By Bar Council Malaysia
I Summary Outline
A dire and urgent need exists on introducing legislation for individuals with special needs. It is proposed that the term "individuals with special needs" is to be defined for the purposes of this Act as referring to "individuals with special needs assessed and identified by medical standards and having a physical, mental or other impairment which has a substantial and/or long term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day–to–day activities". The rationale for legislation is based on the following considerations:–
i. to implement and give full credence to the following:–
(a) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(b) UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons;
(c) Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of Opportunity for the Disabled in Asia and Pacific Region; and
(d) the Recommendations of United Nations ESCAP's Regional Forum on Education for Children and Youth with Disabilities into the 21st century made on 19th November 1999
ii. to reflect the primary responsibility and statutory role of the Government in providing appropriate education for all citizens including and especially individuals with special needs so that special education in Malaysia is not seen to be a tokenism but a truly effective means of training such individuals to be more independent and realise their fullest potential as far as possible;
iii. to enhance the dignity and standing of the child with special needs as a member of Malaysia's caring society;
iv. to minimise the public cost of institutionalising individuals with special needs, vocational training and employment opportunities including sheltered workshops and others are essential;
II UN Provisions on the right to education of children with special needs
The relevant articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child relating to education are outlined in this section.
III Overview of legislation in neighbouring countries
Amongst legislation of other countries that have been considered are the following:–
i. Social Security Act 1991, Australia;
ii. Special Education Promotion Law (1977); Welfare Law for Persons with Disabilities; Employment Promotion of the Handicapped Law of the Republic of Korea;
iii. Disabled Persons' Community Welfare Act, New Zealand;
iv. Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons' Act (1991) Thailand;
v. Disabilities Discrimination Ordinance (No.86 of 1995) Hongkong;
vi. Disability Discrimination Act, U. Kingdom;
vii. Education Act, Republic of China;
viii. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, United States of America.
The judicial attitude towards the issue of education for individuals with special needs in Malaysia based on the High Court judgement in Renner v International School of Kuala Lumpur (1999) is encouraging. Citing relevant cases in the UK Dato Low Hop Bing held that a child with special needs should not ipso facto, be denied his basic rights to and his needs for education. Financial considerations are to take a back seat and give way to the child's basic right to education.
IV Rationale for Proposed Legislative Reform
Based on the current status, the following concerns are expressed:
i. Eradication of the terms 'educable' and 'non–educable' as it is against the tenet in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that all individuals with disabilities are educable with the appropriate techniques;
ii. Education facilities for individuals with special needs should extend over a lifespan of the disabled individual from early intervention centres to special education in primary and secondary schools and adult education centres. There should be sufficient fully Government funded schools and education centres complete with appropriate facilities and trained personnel to educate and train those with special needs;
iii. Individualised Education Plan – its formulation should be a combined effort involving the individual's speech therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist and parents to ensure an appropriate intervention plan for rehabilitation;
iv. Inclusive education program – as the ultimate objective is rehabilitation, inclusive education is of paramount importance. Funding for the provision of appropriate facilities and equipment and for the employment of teaching assistants. To complement and support the efforts of the normal classroom teacher are an essential component. These could be part–timers that have undergone some orientation training. The UNESCO research pack "Special needs in the classroom" is a vital document.
v. Early intervention centres and public knowledge enhancement – the Government has a primary role in setting up centres for early intervention in every major town throughout the country to provide early treatment.
vi. Besides inclusion, reverse integration where children with special needs are exposed to their normal peers in the respective age groups to promote peer learning and engender a healthy respect and understanding of children with disabilities, increase the self–esteem and confidence of those with disabilities thereby encouraging them to take charge of their own lives;
vii. Funding of schools set up by non governmental organisations besides special government schools – as education is a state responsibility, schools set up by non governmental organisations should be fully funded and placed under the ambit of the education and health ministries;
viii. Teacher training programmes should include the subject of special education so as to equip teachers of normal children to cope with special children being mainstreamed in a regular classroom.
ix. Upgrading of teaching skills – local teacher training programmes involving foreign expertise on challenging areas should be provided to impart the necessary skills and credits should be given to these teachers for participation in these courses for salary revision and promotion. To relieve the shortage of such teachers, it is humbly suggested that foreign expatriates in Malaysia who are suitably qualified and trained should be issued work permits.
x. Ongoing programmes for increasing public awareness of various types of special needs should be carried out through the mass media.
xi. Facilitate the active involvement and provision of services speech therapists and audiologists in special education programs by waiving the current government requirement that speech therapists must have a teaching diploma before they can deliver speech therapy services for pupils in special classes in government schools.
