UM produces learning model for special needs children

06 Jan 2023 09:10am
Picture for illustrative purposes only -  FILE PIC
Picture for illustrative purposes only - FILE PIC
KUALA LUMPUR - Universiti Malaya (UM) has recently completed a study for the RYTHM Foundation, culminating in a model learning programme for the holistic education of children with special needs in Malaysia.

In a joint statement today, UM and the RYTHM Foundation said the research project by the University of Malaya Consultancy Unit has produced a proposal for a comprehensive Special Education Needs (SEN) curriculum that RYTHM hopes will contribute to the advancement of SEN in the country.

Assoc Prof Dr Rafidah Aga Mohd Jaladin of the UM’s Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling led the research team, with support from two senior UM scholars - Assoc Prof Datin Dr Thilagavathi Shanmuganathan and Dr Donnie Adams Paramasivam.

The first of the study’s three phases drew data from surveys and interviews on the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities for improvement of the current school-based programmes at government and selected private schools.

In refining their findings, Rafidah said the team also conducted a focus group discussion with industry professionals and experts in the second stage of the study before making their recommendations in the final phase.

The focus group delved deeper into the issues highlighted in phase one to design the structure of the proposed model, dubbed ‘Unlock My Potential: A School-Based Programme (UMP).

Rafidah said the word ‘Unlock’ refers to the need to unravel the ability of special needs children and recognise their talent, while ‘My Potential’ places emphasis on facilitating children discover their specific strengths and skills to carry them through life.

She added that the research team also outlined a noble goal that highlights students from "cradle to career”, echoing RYTHM’s vision for an education system that produces confident and independent individuals who succeed in life and pay it forward.

"This model seeks to help children discover and gain awareness of their strengths early and develop their talents throughout school into adulthood.
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"In ensuring a correct cradle-to-career approach, the model also emphasises vocational training for school leavers to support them with the confidence and knowledge to navigate tertiary education, the job market, and overall life, so they can likely succeed as independent adults,” she said.

Another compelling element proposed in the UMP model is citizenship education, where awareness of civic knowledge could help SEN students better understand their value and role in society.

In addition to the recommended curriculum, Rafidah highlighted that the concept’s success also depends heavily on the involvement of parents and the community, factoring into other pillars that require urgent attention - teacher development, resources, services, and facilities and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, RYTHM Foundation Chairperson Datin Seri Umayal Eswaran lauded the research team’s comprehensive findings as an excellent model that aligns with their vision of an educational programme that caters to all differently-abled children in Malaysia.

"As an organisation that aspires to impact the SEN landscape through collaborative ecosystems, we look forward to forging ahead with the research team and the university to encourage the incorporation of this programme in Malaysia’s education system,” she said.

RYTHM commissioned the study based on its unyielding belief that all children have varying degrees of potential waiting to be unlocked by a more inclusive, equitable, and holistic education system that nurtures their strengths - BERNAMA