What is inclusive education?
Maybe you might have heard the phrases “You’re not like everyone else!”, “You look terrible”, “You can’t even walk”, “What’s wrong with your speech?”, “Are you blind/deaf?” I don’t think that anyone would ever want to hear such insulting words about themselves. But unfortunately, such insults are not uncommon even among children.
Did you know that about 5 million children with disabilities live among us today? And that’s just an approximate number. Because these people (most often) are isolated from the society that refuses to accept them therefore their data cannot be included in the special services. Consequently, they face many problems in their daily life, such as lack of early diagnosis of the disease, proper medical care from the state, the opportunity to get primary education at least.
In this article, we will discuss the possibilities of educating children with disabilities in regular schools. There is a term and direction in education called “inclusive education”. What is it about? In short, through inclusive education, children with special needs have the opportunity to study with other children (without special needs) together in the same class. In this way, their presence in inclusive classrooms contributes to socialization and integration in society.
The educational process in details
Firstly, who are these “special” children (as they are often called in society)?
- Visually impaired children (or the blind)
- Deaf, hearing-impaired kids
- Speechless children
- Mentally retarded children
- Children with musculoskeletal syndromes
- Kids with a whole range of autism
This group also includes gifted children, children deprived of parental care and those who survived the consequences of war events (or moved from another country).
What resources are needed to educate children who have special educational needs?
- Professional staff (teaching assistant, tutor)
- Training materials
- Financial resources (in order to obtain additional services)
We offer you to look at the French experience in inclusive education. It is divided into 2 models:
- School inclusion classes (open classrooms). Children with special needs study together with other classmates under the guidance of a non-specialized teacher. A special feature is that children can move to a class for individual or group work at any time
- Classes of pedagogical integration. Teachers (with special education) teach children with special needs in these classrooms
French teachers emphasize that those children who have musculoskeletal disorders or visual impairments feel better in the first model (open classes). And those children who have a hearing impairment or intellectual disabilities are better taught in the integration classes.
The educational system in Poland (Gniezno) is arranged in such a way that a child with special needs is included in the educational system together with other children from birth.
We live in a humane and tolerant society. It all sounds beautiful, but how does it look like in practice, what difficulties faced by children, parents and teachers?
The main problems
- Lack of qualified staff and low popularity of the profession (low pay in some countries)
- It is morally difficult for parents and their children to study in this way (the child is most often unable to keep up with the curriculum or may have difficulties in studying)
- There is no guarantee that other children will react adequately to them and they will be friends with such a child
- Many parents are against inclusive education because they feel that the teacher attaches little time for the rest of the children (without special needs)
Inclusive education has many advantages for the special children’s future but we need a lot of effort, resources and time to optimize all the shortcomings of this process.