V Proposed Legislative Reforms are attached in order to codify the above considerations as outlined in the memorandum which follows.
In response to Malaysia's blueprint for the decade ahead "Vision 2020" and its aspirations to become a developed and industrial society, it is timely to review the legislation for individuals with special needs in Malaysia and assess the needs for legislation in different areas of special education. According to the Welfare Statistical Bulletin of the Ministry of Social Welfare 1999, the total number of persons with special needs as at the end of 1999 is 93,771 persons. UNICEF estimates based on their statistics are that the incidence figure for the number of such individuals is closer to 10% of the total population. The World Health Organisation estimates an incidence rate of 7% to 10% on the average.
A comprehensive welfare program for the marginalised should not be neglected in our quest to advance economically as a caring society and should be an important component in development planning. a press statement in the Berita Harian on 21 March 1997 reported that of more than 18,000 children with special needs, only about 9,000 are being educated in various welfare and training institutions and 2,651 children with special needs are being educated in 155 Pusat Dalam Community Centres. The remaining balance of 6,000 persons with special needs are not receiving any form of special education. Of alarming concern is the rising number of children with autistic features or with autism. It is estimated by the National Autistic Society of UK and the Autism Society of America that the incidence of autism is 40:10,000 in a national population.
Since the early 1990's, the plight and welfare of individuals with special needs had been given strong emphasis by the United Nations amongst member countries. With the intention of working towards the idea of "full participation and equality" for persons with special needs in society, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons.
The tenets of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child are sadly not reflected in existing legislation for the education of individuals with special needs. Provisions for special education are provided in Section 40 and 41 of the Education Act 1996 (Act 550). Disability is part of human society at all strata and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in and contribute to society. Improving education results of children with special needs is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self–sufficiency for individuals with special needs.
Unlike the special education system in countries such as United States, Japan and others, there is no provision for involvement of the professionals involved or the parents of individuals with special needs in Malaysia. Some educated parents would have taken the necessary steps to learn more about the disability from authoritative sources available from foreign experts. Moreover most concerned parents would know their child best.
Article 12 of the Federal Constitution states the rights in respect of education and specifically provides that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in the administration of education and in the provision of public authority financial aid for the maintenance or education of pupils or students. Yet special education has only been introduced for individuals suffering from certain categories of special needs who are assessed as "educable" as defined in Section 3(1) Education Act (Special Education) Regulations 1997 (Appendix E). Surely, this is against the UN Declaration on the rights of Disabled Persons which states that there is a necessity of assisting disabled persons to develop their abilities in the most varied fields of activities and of promoting their integration as far as possible in normal life. The Education Act 1996 (Act 550) covering special education should define the meaning of "special child" and "special education". Amongst others, the Act should cover the objective of special education, its purpose, the funding allotment to schools and training of teachers in different areas of special education, evaluation, individual education programs including individual language needs and educational placements, procedural safeguards in mediation, inclusive education, individual family service plan, national activities to improve education of children with special needs; state program, improvement grants for children with special needs; programs for infants and toddlers with special needs, individualised family support and others.
In addition, laws are required to protect the rights, training, employment, pensions, housing and cultural/sports facilities. Anti–discriminatory acts and practices in society against individuals with special needs must also be addressed.
II. UN PROVISIONS FOR THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
Malaysia is a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adopted by the UN General Assembly; in 1989, it has been ratified by all countries in the Asia Pacific Region as State Parties to the Convention. All these member countries are legally bound to respect the principles and rights of the child embodied in the Convention. The Convention has provided three articles on the education of children with disabilities, Articles 23, 28 and 29. Reference is made to the UNICEF document titled "The Right to Education of Children with Disabilities – Asia and Pacific Region".
