Call to equip religious teachers with special needs training

Aziz Idris

With a growing number of students with different abilities, Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Pengiran Haji Mohamed bin Pengiran Haji Osman @ Othman suggested equipping religious teachers with special needs’ training to cultivate an inclusive community.

Yang Berhormat Pengiran Haji Mohamed raised the question to Minister of Religious Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman during the 17th LegCo session yesterday.

He said it is important for all educators, including special education teachers, to understand specific Islam-related factors for the purpose of improving the education of these students, and limited knowledge often leads to feelings of being uncomfortable, negative stereotyping, and negative behaviours towards the children.

Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin responded by admitting that the religious curriculum for special needs learners is currently limited, but noted that suggestions from experts have been reviewed and are under consideration.

“Strategies on how to reach and teach students with different abilities is a challenge within the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education, which has more experience in inclusive education,” he said.

Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Pengiran Haji Mohamed bin Pengiran Haji Osman @ Othman at the session. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

The minister noted that the current religious curriculum is not necessarily geared towards students with special physical needs, but more towards students with different learning styles, adding that the different levels of students with different abilities require special attention.

Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin believed that children with special needs have the same rights and obligations as other children, especially in terms of education.

He said, “Children with special needs should receive education in accordance with their abilities. We must first equip and train our teachers to teach special needs children. Then, we can identify the methods, strategies and infrastructure on how to reach and teach special needs students.”

The minister also stressed that special needs students who are sociable must remain in “ordinary” classrooms and not be segregated as it will cause more “emotional harm” to them.