Give and Take

by Katherine Arteche
10 Feb 2022

Veteran educator Jayne Nadarajoo shares what it means to establish Singapore’s first college for differently-abled young adults, and in pursuing an ideal inclusive education system.

For Jayne Nadarajoo, establishing an institution like The GUILD has been a lifelong dream. It’s a heartening yet curious thing to hear when a veteran educator like her, who has been in the industry for over 30 years, has already founded a few of such educational centers of her own. In 1999, she founded The White Lodge Education Group, a center for high quality early education and individualized care — options that she couldn’t find at the time for her own children.

She then founded The Melbourne Specialist International School (MSIS) in 2014, in a bid to meet the needs of the expatriate community, where parents of differently-abled children had limited choices when it came to school selection. “As an educator, I hold the conviction that every child deserves good education – it is a right, not a privilege,” said Nadarajoo. She pursued the philosophy of having an inclusive and collaborative community of students, teachers, parents, and therapeutic specialists, which then led her to set up the ASPIRE Special Education Needs Centre, a social enterprise that delivers continuous community engagement for students aged 16 years and above.

“I set out to create a new model that broke the narrow confines of traditional education systems. Our model is inclusive, experiential, and focused on personalized efficacy,” reveals Nadarajoo, who adds that The GUILD is important in bridging the transition for youths and young adults (up to the age of 25) for life after school and in preparation for the workforce.

The GUILD International College campus

First of all I would like to commend you for pioneering such an institution in Singapore. You’d think that with all the recent talk of inclusivity and diversity, it’s perhaps better late than never. Can you share what spurred you to establish The GUILD?
We decided to launch The GUILD as our give back to the community and for the students who have a right to equal education opportunity. As a first world country, we can be a role model to our neighbors and showcase how we can co-exist together regardless of our disabilities. As a parent and educator, I believe education is the most powerful tool and everyone can contribute to society in some way.

The GUILD was born through the observations made from the pandemic, namely an “increasing gap between education and employment”. Compared to the conventional education system, what does The GUILD offer that’s similar and/or different?
In such cases of crisis, the pandemic has spurred us to make changes in order to meet the needs of those in our community. Thus, we are the first private arts and trade-based college that’s dedicated to helping the youths transition into adult life as well as provide a memorable college experience like all other junior colleges and universities.

We teach the necessary skills for independent living with great focus on self-care. Our aim is to help students gain confidence and skills to be active members of the community and the workforce, as well as placing equal importance on the student’s well-being to ensure a successful transition for both parties.

(Related: Steering the future of healthcare)

Student at a woodworking class

Most of the courses seem to be hands-on, from carpentry to computer skills, essentially honing mechanical and/or technical skill sets that serve immediately well in a professional setting. How are the programs shaped?
Our program is based on the Victorian Curriculum from Australia. We have academic and skills training routes to meet the individual needs of our students. This makes learning explorative and helps them find their areas of interest. We want them to be curious, experience different areas of work before deciding on what suits them best. Learning is a continuous journey and should not be defined by an exam result.

Are there any courses that are popular among applicants?
Music is popular thanks to social media. We have a few Justin Biebers and Ariana Grandes in the making! Plus, it’s an outlet for them to express themselves, be free and creative, and in turn, inspire us as we sometimes worry too much about judgment.

Doodle wall
Art room

Are there certain requirements in order to become an educator at The GUILD?
Our teachers and specialists are chosen based on their qualifications, training, work experience and more importantly, on the genuine love for children. All teachers must meet the requirements to be registered with the Council for Private Education. We run professional development sessions to upskill our teachers and keep them current in their practice. We use a collaborative approach, so all the educators come together to share observations and plan for the individual learning journey of each child.

How do you see inclusive education evolving in the future?
The pandemic has shown how we can adapt and reimagine education completely. Singapore is in a constant state of growth and is an ideal inclusive community as we live in a country full of diversity. It is well said in our pledge that “regardless of race, language or religion”, and that, I would like to think, includes disabilities. We lack confidence in creating a more inclusive community and need schools like ours to showcase the beauty of community living.

For more information on The GUILD, click here