From Singapore to New Bridge School: My Experience of Cultural Differences Between Two Settings
Hi everyone! This blog will be about the cultural differences I experienced during my placement at New Bridge.
Firstly, some background information about me, I am Gwyneth, a first-year international student from the University of Manchester. I was born and raised in Singapore. Prior to University, I did a Diploma in Early Childhood Development and Education, where I took on Early Intervention modules in my final year. This allowed me to intern and work part-time at inclusive preschools.
Growing up in a slightly traditional Chinese family, coming to the UK, I experienced quite a bit of culture shock. Thus, after my first week at New Bridge, I remember speaking to one of my friends from Singapore, who worked at one of Singapore’s biggest autism schools, where I realised how much more advanced New Bridge was.
Despite having experience working in an inclusive preschool, it was still very different from what I expected when I entered New Bridge School. The first scene I remember when I entered New Bridge was the staff wheeling a student on an Acheeva bed. I remember thinking about whether it was an emergency, however, after getting a tour around the school, I realised that it was just one of the many mobility and assistive devices that the school provides. This was something that I had not seen in the schools in Singapore.
Moreover, the indoor pools in New Bridge used for hydrotherapy were very interesting to me, as Singapore did not have hydrotherapy within school compounds. The majority of the time, hydrotherapy would be carried out, out of the school and it would be additional charges that the parents would have to pay.
Additionally, New Bridge School are very open to inclusive topics. Allowing inclusive topics like LGBTQ+ to be discussed amongst students and teachers. When I entered the Lumenus class and the students were talking about the different types of gender and sexualities, I was taken aback at how knowledgeable the students were about the topics, as well as how the teachers just stood back and allowed the students to discuss it so openly. Coming from a traditional society like Singapore, topics like LGBTQ+ would not be open for discussion in schools. Thus, students in Singapore are not well informed about such inclusive topics. On top of that, New Bridge also carried out an event for Pride this year during Pride month. Upon hearing about that, I was pleased to see how open the school was.
New Bridge School also focuses more on holistic development and helping the students live as independently as possible. New Bridge School has different pathways for the students to excel in what they enjoy and what they are good at. Whereas, in Singapore, the curriculum is more academically focused, where most students are put through examinations. How this works is that it would take a special need student will take 3 years to complete 1 year of a typical student’s academic content. Needless to say, this was stressful for the students and my friend told me that during the examination period, the students at the special need school would have an increased number of meltdowns and self-harm.
During my first session with the Lumenus students, we observed how the students carried out the talking mats sessions. We were also told about how the teachers were planning to let them be the listener and lead the sessions, to gain the views of the other students in the school on the topic of “How I feel about school”. I thought that this peer interaction plan was good as it enables the students to get a chance to lead, and at the same time, they will get to listen to the other students’ views.
Through this placement, I definitely learnt a lot from New Bridge and its approaches, and I will definitely take this knowledge alone with me to my other placements and also back to Singapore if I decide to practice back in Singapore.
P.S. Singapore definitely has a lot of development and positives, but this blog was just mainly focused on the parts where I thought New Bridge was better developed. (I still love Singapore very much ♥︎)
By Gwyneth Teo