- It is compulsory for all Singaporean children aged six to 15 to attend a national primary school, even if they have disabilities.
- Your child withspecial needs may attend a mainstream school or special education (SPED) school, depending on their needs. Learn more here.
- Vocational education, offered by SPED Schools, help and train students with special needs to be employable when they leave the school system.
Under the Compulsory Education Act, a child of compulsory school age (i.e. six years old but under 15 years old), who is a Singaporean and residing in Singapore, has to attend a national primary school unless they have been granted exemption. National primary schools include government-funded special education (SPED) schools. The Act covers children with mild Special Education Needs (SEN) as well as children with moderate-to-severe SEN.
The Ministry of Education has specific criteria regarding what ‘moderate-to-severe SEN’ entails. Details on this, and compulsory education can be found on their website below:
Actions to take
Kindergartens and child care centres
Preschools refer to kindergartens and child care centres. Most kindergartens run half-day programmes; if the child requires centre-based care for the whole day, parents may need to explore child care centres.
Choosing a kindergarten or child care centre can be rather complicated, more so if the child has special needs. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) can help parents and caregivers navigate the preschool landscape.
Selected child care centres offer the Integrated Child Care Programme (ICCP) for preschoolers with mild special needs, for them to learn and play alongside their typically-developing peers. Intervention and therapy services are not provided, though the mainstream curriculum may be modified to accommodate children with special needs. Consult a doctor at a polyclinic or a paediatrician to see if the ICCP is more suitable for your child and ask them for a referral.
Most preschools do not provide long-term care and support for children with special needs. The links below provide a list of those that do.
Government-appointed anchor operators such as My First Skool and Sparkletots offer Development support (DS) and Learning support (LS) Programme for preschoolers with mild developmental needs, on top of their regular curriculum.
You can find more information on early intervention and therapy for children with special needs on our Therapy & Intervention page.
Regardless of whether a child has special needs, he/she may be eligible for preschool fee subsidies. These include Basic and Additional Subsidy for centre-based infant and child care, and the ComCare Child Care Subsidies.
Actions to take
- Consider enrolling your child into mainstream schools that provide specialised support for students with special needs.
- Seek approval from the Ministry of Education if you wish to enrol your child into an international school.
- Refer to this list of private education institutions and this list for international schools in Singapore.
Mainstream schools do enrol children with special needs. Its curriculum is largely standardised and better suited for children with the cognitive abilities and adaptive skills to learn in large-group settings, and only require mild additional support. Cognitive abilities refer to the ability to think, concentrate, formulate ideas, reason, and remember3. Adaptive skills refer to the ability to handle daily demands independently in areas such as communication, self-care, motor, and social skills.
Schools which support students with special needs have accessible services and facilities. Some of these schools cater specifically to the needs of students with physical disabilities. In addition, a few schools provide specialised support for children with moderate to profound hearing loss or visual impairment, who are able to follow the mainstream curriculum.
Admission to a mainstream primary school takes place through the Primary One Registration Exercise.
You can refer to this guide to identify a school that best suits the support needs of your child.
Engaging the school
To provide your child with the necessary support in school, you can work with the school to develop a Learning Support Plan (LSP) and arrange for support services to be provided, such as:
- Allied Educators who can provide socio-emotional, counselling, educational and intervention support4 to your child.
- Special arrangements for school and national examinations such as provision of additional time.
You can arrange to meet the school staff including, teachers and Allied Educators to discuss:
- The needs of your child and what has worked well for them in the previous school, EIPIC environment or at home
- The Learning Support Plan (LSP) and appropriate strategies for your child.
- Support arrangements for your child (e.g. the school can allocate a first-level classroom for your child if they face mobility challenges)
The school’s professionals can help in assessing the needs of your child and recommending adjustments to be made.
Foreign System Schools (FSS)
Some FSS - also known as "international schools" - cater to students with special education needs. But as the schools are intended primarily for expatriates' children, Singaporeans who wish to enrol in FSS (excluding preschools) will need to seek approval from the Ministry of Education (MOE). Learning disabilities may be a factor of consideration in the approval process.
Actions to take
- Take note that different SPED schools cater to students with different disabilities.
- Find out more about special education on the MOE website and in this information guide to SPED schools in Singapore.
Government-funded Special Education (SPED) schools
SPED schools cater to children and youths with special needs who require more intensive and specialised assistance. Students enrol at around the age of seven and graduate at 18-21 years old.
Different SPED schools cater to students with different types of disabilities; some cater to students with multiple disabilities. SPED schools follow the MOE SPED Curriculum Framework in the design and delivery of their curriculum, while having the flexibility to customise the curriculum to meet the needs of their students.
SPED school’s support for children with special educational needs5 include:
- More opportunities for your child to develop adaptive social and living skills
- Higher levels of educational and specialised support based on their needs (e.g. drawing up of individual education plan)
- Smaller class sizes for personalised attention to your child
- Specialised personnel which may include therapists and psychologists
- Special physical facilities which may include sensory modulation rooms, vocational training rooms, depending on the needs of their students
Considerations when selecting a SPED school:
Additionally, in selecting a SPED school for your child, you can consider these other factors6:
- Your child’s needs and education pathways
- Distance from home to school – A nearer school means reduced transport costs and shorter travelling time
- Your child’s interest and whether the school offers CCAs and activities that matches these interests; and
- School identity, including the school’s vision, mission, culture.