"Article 23 insists that children with disabilities have rights and asks State Parties to ensure that a child with a disability "has access to and receives education ...... in a manner conducive to the child's achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development." Article 28 specifically defines education as a right for all children including those with disabilities and stipulates that States Parties should make primary education compulsory and available free to all and on the basis of equal opportunity. Article 29 emphasises that education should be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
Other relevant articles include Articles 2, 3, 6 and 12. These four articles cover the underlying principles of the Convention. Article 2 stipulates that States should protect every child from any kind of discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of disability. Children with disabilities should have equal right to education as those children without disabilities. Article 3 states "In all actions concerning children whether undertaken by public or private welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration."
III. OVERVIEW OF SOME LEGISLATION FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
1. Welfare legislation for the payment of a support pension to people having physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment or other special needs and who are sixteen years of age is not provided presently in Malaysia. In Australia, payments of disability support pension are regulated by the Social Security Act 1991 of Australia. Enabling provisions concerning medical care, education and training as in the Welfare Law for Persons with Disabilities of the Republic of Korea passed on 30/12/1989 should be adopted.
2. Service orientated legislation is hardly provided in the local context bearing in mind that such legislation is based on the recognition that people with disabilities have the potential to participate in society and need specialised services to lead meaningful lives. For instance, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in United States of America believe that improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of their national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.
The Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act (1975) of New Zealand provides for assistance including financial support not only to disabled persons and their families but also to private and voluntary organisations to enable disabled persons to live in the community. In Thailand, the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act (1991) provides for medical rehabilitation, education and assisting devices to be made available to disabled persons through a Rehabilitation Fund.
3. Enablement legislation is being introduced in the provision of tax incentives to employers employing disabled persons in accordance to the basis of enablement legislation that people with disabilities have like non disabled persons, the potential to contribute to the development of society and affirmative action measures are required to enable them to achieve equality in various aspects of life.
Amendments to the Uniform Building By–laws (1984) under the Street Drainage and Building Acts have rendered our buildings more amenable and accessible to individuals who are physically disabled.
Local legislation on the accessibility to mainstream education is lacking. The provisions of the Special Education Promotion Law (1977) of the Republic of Korea passed on 7/1/94 not only contains provisions for the establishment and maintenance of special education institutions for diverse disability groups but also provide for the promotion of their access to mainstream education programmes.
4. In the medium to long term perspective, the government is strongly urged to take an active role in promoting employment of the handicapped as delineated in Korea's Employment Promotion of the Handicapped (Law No.4219) passed on 13/1/90 which contains provisions for the establishment of a quota scheme requiring all employers to hire persons with disabilities to a level equivalent to at least 2% of the work force. The need for government intervention is especially critical with the increasing mechanisation of factory work leading to limited opportunities for the disabled to contribute their services in manual labour.
A recent case in Malaysia on the rights to education of a disabled child is Renner v ISKL (1999). Dato Low Hop Bing referred to the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child to which Malaysia is a signatory and held that a disabled child should not ipso facto, be denied his basic right to and his need for education. He maintained that these rights are not to be overridden by financial considerations and referred to several Commonwealth case authorities.
In Asia, many countries have passed at lest one act to provide for the well being and advancement of disabled persons and include the following:–
Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons Regulations on the Education of Persons with Disabilities
Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons Act 1994
The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995
Government Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 36 Year 1980, re.Social Welfare for the Disabled.
Act of the Republic of IndonesiaNo.4 of 1997 Concerning Disabled People
Disabled Persons' Fundamental Law
Law for Employment Promotion of the Disabled
Law for Employment Promotion of the Disabled Guidelines
Disabled Persons' (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance
Magna Carta for Disabled Persons
Accessibility Law and its amended and Original Implementing Rules and Regulations
Republic of Korea
The Welfare Law for Persons with Disabilities Act relating to Employment Promotion of the Handicapped
The Special Education Promotion Law
Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, No.28 of 1996
Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act and Ministerial Regulations
IV. RATIONALE FOR PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE REFORM
Presently, the Individualised Education Plan (IEP) drawn up for a disabled child joining the special education system is developed by the special education teacher after interviewing the parent without consulting any psychologist or speech therapist even if the child's main problems are behaviour and speech. Parents are also not informed or given a copy of the IEP so there is lack of coordination between efforts to train the disabled child at home and in school.
The IEP should be drawn up with the combined efforts of the psychologist and special education teacher as well as a speech language pathologist if the child's primary disability is a speech impairment. Parents of a child with special needs are expected to be equal participants along with school personnel in developing, reviewing and revising the child's IEP at lest once a year in which the parents participate in the discussion about the child's need for special education and related services and join with other specialists to decide what services will be provided to the child. There should be procedural safeguards to ensure an opportunity for parents of a child with special needs to examine all records relating to such a child and to participate in meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation and educational placement of the child. The procedural safeguards should relate to independent educational evaluation by a qualified person, opportunity to present complaints, provisions for disclosure of evaluation results and recommendations by the respective school authorities and the avenue for appeals to higher authorities.
There have been many reported instances of children with special needs being physically and emotionally abused by special education teachers in government schools. To rectify the situation, special education teachers need training in behavioral management techniques.
It should be mandatory for special education teachers to upgrade their skills in behavior modification techniques. The Ministry of Education could introduce an award for "the Best Special Education Teacher" to encourage more dedication and commitment.
To deter special education or regular classroom teachers from carrying out any further child abuse, there should be a penalty. In cases where children are "ill treated" as defined in Section 31 (1) of Child Act 2001 (Appendix F) by teachers and teacher aides, an additional penalty should be imposed for suspending the teacher or teacher aide from teaching and/ or deprived of his or her benefits of employment such as pensions and others.
The Ministry of Education has included children with developmental delays in its special education program without providing specially trained teachers who are knowledgeable on those disabilities causing undesirable effects on the children in some cases. Where the chances of developing speech seem bleak, special education teachers should be familiar with teaching augmentative communication systems to promote pictorial or written communication. Presently, our national education system only provides special education using Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction. This compounds the difficulties faced by a child with special needs as there is a substantial number of special children whose mother tongue is not Bahasa Malaysia.
1. The curricula and teaching methods for special children should be developed as a function of ability. Where the child can read and write, s simplified curriculum of basic subjects such as science, geography, history and moral studies should be taught as is done in special schools in United Kingdom. The UK Code of Practice (1994) for children with special needs is worth emulating.
2. Organise teacher training programmes involving lecturers from UCLA, TEACCH or Princeton Child Development Institute or the Institute of Behavioral Analysis from United States of America or other renowned institutions for different disabilities to really help children with learning difficulties to improve the prognosis.
3. Lessons for children should be structured and special schools should be set up for those who cannot be integrated in the regular schools.
4. Special education classes should be set up in national type schools to enable children with learning difficulties to receive special education in the mother tongue of the child to facilitate speech development and comprehension.
The successful implementation of inclusive education for special children in regular classes is important as it is a major means of rehabilitating the child with special needs in society. The success of the programme is dependent on the adoption of a positive and cooperative attitude by the teacher in the regular classroom. Towards fulfilling this objective, it is necessary to include special education in teacher training courses. The lack of teacher aides for implementing inclusive education of some categories of special children restricts the further advancement of rehabilitation of the special child in Malaysia.
1. Provide teacher aides for children with learning difficulties who are accepted for inclusive education.
2. Form an "Inclusive Education Resource Team" for each district, consisting of at least 6–8 dedicated teachers with training and knowledge in different types of disabilities and send them to a six week course organised by the Ministry of Education.
3. The Resource Team's task is to run short, local orientation courses for teachers in the regular school system. A start could be made with teachers for Standards 1–3.
4. All teachers should be equipped with some basic knowledge of special educational needs so s to participate in the provision of inclusive education in the regular classroom. Courses for class teachers should not only give orientation in specific skills like braille but focus on attitudes, observation and assessment, teamwork, curriculum adjustment, individualised teaching methods, classroom management and the UNESCO resource pack "Special needs in the classroom" can be used for this purpose.
5. Develop a system of mobile "multi–disability" resource teachers assisting children with special education needs and their teachers. Select the best teachers for the task and send them for a special training course geared towards the objective to be organised by the Ministry of Education.
6. Stimulate and involve peers, older pupils, parents, relatives and volunteers to assist the teachers in their efforts to help children with special education needs. Some pupils may need practical help with matters like mobility and dressing.
7. Monitoring and advisory services are required in implementing inclusive/special education through the appointment of "Advisers" who should act as consultants, stimulators and innovators to the schools on a part–time basis.
Prevention of disabilities or early detection from 0 to 3 years of age for early treatment is a priority to reduce the educational costs to our society by minimising the need for special education and related services after infants and toddlers with disabilities reach school age. Hardly any concerted effort is made by the Government to set up intervention centres for toddlers and babies with disabilities. Handbooks or pamphlets on early signs of ailments such as autism and others are not widely disseminated at government and private clinics.
Publish and disseminate posters and charts on the symptoms of the various types of disabilities in public and private hospitals and clinics. Develop and implement a state–wide, comprehensive, multidisciplinary programme of early intervention services to infants and toddlers with special needs and their families at district community centres and health clinics. For rural areas, it may even be necessary to have home visitation by special education teachers to train parents and carers of the special child.
Presently the bulk of education and training of special children is through special schools set up by noble and benevolent individuals on a voluntary basis. Finance is a major problem faced by these non–governmental organisations in meeting the costs of specialised teaching and therapeutic training. Efforts of key personnel who should be involved in administering the education and training on a full–time basis are dissipated through organising fundraising programmes and contacting donors to meet expenses. Students in special schools are generally trained on behavioral and other aspects but are deprived of the opportunity to integrate with their other children from the mainstream for some areas such as art, physical education or others as it has been proven that peer modelling will help greatly in assimilating them in society.
1. Inclusive education for children with special needs in subjects like art, music and physical education in regular classes could be beneficial. Alternatively, reverse integration could be organised where children without special needs could be brought to the special classes or school for some activities to promote more interaction with children with special needs in the context of a caring society.
2. Education is a basic right of the citizens of any country and is a statutory responsibility of the Government. The Government should finance the special schools' maintenance especially basic operating expenses such as salaries of the teaching staff and rental of premises since it is an adjunct to the special education system.
3. Intensive and extensive training should be carried out periodically for government special education and regular teachers in teaching children with developmental disabilities. This training should involve foreign expertise from countries where there are solid ongoing programmes for such children for effective upgrading of skills locally.
A large proportion of children with special needs are speech impaired. Presently speech therapists who intend to work in a regular school setting with special children are required by the Public Services Department of the Government to have a teaching diploma before they can deliver speech therapy services.
1. Waive the government requirement that speech therapists must obtain a teaching diploma prior to delivering speech therapy services for special children in government schools.
2. There should be one speech language pathologist for each district. He / she will be responsible for coordinating and monitoring the speech and com–munication needs of speech impaired students in schools in that district.
The need for training and education is continuous and should extend over a life span for individuals with special needs. More emphasis should be placed on setting up vocational training programmes and extension education classes for persons with learning difficulties based on statistics relating to the number of persons with learning difficulties in the different age groups.
To provide a structured learning environment to adults with learning difficulties, classes should be conducted which would enable the adult with learning difficulties to gain a nationally recognised certificate. For pre–foundation award, the adult with learning difficulties will choose 3 from the following Units:–
• Using a computer
• Speaking and Listening
Then 2 more units are chosen from the following list:–
• Self and others
• Working with Others
• Personal Development
• Creative Art
• Introduction to Drawing
• Introduction to Printmaking
• Introduction to Sculpture/ Pottery
• Introduction to Theatre Skills
Successful classes on the curricula abovementioned are held in cities like London by special education experts and should be adopted for training of our adults with learning difficulties to promote their self–esteem and independence.
Extension education to cater for groups of individuals with special needs at various levels of functioning are necessary and essential in order to ensure that there is some participation in community life for adults with special needs.
V. PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE REFORMS
Proposed amendments/ additions to the Federal Constitution and the Education Act 1996 are set out below and underlined for easy reference.
A. THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
"Without prejudice to the generality of Article 8 there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or any special need that the person has:–
(a) in the administration of any education institution maintained by a public authority and in particular the admissions of pupils or students or the payment of fees; or
(b) in providing out of the funds of a public authority financial aid for the maintenance or education of pupils or students in any educational institution (whether or not maintained by a public authority and whether within or outside the Federation).
