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Should My Child Attend a Special Education or Mainstream School?

Posted on January 4, 2019 by All In

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Choosing the Right School


As your child approaches schooling age, you may begin to wonder if your child should attend a mainstream school or a Special Education (SPED) school. Every child is different and they progress at different paces. You may have noticed some difficulties in your child’s development and learning. If you have concerns regarding this, you may discuss with your child’s doctors, therapists and EIPIC teachers. They will be able to provide recommendations and identify if your child has any special education needs.


If your child has mild special education needs (SEN), they may perform well in a mainstream school.

Your child is considered to have mild SEN if:

  • He/She has the mental ability to access the mainstream curriculum
  • His/Her needs can be met with minimal adaptation (like being able to access the curriculum with the use of assistive devices)
  • He/She has adaptive skills to cope with the mainstream learning environment (like having independent living skills)


If your child has moderate to severe SEN, they may perform better in a Special Education (SPED) School.

Your child is considered to have moderate to severe SEN if he/she requires any of the following:

  • A specialised curriculum (e.g. life skills, adaptive skills, pre-vocational skills)
  • Specially-designed instructions
  • Specific expertise and provisions to support your child’s functioning level (e.g.intensive therapy services, low student-teacher ratio)

The Ministry of Education outlines how to select the right school for your child here.


Compulsory Education (National Primary School)

As of 2019, a child with/without special education needs is required to attend a national primary school. A national primary school may be a mainstream government/government-aided school or a government-funded SPED school.

You may apply for an exemption from the Ministry of Education (MOE) if your child:

  • is homeschooled according to the MOE’s criteria
  • upon professional assessment, your child’s learning needs are unable to be met in a national primary school, or your child is not able to attend any national primary school due to severe or complex conditions (including medical conditions)

For more information on Compulsory Education, visit the MOE website.


Differences Between Special Education and Mainstream Schools

Ultimately, your choice of school for your child depends on his/her special education needs (SEN). If your child has more severe needs, a SPED school may be his/her best option to enable him/her to be more independent by learning daily living and vocational skills. If your child has cognitive skills that allow him/her to grasp the mainstream syllabus, then he/she might be more suited for mainstream education. For more information on support services available in mainstream schools, visit the MOE website.

This is a summary of differences between SPED and mainstream schools: