Dr. Gelaye Debebe
April 7, 2018
Aims and Objectives
One trend on the rise in education is the desire to move toward a more inclusive school system for students with disabilities. It is estimated that there are 500-600 million people living with disabilities in the world (approximately 10 percent of the world population), 150 million of whom are children (CRC Committee 2006). According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 percent of disabled people live in low-income or middle-income countries, where services are difficult to access. This includes education, evident in the fact that 98 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries remain out of school (Richler 2004). In Africa alone, fewer than 10 percent of disabled children are in school (UNICEF, 2006). It is said that the right to education is both the most important right for children with disabilities and the rightmost frequently denied (Kilkelly, 2002). One of the biggest challenges facing different countries is creating an all-inclusive environment for children with disabilities. In this paper, I will explore this challenge by looking at how the United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2005) works to address disabilities in children by promoting quality education through promotion of accessible and inclusive learning spaces, investment in teacher training for inclusive education, and collecting data for evidence building and progress monitoring.
Additionally, I will discuss ways for us, as global citizens, to participate and raise awareness, so children with disabilities will have access to an all-inclusive education thereby minimizing the exclusion and improper lessons taught.
A Historical Background
Around the 1920’s children with disabilities were treated through the lens of ‘defectology,’ this concept was framed around the idea that these individuals could be cured if appropriate services were provided (UNICEF, 2012). This concept and term created was a medicalized approach in which children with disabilities were considered ‘defective’ from the norm (UNICEF, 2012). With this concept in mind, a “clinical, physiological, psychological and pedagogical” approach was later added to determine if individuals could be shaped through the special educational system (UNICEF, 2102).
One problem viewed in this approach was finding the appropriate placement of children based on their disability, primarily focusing on growth and support. “The medical profession, trained in ‘defectology’, would typically recommend institutional care as the best solution for caring for newborns or young children with disabilities” (UNICEF, 2012). This approach was suggested due to the lack of community-based care or non-existent services available to support families (UNICEF, 2012). Individuals who are classified as ‘handicapped’ are people with physical and mental defects; these defects were seen to hurt their development within the education system. The lack of an appropriate education system resulted in a number of children, with medium to severe disabilities, to be placed in schools where growth could not able to be reached (UNICEF, 2012). These individuals placed in inappropriate schools were later transferred to adult institutions where they would typically spend the rest of their lives (UNICEF, 2012). These facilities catered for a large number of children, who were segregated from their communities and cut off from families (UNICEF, 2012). Facilities included: “infant homes, hospitals, special institutions or internats (boarding schools) run by the education ministry, boarding homes for the severely disabled operated by social services, and children’s homes administrated by the health department all existed in helping these individuals” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Children with milder learning disabilities were typically disregarded altogether or sent to special schools with a remedial curriculum, where they were unlikely to receive appropriate support for their needs” (UNICEF, 2012). Individuals defined as uneducated were sent to either institutions or confined to their home. Throughout history “streets, buildings, community-based education and recreation were largely unavailable” creating this idea that children with disabilities were not able to have a chance at a normal life granted their capabilities to access these were nonexistent (UNICEF, 2012). “Children with disabilities and their families were often shunned in public spaces or so shamed that they avoided venturing out in public” (UNICEF, 2012).
For years, people with disabilities have been discriminated against. On almost every continent there are records of isolation, exclusion, and even destruction of people with disabilities (UNICEF, 2012, Martin, Martin ; Terman, 1996). Through the historical context of schools, services to children with disabilities were minimal and were provided at the discretion of local school districts (Martin, Martin ; Terman, 1996). Before the mid-1970s, the United States allowed school districts to refuse any student they considered “uneducable.” On the other hand, some children with disabilities were admitted to public schools but were placed in regular education, with no special services (Martin, Martin ; Terman, 1996). UNICEF (2012) saw this problem and wanted individuals with disabilities to have access to an inclusive education system.
Inclusion in Education
According to UNICEF (2012), a key strategy for promoting the right to education, including for children with disabilities, is to focus on inclusion in education (UNICEF, 2012). Inclusion in education has made a significant jump with the Education For All (EFA) organization, which ensures that every child and adult receives basic education of good quality. This “is based both on a human rights perspective and on the generally held belief that education is central to individual well-being and national development” (UNICEF, 2012). Inclusion can be understood not merely as a vehicle for ending segregation but rather as a commitment to creating schools with respect to value diversity; UNICEF aims to promote democratic principles and a set of values and beliefs relating to equality and social justice so that all children can participate in teaching and learning (Miles and Singal, 2009, UNICEF, 2012). “UNESCO (2005), defines inclusive education as ‘a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education’ (UNICEF, 2012). In order to have an appropriate education system, there needs to be renovations to structures, strategies and approaches. It is vital that these changes have a common vision to educate al children regardless of age and whether of not they show a disability (UNICEF, 2012).
