A very good evening to all of you. I am very honoured to be here to join you at the launch of “Close To My Heart” – Children Art Exhibition. As Mr Christopher Yeow has shared with you, our children and youth with special needs were invited to do a very special art piece to express what it means to be with the people who are closest to their hearts. Not surprisingly, parents and family members feature very prominently in this collection of excellent art pieces. At the same time, there are also teachers and friends. Indeed, the support of those who are nearest and dearest to our children and youth with special needs is integral to helping them not only learn better, express themselves artistically, and also in reaching out to society at large, in helping members of society understand our special needs sector a lot better.

In this respect, I would like to take this opportunity to pay special tribute to Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA), for labouring over many years precisely to do this, to build a platform so that our children and youth with special needs are able to showcase their talents in very many different ways, and being able to develop their strengths and interests in areas such as art and music. This is something very commendable so let’s give Very Special Arts Singapore a warm round of applause for the good work they have done.

I am also very happy to know that 12 of the 20 SPED schools run by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) have taken part in this competition and exhibition, and I would like to call upon more of our schools to work closely with Very Special Arts Singapore because I think the effectiveness of their programmes speak for themselves.

Over the years, we have made strides in raising the quality, accessibility as well as affordability of our Special Education through strengthening the curriculum framework, through putting in the resources to enable our students, amongst other ways, to access learning via IT and many more. Partnerships with organisations such as Very Special Arts Singapore really help to round out our vision for holistic education for all the children and I hope this partnership will continue for a long time to come.

There remains much to be done for Special Education. My colleagues in the Ministry and I have more plans ahead. It will be a long journey, but I think it will be a journey that will be made a lot more effective with the help and support of our parents and families of students with special needs, as well as dedicated and staunch partners and supporters such as Very Special Arts Singapore.

I wish all competitors and participants the very best as you embark on your journey in exploring the world of the arts and also to wish everyone present a very pleasant weekend ahead. Thank you very much.