Under the Compulsory Education Act, all children aged six to 15, including children and youths with disabilities, have to attend a national primary school.
Kindergartens and child care centres
Pre-schools 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 a disability. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) can help parents and caregivers navigate the pre-school landscape.
Selected child care centres offer the Integrated Child Care Programme (ICCP) for pre-schoolers 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 pre-schools do not provide long-term care and support for children with disabilities. The links below provide a list of those that do.
Government-appointed anchor operators such as My First Skool and Sparkletots offer development support and learning support for pre-schoolers with mild developmental needs, on top of their regular curriculum.
You can find more information on early intervention and therapy for children with disabilities on our Therapy & Intervention page.
Regardless of whether a child has a disability or not, he/ she may be eligible for pre-school fee subsidies. These include Basic and Additional Subsidy for centre-based infant and child care, and the ComCare Child Care Subsidies.
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 as a pupil, unless he has 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:
Mainstream schools also enrol children with disabilities. The school curriculum is largely standardised and better suited for children who have the cognitive abilities and adaptive skills to learn in large-group settings.
However, the schools do provide a range of support for students with disabilities. These may include teachers trained in Special Needs (TSNs), allied educators, educational support services provided by VWOs, and assistive technology.
Some schools are barrier-free to accommodate 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 is through the usual Primary One Registration Exercise.
Foreign System Schools (FSS)
Some FSS - the so-called "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 pre-schools) would need to seek approval from the Ministry of Education (MOE). Learning disabilities may be a factor of consideration in the approval process.
Government-funded Special Education (SPED) schools
SPED schools cater to children and youths with disabilities who require more intensive and specialised assistance. Students enrol at around the age of 7 and graduate at around 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 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 own students.
To better understand how a child with disabilities can enrol into and progress through the SPED system, and the choices you have, please refer to the links below.
Besides the SPED schools, there are alternative educational institutions that cater to children and youths with disabilities.
Vocational Education in Special Education (SPED) schools
SPED schools provide vocational training to help students with disabilities 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).
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 VWOs. 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, 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 Singaporean 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 disabilities 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.