Three broad approaches to an all-inclusive education system includes: segregation, integration, and inclusion. “Segregation, in which children are classified according to their impairment and allocated a school designed to respond to that particular impairment” (UNICEF, 2012). “Integration, where children with disabilities are placed in the mainstream system, often in special classes, as long as they can accommodate its demands and fit in with its environment” (UNICEF, 2012). “Inclusion, where there is recognition of a need to transform the cultures, policies and practices in schools to accommodate the differing needs of individual students, and an obligation to remove the barriers that impede that possibility” (UNICEF, 2012). UNICEF emphasizes inclusion by the commitment to ensure every child and adult receives basic education of good quality. To be inclusive, UNICEF emphasizes, the importance to have “an open learning” concept with each student, “rather than a hierarchy of cognitive skills” (UNICEF, 2012). UNICEF encourages a “focus on student deficiencies” rather than on the restructuring of the current “curriculum and crosscutting pedagogy” (UNICEF, 2012). UNICEF stressed the importance of active participation in the learning process “rather than on specialized discipline” (UNICEF, 2012). UNICEF believes there should be “a common curriculum for all, based upon differentiated and/or individualized instruction, rather than on alternating the curriculum for low achievers” (UNICEF, 2012). Most importantly, UNICEF believes there should be an overemphasis on inclusion rather than exclusion in all school systems.
“Radical changes are required in education systems, and in the values and principles of the people involved in delivering education, if the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are to realize their right to gain access to their local schools” (UNICEF, 2012). Central to an inclusive approach is a commitment to putting inclusive values into action, valuing every life equally, helping everyone feel a sense of belonging and promoting children’s participation in learning and teaching. (UNICEF, 2012). Within the UNICEF Rights-based Approach to Inclusive Education Position Paper, Booth (2011) one contributor looked at other ways an inclusive approach can be reached:
“Reducing exclusion, discrimination and barriers to learning and participation.
Developing culture, policies and practice to promote diversity and respect for everyone equally” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Learning from inclusive practices to share lessons widely” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Viewing difference between children and adults as a resource for learning” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Acknowledging the right of children to locally based high-quality education” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Improving schools for staff and parents as well as children” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Emphasizing the value of building positive school communities as well as achievements” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Fostering positive relationships between schools and their values and surrounding communities” (UNICEF, 2012).
“Recognizing inclusion in education is one step closer to inclusion in society” (UNICEF, 2012).
If these terms are met it can help break the cycle of poverty and exclusion, allow children to stay with their families and communities, improve the quality of education for all, and promote wider inclusion (Save the Children, 2002).
UNICEF suggests these ideas in promoting an all-inclusive education system for children with disabilities. In addition, UNICEF encourages promotion of accessible and inclusive learning spaces, investment in teacher training, and collecting data for evidence building and progress monitoring.
Promotion of accessible and inclusive learning spaces
Children with disabilities will not receive the appropriate education unless barriers are removed from schools. These children face a numerous amount of barriers, one including the physical environment of schools, accessible transportation, communication and attitudes (UNICEF, 2012). According to UNICEF, “a broad range of measures needs to be taken to create a more physically accessible environment” (UNICEF, 2012):
An investment towards the development of a safe an inclusive space. This measurement will allow children to take part in day-to-day life to complete their school experience.
All environments should be equipped with physically accessible features to allow a child with disabilities to enter a classroom and other facilities easily. “Universal design standards should be applied in the construction or refurbishment of buildings, specifically paying close attention to classes, sanitary facilities, labs, libraries, and external recreational settings allowing access to everyone regardless of their physical disability” (UNICEF, 2012). In addition, it is necessary that these surrounding conditions for learning has a specific attention paid to mobility aids devise and assisted technologies.
It is vital to get feedback and input from a diverse set of parties (local community, disabled people’s organization, parents, children and other stakeholders) to insure design elements of schools, facilities, materials and equipment are appropriate (UNICEF, 2012).
It is vital that the desks, seating arrangement and classroom design reflects the needs of children with disabilities and the importance of collaboration and group work. It can be helpful to involve children with disabilities in the design process to understand the obstacles they may face so they will have a healthy learning experience.
Children must be “able to get to school regularly, on time and without difficulty.” This might include, “adapting public transport systems to facilitate wheelchair access, taxis or motorized wheelchairs” (UNICEF, 2012).