A person has a "special need" if he has a physical or mental impairment or any speech or behavioural problem which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities and/ or impedes his ability to pursue his studies in the mainstream of education in regular classes. It is the responsibility of every state government to provide appropriate education and training for all children; with special needs.
Every state government shall be provided with adequate budget funds for the appropriate training and education of children or individuals with special needs and for organising the implementation of plans approved by the National Task Force Committee to be set up. The composition of the Task Force Committee for Special Education will include an educational psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist, speech therapist/audiologist, special educationist and other relevant professionals besides policy makers. Members shall hold office for two years at the end of which they may be reappointed.
B. EDUCATION ACT 1996 (Special Education) Regulations 1997
Section 3(1) to be deleted.
C. EDUCATION ACT 1996 (ACT 550)
Section 2 – Interpretation
To add in the following:
"educational institution" to include 'charitable and non–profitable organisation providing special education'.
"ill treatment or abuse" is defined to be the same as outlined in Child Act 2001 (Act 611) Section 31(1) (a) to (b).
"special child or person" is a child or an individual with a disability which includes a physical or mental impairment or speech or social or behavioural problem which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out wholly or partly the necessities of a normal individual and/ or social life as a result of a deficiency either congenital or not in his or her physical or mental or social or emotional capabilities.
" special education" means educational services, therapeutic and vocational components that provide for the special educational needs of pupils with disabilities and provide special children with equal access to the regular school curriculum with modifications wherever deemed necessary.
(1) At the beginning of each school year, each State Education ministry shall have an "individualised education program" which is a written statement for a special child that is developed and implemented in accordance with Section 40B.
(2) An Individualised Education Program will be drawn up within one month of the child's registration for special education after the state educational agency has initiated and conducted meetings for the purposes of developing, reviewing and revising the Individualised Education Program of a special child based on a period of observation and assessment of the child's abilities. The meetings shall include the following persons:
(a) a representative of the state education ministry other than the child's teachers who is qualified to provide and supervise the provision of special education;
(b) the child's teachers;
(c) one or both of the child's parents;
(d) the child, if appropriate;
(e) speech therapist or psychologist, if the child is in need of speech therapy or behavioural therapy;
(f) a physiotherapist or occupational therapist or any other professional deemed necessary for the improvement of the well being of the special child or individual.
(3) the Individualised Education Plan for each special child must include:
(a) a statement of the child's present levels of educational performance;
(b) a statement of annual goals including short term instructional objectives;
(c) a statement of specific special education and related services to be provided to the special child;
(d) a statement of specific special education and related services to be provided to the special child;
(e) the projected dates for initiation of services and appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and schedule for determining on at least an annual basis whether the short term instructional objectives are being achieved;
(f) enrichment opportunities for special children to maximise their potential.
Section 40B – In drawing up and implementing the Individualised Education Program the state educational ministry or agency shall establish and maintain procedures which shall include:
(a) an opportunity for the parents of a special child to examine all records relating to such child and to participate in meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation and educational placement of the child and to obtain an independent educational evaluation of the child if the parent considers it necessary;
(b) procedures to protect the rights of the special child whenever the parents of the child cannot be located including the assignment of an individual (who shall not be an employee of the local educational ministry/ agency that is involved in the education or the care of the child) to act as a surrogate for the parents;
(c) an opportunity to present complaints with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of the child in a cordial atmosphere without the child suffering adverse treatment as a result of such complaints being made;
(d) an opportunity to be accompanied and advised by an advocate and solicitor and/ or by individuals with special knowledge or training with respect to the problems of special children;
(e) an opportunity for special children with learning difficulties to sit for examinations with appropriate adjustments on time frame, medico–technological considerations and others;
(f) procedures for suspending the services or certain benefits of employment of teacher found guilty of causing injury.
Section 40C – Every special child is to undergo a psychological assessment which is to be reviewed once every three years by a qualified psychologist as provided in Section 41(5) herein below.
Section 41 to read as follows:–
41(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), the Minister may by regulations prescribe –
(a) the duration of primary and secondary education suitable to the needs of a pupil in receipt of special education;
(b) the curriculum to be used in respect of special education in accordance to the ability and level of functioning of the special child and the directives of the National Task Committee for Special Education;
(c) the categories of pupils requiring special education and the methods appropriate for the education of pupils in each category of special school;
(d) the appointment of appropriately qualified special education teachers for the different types of disabilities;
(e) to ensure that the teacher–student ratio is reasonable and beneficial for the special child's learning programme;
(f) any other matter which the Minister deems expedient or necessary for the purposes of this Chapter including the payment of teachers' salaries and maintenance costs of running special schools organised by non governmental organisations for special children.
