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    • #5359
      NSingal
      • Participant

      Education of children with disabilities General Comment No. 4 on Article 24 issued in 2016 by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defined inclusion as, “a process of systemic reform embodying changes and modifications in content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies in education to overcome barriers with a vision serving to provide all students of the relevant age range with an equitable and participatory learning experience and environment that best corresponds to their requirements and preferences” (Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2016, p. 4).
      While there is a lot of debate on what is inclusive education, we would like to hear your thoughts on how best to support the education of children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms.

    • #5377
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      1

      Thanks, Nidhi, for posing this question. My work in education has primarily been in Education Management Information Systems, not the actual work of educating students. But I am often asked by people in low resource settings how they are supposed to make their classrooms more inclusive on limited budgets — especially when they see examples from high income countries. So I am very curious to hear of people’s experiences doing that — what works– and importantly  for me, what are the first steps that people in low-income countries can take that will build a foundation for moving towards a fully inclusive school environment in the long run.

      • #5409
        raghuraman
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        The question “how to best support the education of children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries,” call for a detailed deliberations. In countries like India, there are two streams through which children undergo their Education – Schools for persons with disabilities or so called Special Schools and regular Schools run by Governments. the objective of Education in all perspectives meant for transformation. First and foremost, teacher training lacks the humane factor in the curriculum in general. it is only considered as a mere certification or a professional course. the curriculum should trigger the passion of the individual and make one realise the value of such job role. Secondly, engaging and creating a rapport with the children with disabilities and their parents are the fundamental factors to gain the confidence of them. Imagine, a single teacher handling 4 different types of disabled children in a class of 40/50. it is a real challenge not only for the teacher to do justice, but as well achallenge to the children

      • #5422
        NSingal
        • Participant
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        Thanks for you reflections Raghuraman- I like the notion of the “humane factor in the curriculum”.

    • #5378
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      Thanks, Nidhi, for posing this question. My work in education has primarily been in Education Management Information Systems, not the actual work of educating students. But I am often asked by people in low resource settings how they are supposed to make their classrooms more inclusive on limited budgets — especially when they see examples from high income countries. So I am very curious to hear of people’s experiences doing that — what works– and importantly  for me, what are the first steps that people in low-income countries can take that will build a foundation for moving towards a fully inclusive school environment in the long run.

    • #5384
      Seema Nath
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      This question on how to best support the education of children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries takes utmost significance in the background of the pandemic as the full extent of the long term repercussions of the school closures on the education of children is yet to be fully understood. In my understanding, first thing to support is ensuring that inclusive education continues in the online environment (through blended learning, building accessibility in the online learning etc) for children with disabilities (for as long as it is online) and when schools re-open there should be care to ensure there is adequate support and planning for the transition from online to offline schooling. Secondly, support through financial investment inclusive education for children with disabilities is extremely essential. Thirdly, having support structures in place for socio-emotional and mental health well-being of all students, teachers and school staff. And finally taking the support of research and evidence from the global South on supporting the education of children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries and using it to inform culture, practice and policies in mainstream schools.

    • #5386
      Julia Hayes
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      I think the answer to this questions differs depending on who is asking.  If it is Governments and leaders then I think that it is important to invest in systems that provide structures at a national and regional level that support those on the ground to implement quality education which accounts for local context.  For example, ensuring teachers have the training, materials and ongoing support to address the needs of children, and can adapt what exists in the environment.  If it is teachers asking, then I encourage them to remember that they already possess so many of the skills they need: think about how to make a child feel welcomed, work with the family to find out how the child learns best, find out what the child is good at and see if they can help other children with that, build on the natural supports in the area (peers, local mentors, community).  If it is parents asking, then I encourage them to build community with other parents and find ways to work together with teachers in ways that keep the focus upon what their child CAN do. Most of all, ask the child themselves – lots of children can say what would help if asked in ways that help them express themselves.