UNICEF notes that active steps need to be made to ensure education is accessible to disabled children through material and financial support.
Investment in teacher training for inclusive education
All teachers must meet the competencies to work in inclusive environments, including working alongside one another (UNICEF, 2012). Investment to effectively select and train teachers needs to be taken. According to UNICEF, teacher training needs to include:
“Re-organization of pre- and in-service training strategies to introduce methodologies of collaborative teaching, in which they teach the same material but use different methods to respond to learning styles and levels of intelligences” (UNICEF, 2012).
An analysis to make sure all teacher training curricula includes:
Teaching in inclusive and multi-cultural environments
Using individualized educational plans to adapt to the specific needs of the child
Understand the difference between direct and indirect discrimination
Positive strategies to tackle discriminatory behavior
Practical work experience needs to be increased in teacher training
Collaboration and policies need to be focused on as well as ways to deal with behavioral issues
Provision of the way teachers can use different resources to explore creative teaching methods
Having people with disabilities train teachers
An all-inclusive school system involves an overall commitment to adapt schools to children rather than requiring children to adapt to the norms, styles, routines and practice of any school (UNICEF, 2012). UNICEF recently noted that 18 of 19 countries said they did not have the appropriate tools and materials to support an inclusive education system in schools. Some of these countries expressed their frustrations because even with the limited materials provided the schools “were under-utilized due to the lack of inclusive teaching” (UNICEF, 2012).
In order for a school system to adapt an all-inclusive right-based approach, there needs to be a broader and more flexible knowledge of the aim to an all-inclusive education system. To support a child with disabilities it is important to look at their education through an inclusive lens. This lens looks to support an accessible and flexible curriculum designed to serve every child differently and provides adjustment to each individual need.
UNICEF’s suggested curriculum needs teachers to modify and adapt what they teach and how they teach it. UNICEF believes that “a child-centered methodology” is important, as it would encourage children “to follow their own interests, discovery and learning” (UNICEF, 2012). If this technique were to be used an interactive methodologies would be appropriate. An example UNICEF mentions, is how a teacher might go about an interactive teaching style would be using different tools to teach a math lesson. Instead of writing on the board they may have “marbles, clay, and/or calculators for the children to use to help them understand the concept in a way that works best for them” (UNICEF, 2012). Another idea UNICEF suggests is having a resource teacher available “to help adapt elements of the curriculum for students with disabilities and provide extra resources in the classroom” (UNICEF, 2012).
In order to work at the appropriate pace of an individual with disabilities teachers will have to adopt creative approaches in their teaching methods. One way a teacher might adjust to the needs of these individuals is by providing a flexible time frame to study certain subjects. Another way that will be beneficial is to allow children to work in groups or individually. In these groups teachers should look to partner children with and without disabilities to enable mutual learning.
UNICEF (2012) emphasizes the significant amount of benefits, which can be achieved when an inclusive approach to learning is adopted:
“Benefits for all Children:
Children become more self-confident and develop greater self-esteem.
• They take pride in themselves and their achievements.
• They learn how to learn independently both inside and outside of school.
• They learn to understand and apply what they learn in school to their everyday lives, such as in their play and in their home.
• They also learn to interact actively and happily with their classmates and teachers.
• They learn to enjoy being with others who are different from themselves, including how to be sensitive to and adapt to these differences.
• Children improve their communication skills and are better prepared for life” (UNICEF, 2012)
“Benefits for Teachers:
• They have more opportunities to learn new ways to teach different kinds of students.
• They gain new knowledge, such as the different ways children learn and can be taught.
• While looking for ways to overcome challenges, they can develop more positive attitudes and approaches towards people, children and situations.
• Teachers also have greater opportunities to explore new ideas by communicating more often with others from within and outside their school, such as in school clusters or teacher networks, or with parents and community members” (UNICEF, 2012).
“By applying these new ideas, teachers can encourage their students to be more interested, more creative and more attentive. As a result, the children and even their parents can give teachers more positive feedback, which will benefit their experience in school. With the feedback received, teachers can experience greater job satisfaction and a higher sense of accomplishment when all children are succeeding in school to the best of their abilities” (UNICEF, 2012).
Collecting data for evidence building and progress monitoring.