Section 41(4) The rehabilitation of special children shall be carried out through the implementation of inclusive education in the regular classroom as far as possible. The Minister may by regulations prescribe –
(a) Forming an "Inclusive Education Resource Team" for each district consisting of at least 6 teachers with training and knowledge in different types of disabilities for further training for 6 weeks on inclusion with a coordinator who is responsible for day to day running of the inclusion programme for 2–3 schools in one district;
(b) Commissioning the Resource Team to run short, local orientation courses for teachers in the normal school system for standards 1 to three to enable them to help children with special education needs in the normal classroom on the attitudes, observation and assessment, teamwork, curriculum adjustment, classrooms management and the use of the UNESCO resource pack "Special needs in the classroom";
(c) Developing a system of mobile multi–disability resource teachers assisting children with special educational needs and their teachers;
(d) Developing a group of "Teacher Aides" who could be parents, trainee teachers or other volunteers with a minimum qualification of SPM after undergoing orientation courses organised by the Ministry of Education to assist the teacher in the regular classroom;
(e) Appointing inclusive/ special education "advisers" to act as consultants, stimulators and innovators to schools with special education classes on a part–time basis.
Section 41(5) The number of special education classes and schools with specially trained teachers should be commensurate with the number of students in each category of disability stated in Section 40(1) in any year. It is compulsory for a school with special education classes to have a qualified psychologist on full time or contractual basis to oversee the psychological welfare of the programmes being carried out.
Section 41(6) Preschool education for special children shall be carried out by the following institutions for their development in physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional and adaptive areas:
(a) Kindergartens in special schools;
(b) Regular kindergartens;
(c) Welfare institutions for special children;
(d) Institutions of rehabilitation for special children;
(e) Preschool classes of all primary schools; and
(f) Early intervention centres by the local municipalities.
The above institutions from (a) to (h) should take appropriate measures to obtain a functional assessment for special children in their care at regular intervals and take appropriate measures for therapeutic education/ training based on the medical reports and advice given by speech therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists and other relevant professionals.
(a) The Minister shall provide vocational education and training for special children to prepare them for the workplace depending on the skills they have and the potential skills they may acquire.
(b) The coordinators of vocational courses in para (1) above shall develop school owned enterprises as a basis for practical skill training in line with teaching needs and conditions.
(c) The Minister shall provide education extension centres for adults with special needs to develop useful skills for lei sure, work and socialisation.
(1) No person shall establish or maintain a teacher education college except with the approval of the Minister.
(2) The Minister may by regulations prescribe a system of ongoing training for teachers in special education by foreign expertise in the special needs stated above on a periodical basis attendance of which shall earn credits which shall be considered for salary revision and promotion prospects.
(3) A teacher or any person who ill–treats or abuses a child is guilty of an offence under this Act and shall be subject to disciplinary procedures ranging from suspension of teaching in any school to deprivation of employment benefits like pensions, loans or others to be decided by the Minister of Education.
Although special education is a relatively new area in Malaysia's development, the emergence of legislation will serve as a bulwark of the rights of children with special needs in receiving the necessary training, education and facilities to give them a life worth living. Malaysia will enhance its status as a centre of educational excellence by streamlining and fine tuning its special education program to benefit all individuals with special needs suffering from diverse ailments. Through these measures, the Government of Malaysia is giving due recognition to the rights of all individuals with special needs as Malaysian citizens who are just as entitled to equal opportunities in education, housing, employment and other areas.
LIST OF APPENDICES
Appendix A: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 23
Appendix B: Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, G.A. res. 3447 (XXX), 30 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 34) at 88, U.N. Doc. A/10034 (1975).
Appendix C: Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People With Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region
Appendix D: Asia Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993 – 2002
Appendix E: Section 3(1) Education Act (Special Education) Regulations 1997
Appendix F: Section 31(1) Child Act 2001
Published in Infoline January/February 2005