      • #5418
        Mutezigaju Flora
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        Thank you for an opportunity to reflect to this question. Having worked in education sector for more than 15 years in low income country, I can confidently say that we still have a long way to go in terms of providing quality inclusive education to all students. It is almost impossible to teach a child with disabilities when you don’t even know his/ her needs. In most cases, children with disabilities are enrolled in regular schools without any assessment, many with invisible disabilities( learning difficulties) are not even noticed. In a class of 65 students, it is not possible for a single teach to cater for the needs of students with disabilities or special educational needs. Students with disabilities are not receiving any support/ accommodations whether in instruction or examinations.

        Yes, we have good policies that articulate what should be done, but we lack budget, knowledge and skills to put them into practice. We lack proper coordination mechanism that support inclusive education.

    • #5387
      Emma McKinney
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      Having been a teacher of children with disabilities for many years I really feel that it is vital that we start with pre-service teacher training as this was really lacking when I studied. I feel that inclusive education training must not be an ‘add on’ extra module, rather inclusive teaching methodologies etc. should be integrated into every subject.

    • #5388
      Emma McKinney
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      So often we think that we need high-tech and expensive assistive devices, materials and programs like high income countries have in order to support children with disabilities. If we don’t have access to these, we often say we can’t support/teach/help. However, I have seen some of the best teaching and learning materials made using recyclable items and teacher creativity that cost nothing. We need to get to know the children with disabilities’ interests and strengths and create our own low-tech resources based on these.

    • #5390
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      Can you point to some practical examples of how this can work in a really low-resource country with one teacher in a room full of 60, 80 or even more students? That is the question I always am confronted with, and as I work mostly with data systems and with overall strategy at the Ministry level and not what actually goes on in the classroom, I am often at a loss to give anything more than a cursory answer — like put children who have vision and hearing difficulties at the front of the class, and just raising awareness about being accepting of differences.

    • #5393
      Natasha Graham
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      You can work with Ministries of Education on making sure that children with disabilities are included in education sector planning processes. Take a look at the newly published Guidelines on how children with disabilities can be part of discussion when countries are looking at and examining their education systems. It is important to remember that inclusion starts at the planning process and very often children with disabilities are not included when countries are working on analysis of their existing education systems and making new education sector plans based on the outcomes of theses analyses.

      So, one thing to do is to figure how how disability-inclusive lens can be incorporated in all the planning stages.

    • #5411
      Krishna Gahatraj
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      Here, I do not like to go with the existing policies (both national and international) and theories as why we should work for the education of children with disabilities instead I would like to focus on how aspect. Being a person with lived experience of disability and as well as from low-income country, one of the most crucial area to be equipped is empowering school teachers. School teachers lack adequate knowledge and skills of teaching techniques to the students with diverse capacities. Many such low and middle income countries follow one state-led policy for education system. This system mostly focuses on only one type of teaching practice i.e. teaching students in classroom writing in black/white board only. And, taking the exam in paper in a writing format that qualifies the successes and unsuccess. This sort practices has to be changed. Hence, here comes two things most importantly –

      a) Invest or support such low and middle income countries to reform their education policies that include all means all children regardless of any identities and differences.

      b) Invest in empowering school teachers who require adequate knowledge to screen students capabilities so that they can adopt their teaching methodologies based on individual learning capacity focused approach.

      I think, these two areas significantly support to promote inclusive education for children with disabilities in low and middle income countries.

      Thanks.

      • #5427
        NSingal
        • Participant
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        Thanks Krishna for your very useful reflections.

        The notion of empowering teachers with skills and training is a positive one and it does resonate a lot with the approaches that get adopted in the field. I wonder if people have any ideas and/or experience of  working with “teacher support” in classrooms? So not just training teachers but actually thinking about building collaborative models of support in the classroom where teachers can draw on expertise and help from others in the school/wider system to develop and strengthen inclusive practices. I am thinking of models which use itinerant teachers and other such support.

    • #5421
      Andrew Lange
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      The fundamental idea behind inclusive education for children with disabilities is that they are educated in the same classroom with their peers and offers a variety of benefits, from improving education quality for all children, to helping change discriminatory attitudes. However, in order to put policy into practice, the practical application of inclusion mandates is needed so that schools, staff and parents receive training, support and resources needed to teach students with diverse needs and learning styles. Despite political and normative support, such as ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), low- and middle-income countries face systemic institutional and budget challenges before inclusive education can be realized for students with disabilities.