In order to determine what remaining obstacles prevent inclusive education monitoring by authorities is vital. UNESCO (2005) looked at how different countries established activities and mechanisms in school systems, locally and nationally to analyze how they monitor their implementations done to promote a better inclusive education system. One technique that Cook Islands implemented was a monitoring; evaluating and reviewing intervention plan where authorities were able to review student’s progress (UNESCO, 2005). Another technique created by Montenegro was the creation of a Commission for Orientation of Children with Special Needs, where parents and pedagogic are able to adjust and monitor basis of assessments to gather education-rehabilitation and psychological information (UNESCO, 2005). A very similar commission was set up in Morocco, where they create a list for all disabled children that describe the severity of their disability and ways the education system can guide them into a health situation (UNESCO, 2005). Similarly, in Mauritius, schools adapt to children with special needs by the creation of a Special Monitoring Team who works along side NGOs to create inclusive educational systems (UNSECO, 2005). A very similar organization, the Students with Disability Group was created in Australia, to provide advice relating to curriculum, assessment and reporting for students with disabilities (UNSECO, 2005). In Poland, a Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment was appointed in 2008 to implement measures to protect against discrimination, including those based on disability, in co-operation with the Government Plenipotentiary for Disabled Persons (UNSECO, 2005).
UNSECO (2005) recognized the few countries that have implemented inclusiveness in their education systems. While these countries are on the right track to an all-inclusive school system there are still huge steps that can be taken and more countries that can make changes in monitoring and collecting data. Collection of data is a prime element to monitor the implementation the education of people with disabilities (UNSECO, 2005). UNSECO (2005) noted that several countries reported on encouraging measures to collect, record and analyze data integrating disabilities. Argentina is one of the few countries that are already looking to gain more information about their changes in the education system; this information contains school-record data on people with disabilities as input for policy-related decision-making (UNSECO, 2005). New Zealand, is another who is looking to develop a set of indicators which tracks the performance across a range of key educational outcomes (UNSECO, 2005). The country explained that, in each of the measurement areas, information is disaggregated as far as possible to enable the progress of diverse learners, including notably students with disabilities (UNSECO, 2005).
Global Citizen Participation
As global citizens, we can make a difference in helping children with disabilities have access to an inclusive education system. Raising awareness of the lack of inclusive education system has been an ongoing struggle, and the best way to get involved and encouraging a change is through the promotion of positive attitudes. In communities there needs to be a greater focus on promoting the idea each child is unique and different and that disabled children have the same rights, needs and aspirations as all children. Raising awareness in society, children, family and communities will counteract fear and misunderstanding and decrease negative attitudes toward an inclusive schools system.
The Best Buddies is an international organization that targets disabled individuals and is a great way for others to learn that disabled individuals have the same needs and interests as others. Best Buddies empower the special abilities of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by helping them form meaningful friendships with peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public specking, self-advocacy and communication and feel value by society. Individuals can take part in best buddies by donating, attending events/challenge/walk, volunteering and advocating.
Sports are another way to promote inclusion. For example, the game Bocce Ball has been implemented in many schools systems to bring individuals together. West Middlesex High School is just one of many schools to implement the inclusive game and results showed community support and internal support from band members and cheerleaders (Miller, 2017).
Everyone can get involved by donating to UNICEF to help raise awareness on inclusive education systems. Non-governmental organizations also accept donations to help inclusion become prevalent in countries that may have limited resources. With that said, as global citizens, we have the obligations to help those individuals in need.
There are barriers that can come with inclusive education; however, those can be torn down. School systems can be funded through organizations like UNICEF and UNSECO, who are determined and passionate to make inclusive school systems. If global citizens continue to donate money or participate in inclusive activities, more individuals will gain awareness of this growing problem and will increase the amount of inclusive school systems. If more people understand that individuals with disabilities have the same needs and rights as everyone else then we can encourage new and improved school systems.
UNICEF and UNESCO, have generated many ideas to help build up an inclusive education system by promotion of accessible and inclusive learning spaces, investment in teacher training for inclusive education, and collecting data for evidence building and progress monitoring. In order to promote inclusive education, organizations such as Best Buddies and schools such as Middlesex High School need to work together to ensure that there are unified polices and support supporting the importance of inclusive education. UNICEF and UNESCO, should think about enhancing their relationships with different organizations to create a stronger link between inclusion and schools so individuals are aware of how inclusive education systems are of benefit and how someone might go around implementing a more inclusive environment.
Many disabilities do not have a cure, inclusive education systems allow individuals to feel accepted and encouraged to learn and grow. To increase the number of children with disabilities in schools, global citizens must contribute by donating money, joining groups that will raise awareness, encourage for a conversation to be had, and advocate for children with disabilities who are the most vulnerable not to receive the appropriate education. If more individuals were to receive proper education, our population would be more accepting and understanding of everyone’s needs. It is our duty to create an accepting and understanding world by promoting advocacies for issues that could hurt of future generation.
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