Depending on your child's abilities, you can enrol your child into different types of SPED schools:
- Those that follow the National Curriculum (e.g. Pathlight School)
- Your child will need to have adequate cognitive and adaptive skills to keep up with the mainstream curriculum
- Your child will receive support in daily living and social-emotional skills
- Those that follow a Customised Curriculum (e.g. Eden School)
- The curriculum is designed to provide a child-centred, holistic learning experience for students with special needs
- It follows the SPED Curriculum Framework and is intended to develop students' potential and equip them with essential knowledge and life skills
You may refer to this guide on deciding which school would be best for your child.
To better understand how your child with special needs can enrol into and progress through the SPED school system, and the choices you have, please refer to the links below.
If your child had attended or is currently attending a government-funded SPED school, they are also eligible to apply for the Accessible Membership offered by the National Library Board, which provides benefits such as longer borrowing periods and free reservation of items.
Engaging the school
Speaking to school staff to learn more about the school’s accessibility features and provisions for students with special needs can help you understand how your child can be supported. It can also help when greater personalisation of support or additional arrangements are needed for your child. These discussions may cover:
- The needs of your child and what has worked well for them in the previous school, EIPIC environment or at home.
- Curriculum adaptation and support, which enables teachers to provide better attention and aid to your child7.
Post-school transition planning
The transition out of school can be challenging for both caregivers and students with special needs. Every SPED school has a Transition Planning Coordinator to support secondary-aged students and their families in preparing for meaningful post-secondary pathways, including employment and continual learning, taking into consideration students' strengths and interests.
SPED schools provide vocational preparation to help students with disabilities be employable when they leave the school system. Other students may be better suited for various community programmes, lifelong learning opportunities or adult disability services. SG Enable’s Post-18 Resource Kit offers such information that support persons with disabilities during the transition upon graduation from SPED schools.
Actions To Take
- Consider vocational training which can help students find employment after completing their studies. SPED schools such as Metta School, APSN Delta Senior School, and Mounbatten Vocational School provide such training.
- Check your child’s eligibility to participate in transition-to-work programmes to prepare him/her for employment.
- Explore other initiatives to help SPED school students prepare for work, including internships, mentorships, and vocational training provided by SSAs.
Vocational education in Special Education (SPED) schools
SPED schools provide vocational training to help students with special needs be employable when they leave the school system. The type of programmes can vary from school to school and not all children may participate. Parents can find out more from the respective school and refer to the SPED pathways chart.
Metta School and APSN Delta Senior School offer vocational education programmes to eligible students with mild intellectual disability from the age of 16 years. These eventually lead to national (WSQ and NITEC) certification, which are the same as those awarded to students from the mainstream schools. For pre-requisites for the programmes, please check with the schools.
Mountbatten Vocational School offers the ITE Skills Certificate in Food Preparation or Food & Beverage Service to youths with various learning disabilities. Applicants need to be assessed by the school and they must be between 14 and 19 years of age.
The national certification courses take about two to three years to complete. With these qualifications, students are in a better position to look for jobs; they can also explore further training e.g. at the Institute of Technical Education to pursue the National ITE Certificate (NITEC).
For more information about vocational education in SPED schools, click here.
Other vocational training
SPED students, who are not in a certification course, may be eligible to participate in transition-to-work programmes, to prepare for supported or open employment.
There are other initiatives to help SPED school students prepare for work, including internships, mentorships, and vocational training provided by SSAs. More information can be found on our Training & Employment page.
Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs)
Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support office
All publicly-funded IHLs, including universities, polytechnics and ITE Colleges - have an SEN Support Office on campus. These offices serve as a first-stop support for students with SEN who are, looking into transitional support, in-class learning assistance and access arrangements.
Other support provided by IHLs include barrier-free accessibility, student activities that are inclusive, dedicated support for internships and job search etc. For more information, check with the respective IHL’s SEN Support Office.
This fund helps to defray the costs of buying MOE-approved assistive technology (AT) devices or support services. Only Singaporeans who are polytechnic and ITE students with physical or sensory impairment are eligible to apply for the fund.
Publicly-funded universities and arts institutions such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) have their own SEN Funds. Students with special needs can check with the school for more information.
For more information, please refer to the write-ups on assistive technology devices and software and financial support.
Financial assistance for education
MOE provides financial assistance to Singaporean students from lower-income families who are enrolled in publicly-funded schools. The schools and community organisations may also provide financial support to students, so it could be worthwhile to check with them.
There are dedicated financial assistance schemes for persons with disabilities too, such as the SkillsFuture Study Award for Persons with Disabilities and Mediacorp Enable Fund. Find out more on these financial assistance education schemes on our Money Matters page.
Resources and Support
- Subsidies for preschool fees
- Resources for mainstream school
- MOE financial assistance for mainstream school students
- Resources for SPED school
- MOE financial assistance for SPED school students
- List of SPED schools that offer vocational programmes
- Additional resources for Caregivers