      To achieve inclusive education for students with disabilities, governments need to be held accountable for implementing mandates for inclusion and policies that remove barriers and ensure a diverse student body learns together, in a supportive and inclusive environment. Education systems need to provide schools and virtual learning environments, that are inclusive with professionals trained to attend to students with different disabilities and committed to the responsibility of ensuring that all students acquire significant learning for their life and inclusion as active members of their communities. This also means implementing an appropriate educational system with a budget that is capable of reaching all students with disabilities, that provides necessary support for schools, teachers, parents and ultimately, students. While efforts towards inclusive education should be celebrated, their practical application and implementation for students with disabilities has a long way to go.

    • #5424
      Basirat Razaq-Shuaib
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      I think the subject of making mainstream classrooms inclusive in LMICs is layered, complex, and needs to be addressed from different perspectives.

      Thinking about my limited experience of working in a Nigerian context, making the classroom inclusive brings to mind a number of questions that are intertwined and cannot be addressed in isolation. For instance, What will the child learn (curriculum)? How will the child learn (resources and accessibility)? Where will the child learn (class sizes)? Who will help the child learn (teachers, support staff etc)? What influence do parents of children without disabilities have on mainstream schools’ ability to take on and support children with disabilities? All these questions unfortunately cannot be detached from the overall state of education within this context.

      Attempting to answer each of these questions brings up further questions. For instance, if we take teachers as one of the people who will help the child learn, we then need to address the question: How can teachers be supported to help children with disabilities learn in mainstream classrooms? This question alone however would require addressing the contextual factors that impact many teachers’ ability to support children with disabilities in a classroom such as their level of know-how, teacher wellbeing, motivation for the job and the support available to them in doing their job amongst others. Again digging further and investigating motivation for the job as an example might reveal issues such as poverty as underlying factors.

      Therefore, within these contexts, beyond prescribing training for teachers, funding from the government and designing enabling policies amongst others, it would be beneficial to understand and address the underlying factors that impede classroom inclusiveness.

      In terms of practices that have produced positive results, again within my limited experience of working in a Nigerian context, there has been anecdotal evidence of the usefulness of parents enrolling their children with disabilities (specifically down syndrome, cerebral palsy and some neurodevelopmental disorders) in small-sized low-cost mainstream schools which though may not be classified as “inclusive”, have shown the willingness and the heart to learn from and work with the parents in understanding how the child can be best supported at school. This scaffolding approach thrives mainly on the schools’/ teachers’ willingness to try despite inadequate resources and their cooperation with the parents who are seen as experts of their children’s conditions.

    • #5420
      federicasettimi2267
      • Participant
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      Dear Nidhi and the other contributors, it’s a pleasure to discuss this very important topic with all of you. My name is Federica and I work for Inclusion International – The international network of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

      To achieve inclusion in education at all levels, including in low and middle income countries, there is the need to meaningfully engage with families and to recognise the role of families as the link between school aged children, their communities and schools. This is a very key issue that is at the heath of Inclusion International’s work on inclusive education. Families can and should be empowered become leaders and to mobilize the resources in their communities and work as a Network to use community-level and evidence to influence National level policy and advocacy work.

      We believe that: If families are empowered to influence and change their communities and to inform schools and teachers about inclusive practices and pedagogies (including cooperative learning in the classroom), If innovative community-driven partnerships between families, schools, community leaders, and other local level stakeholders are shared, replicated and leveraged to create platforms for conversation about access to education, if family-led OPDs are equipped to harness the voices and experiences of families at the local level and translate those experiences into policy innovations and advocacy at the national level, children with intellectual disabilities will benefit from increased access to inclusive education in their communities in low- and middle-income countries.

