Inclusion Matters is a collection of projects and advocacy resources that aims to build a brighter future for children with special needs in Singapore.

Why Inclusion Matters

Inclusive education values children as individuals and enables them to belong, participate and achieve their full potential regardless of their learning differences. It is the basic building block of an inclusive society.

Schools are places where we need to start cultivating skills such as social sensitivity, collaboration and the ability to work with others who are different. There is strong, consistent evidence that an inclusive education – where children with special needs learn alongside typically developing peers with adequate support – benefits all children.

A review of 280 research studies from 25 countries by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found those with special needs who are educated in mainstream settings make greater gains in all areas of development than their peers in segregated settings. For typical children, being educated alongside a child with a special need does not lead to negative consequences. In fact, they gain academically and socially from inclusion over time.

Beyond locating these children in the same classrooms, effective inclusion requires educators to develop a better understanding of their strengths and provide multiple pathways to learn. Such efforts can help to break the boundaries between “mainstream” and “special” education and broaden the repertoire of skills, pedagogical practices and capabilities in schools to deal with diversity more effectively.

What is "How We Do School"

An initiative of the Lien Foundation, How We Do School is a four episode series of short films that explores how Finnish schools address the increasingly diverse learning needs of its students and what we can learn from them.

We took two Singapore educators from the early childhood education and special education sectors – Dr Jacqueline Chung, Senior Principal and Academic Director at St James’ Church Kindergarten and Ms Tan Sze Wee, Executive Director at Rainbow Centre – to four schools in Finland to learn more about Finland’s journey towards greater inclusivity and equity in its education system. By showing what is possible, we hope this can in turn inspire Singapore and inform ways that we can go about making inclusion more of a reality.

Why Finland?

Finland, like Singapore, is ranked highly on global education indicators. At the same time, it is based on equity and idea of ‘education for all’, which have been key drivers in developing an inclusive education system. The country stopped building special education schools back in the 1990s and has since moved to close down many of these segregated schools over the years.

In fact, its three-tiered system of support to meet the diverse learning needs of its students is built into its mainstream education system and is often cited as one of the key factors behind the country’s high equity and high performance in international comparisons.

While the number of students requiring special education hasn’t decreased, it was a strategic move to provide special education within mainstream school class settings. Finland’s journey offers insights on how we can improve and calibrate our education system to stay relevant as we gear all children to be productive members of society.