After 25 years of living in the UK, SUKH COLEBOURNE has returned to Singapore to take up her new role as Principal of Melbourne Specialist International School (MSIS), a special education needs school in Singapore.
Sukh trained in mainstream education here and in 1991, her nephew Ashwin was diagnosed with autism. “It broke my heart,” says Sukh, about being exposed firsthand to the challenges that Ashwin and his family faced. Shortly afterwards, she moved to the UK and seized every opportunity to get experience in special needs education. While teaching at an international school in London, she had the opportunity to work with a high-functioning student with autism in a mainstream setting. This experience gave her the confidence to take the plunge. Sukh approached a special needs school and the rest is history!
“What started out as answers for my nephew and his family turned into a mission to share my knowledge and experiences,” she says. “I didn’t want another parent to go through the level of difficulty they had to. His parents, like many parents today, weren’t provided with answers or a succinct plan on how to progress him along. I started out by wanting those answers for them.”
Fast forward to now, and she is approaching her new title with the same empathy and child-centred focus. “Education for our children should encompass the outdoors, engage all senses and include their interests as much as possible. I like to see our pupils lead their own personalised learning journey and our teachers match their varied learning styles. At MSIS, we encourage each individual to lead their own learning platform. If a child is motivated and has a special interest in art, their skills will be developed using that motivation. We will continue to follow their lead until they change direction or focus. This fosters a sense of ownership in their own learning journey.”
There is no doubt about how excited she is about the path ahead. “Twenty-five years ago, there was little knowledge or interest in special needs schools or special needs education in Singapore. But now there’s clear interest, which I’m thrilled about. MSIS has a great pool of teachers with amazing dedication and focus. And for me it’s always about the students. Children and adolescents with special needs are the most interesting people in the world – I can engage with them all day long. I look forward to seeing them every day and I’m privileged that I get to spend time with them.”
We hope you found this interesting; click here if you’d like to read more.