      As we know, with the COVID-19 pandemic, learners with disabilities have faced more and new barriers and challenges in accessing or continuing their education. For this reason, I would also like to share with you our recently published report on the global impact of COVID-19 on persons with intellectual disabilities and their families. The data and evidence included, as well as the recommendations, come from consultations within Inclusion International membership. The report focuses on accessibility, family support, education, employment, and more. Please find the report “A Global Agenda for Inclusive Recovery: Ensuring People with Intellectual Disabilities and Families are Included in a Post-COVID World” at this link  https://inclusion-international.org/a-global-agenda-post-covid/

    • #5493
      Dipti Bhatia
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      Inclusion…a feeling…Inclusive Education…a process

      Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this question.

      I am sharing some of the things the stake holders had to say. In all of my 25 years of the work with inclusive education, I have taken each of the words of the stake holders seriously, learnt from them and tried to take inclusive education forward.

      “ Students who had never attended special schools but had support from Resource Teachers. “my friends and I hope that we are in college together. Then we can continue to have fun”
      “My friends want me to be with them even if I cannot play everything that they do.”
      I use a wheelchair. My classmates wanted to take me out from class to the canteen. The
      teachers were nervous. So they told the students not to disturb me. So I was stuck alone in
      class.”
      I cannot move around everywhere in school. So my classmates were told to bring library
      books for me. This meant that I cannot choose the books. Some of them had to sit with me in
      class while other went to play. I felt bad because I thought they were forced to be with me.”
      “Some of my classmates teased me. When I reacted I was caught by my teachers and
      complains went to my parents.”
      Students who moved from special setting to a mainstream school.
      “I did not know why I had to go to a regular school. I did not know what I was supposed to do.
      I felt alone and hated everything around me.”
      My classmates helped me a lot for taking notes, going to library, doing assignments and many
      more things. But I am not sure if I had friends.”
      “I moved from special school to a regular school for my secondary education. The special
      school had given me all inputs and good education foundation. But this was exciting because
      it was from here that I faced challenges and began to explore how to meet them. I like the
      challenges. I had to prove that I can do many things. I had to make efforts from my side even
      to make friends”

      In the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Program, children with all disabilities were included. Some of the children with intellectual disabilities greatly benefited specially in social inclusion. In schools where teachers and resource teachers collaborated they also benefited academically.

      Here is what some of the teachers had to share.
      “Disabled children need to have special attention. We have no training or time. they have to
      go to special schools.”
      “I am proud to have this child as my student. He is my responsibility. He is clever. But I have
      to know what to do for him.”
      There are laws, policies, programs and schemes for inclusive education. But when officials are
      approached for reasonable accommodations they know and look at only ramps lifts and
      braille books. As far as academic process is concerned officials look only exemptions and not
      facilities. So if someone on a wheelchair or a person with low vision wants to do science or
      computers they are discouraged since according to them they cannot give exemption for
      doing practical. But they do not even consider an accessible lab/lab equipment or lab assistant
      or accessible computers.So as far as the children are concerned inclusion is a natural process. It gives children with
      and without disabilities a chance to know each other and most often accept differences more
      easily. But the adult who are suppose to guide the children seem to have mind blocks because
      they have no exposure. It is here that attitudinal barriers will have to be broken
      Enrollment of children with disabilities without support systems and support persons is doing
      a dis-service to the child. If inclusion has to be successful then mainstream teachers and
      resource teachers will need to work together in capacity building of each other planning the
      programs and implementing them together.
      Similarly all acts, policies and programs will be beautiful pieces of writing unless the officials
      at the field level are aware of the developments. adults whether they are special teachers,
      mainstream teachers, parents, principals, or government officials… all have to believe in the
      evolving capacity of children with disabilities and accept the children’s write to inclusion.
      Dipti Bhatia
      Chief Executive Officer
      National Association for the Blind
      Tamil Nadu State Branch

      • #5494
        NSingal
        • Participant
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        Dipti many thanks for taking the time to share such diverse and rich perspectives. The points you raise about the whole system working together is so crucial. The reflections from teachers are very pertinent and resonate closely with the kind of findings emerging from empirical studies conducted by members of my research group. We need to listen to teachers and not just train them, change their attitude but also provide them support structures and an enabling environment in which they can enact the many policies.

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