Inclusion in High-Achieving Singapore: Challenges of Building an Inclusive Society in Policy and Practice


  • Zachary Walker National Institute of Education, Singapore
  • Shobana Musti-Rao Pace University


inclusive society, inclusion, Singapore, education, special needs, social inclusion, education policy


Building an inclusive society in which all people can participate effectively and live together requires understanding inclusive education and its impact on the social order.  As countries of different regions face the vast array of challenges unique to their educational systems, it becomes apparent that inclusive societies are intricately tied to social inclusion policy initiatives and developments in education.  Governments are becoming increasingly aware of the need to review their educational systems as they attempt to define what an inclusive society is and how to make inclusion truly effective.  Singapore is a unique example of a country that has the resources and the vision, but currently lacks an educational system designed to fully include individuals with special needs.  Although Singaporean students consistently score near the top in science, math, and reading achievement on international assessments, many students with special needs still receive their education in schools separated from their mainstream peers.  In 2004, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed a new vision of Singapore becoming an inclusive society that embraces all individuals with special learning needs.  In this manuscript, the authors provide a brief history of Singapore and its education system and explore how PM Lee’s vision of an inclusive society has shaped practice and policy in Singapore schools in the last decade. Specific ideas and next steps for creating an inclusive Singapore for individuals with disabilities are discussed.