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