SINGAPORE: Responding to a forum letter on the importance of educating children to display empathy towards their differently abled peers, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has affirmed that it will continue with our efforts to nurture students’ understanding and empathy towards their peers with special educational needs (SEN) and called on parents to work hand in hand with the Ministry.

Dayna Chia, MOE’s Divisional Director for the Special Educational Needs Division said in a forum letter published by the national broadsheet that students undergo a comprehensive curriculum through character and citizenship education (CCE) lessons, which are aimed at instilling values of empathy, sensitivity, and respect towards individuals with disabilities.

Starting from primary school, pupils are taught to respect and relate to those who are differently abled, whether within their own class or the broader community, Ms Chia said.

As students progress to secondary school, they delve deeper into understanding the challenges faced by people with disabilities or SEN and recognize their potential contributions to society.

To reinforce the lessons learned through CCE, Ms Chia said that students engage in meaningful interactions with their differently abled peers through various school experiences. These include participating in co-curricular activities, values-in-action projects, and inter-school activities.

MOE also facilitates purposeful and sustained interactions between differently abled students through joint activities such as sports, performing arts, and learning journeys, facilitated by partnerships between mainstream schools and special education schools.

In mainstream schools, peer support structures play a crucial role in fostering empathy and inclusivity. Interventions like the Circle of Friends program enable peers of students with SEN to learn about their challenges, understand how to support them in different social settings, and develop soft skills like active listening and problem-solving.

However, MOE emphasizes that efforts to promote inclusivity and empathy must extend beyond schools.

The Ministry urges parents and the wider community to join hands in inculcating these values in students. Ms Chia said, “Together, we can nurture empathetic individuals who appreciate diversity and embrace inclusion in their daily lives.”