Title: Overcoming barriers
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Overcoming the barriers

Despite all the problems, many countries in the region are making efforts to reach out to excluded children. Some examples of methods used to overcome barriers are summarised below.

Attitude
Creating a more inclusive system requires a new approach in attitude. Simply placing children with special needs within the school system will not lead to meaningful inclusion. The focus needs to shift from seeing the problem as the child's differences to problem identification with the unwelcoming school system. In order to change the school system, there first must be change in the attitudes of the stakeholders. One way of improving stakeholders' attitudes towards inclusive education is to raise awareness of the potential benefits of inclusive education for all students.

 

If implemented well, inclusive education benefits all children through more child-centred teaching techniques, more focus on individual needs and a diversity friendly environment. However, to gain support from communities, people must be aware of the benefits inclusive education can bring to all children. Stakeholders might not be willing to devote their time to a process that does not seem to contribute to development in general. There might be also difficulties in soliciting the support of all groups concerned if the inclusion process is seen to be benefiting only certain groups, such as learners with a certain disability or from a certain ethnic minority.

 

The work towards more inclusive education needs to be seen as beneficial to centres, communities or the education system in the larger sense, not just adjustments that are being made to benefit a minority of children. Training and information disbursement help increase awareness of the issues involved.

 

Physical access and learning environment
Where physical factors pose barriers to learning and participation, simple ramps and internal classroom arrangements can easily help the situation. Furthermore, improvements in the physical environment of the centres of learning, such as the design of the building, the availability of water, electricity and toilet/sewerage facilities will enable students to participate in the range of learning activities in and out of the classroom. These changes benefit all students.

 

Curriculum and Assessment
Curriculum needs to be relevant to the children and flexible enough to respond to all children's needs. The curriculum can facilitate the development of more inclusive settings when it leaves room for the centre of learning or the individual teacher to make adaptations so that it makes better sense in the local context and for the individual learner.

 

As stated in the Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework for Action, Para 33,
“… In order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups, education systems should respond flexibly… Education systems must be inclusive, actively seeking out children who are not enrolled, and responding flexibly to the circumstances and needs of all learners…”
To achieve this flexibility, teachers must move from curriculum-focused to child-focused teaching methods. This requires both teacher training and flexible rules concerning curriculum.

 

An inclusive curriculum also requires a flexible, success-oriented means of assessment, examination and evaluation. The assessment of children needs to be related to the aims of the curriculum, the culture of the child and the way in which the curriculum is designed and delivered.

 

Teacher training and support
In addition to being re-trained in curriculum and evaluation, teachers need to be trained to change their attitude of special needs children. Teachers can be trained to view those who do not fit into existing arrangements as offering ‘surprises'; that is, opportunities that invite further inventiveness. This implies a more positive view of differences.

 

Teachers must also be supported with appropriate materials. Lack of teaching/learning materials may hamper the quality of education. Teachers need support for their work in terms of information and background materials so that they can prepare their lessons and update their own knowledge. Also locally made learning/teaching materials can enhance considerably the quality of the learning/teaching process.

 

Community involvement
Meaningful inclusion necessitates community participation. The community can adapt the concepts of inclusive education to their specific situation. In addition, if leaders within the community demonstrate strong support for the change process, teachers, other staff and the community are more likely to devote the time and resources necessary for the process.

 

Family involvement
Centres of learning are often not sufficiently connected to the families and communities they are supposed to serve. Partnership with carers is essential to the effective and efficient delivery of a quality education service. A great challenge is to get the families of the most marginalised students involved. Investing in adult education for carers might facilitate them getting involved in the life around the centre of learning. The centre of learning might also make efforts to ensure that the information provided to carers about their children's education is in a language understandable for them and with a vocabulary that is accessible.

 

Training within the education system
To achieve changes within the education system towards inclusion, those within the education system must first understand and support the concept. Therefore the development of a more inclusive education system requires training and retraining of all education personnel. Administrators and education managers from ministries of education, local governments, district services, voluntary organisations, NGOs, etc. need to be introduced to the principle of inclusion and its implications to the system at different levels.

 

Policy changes
Strong political will and government commitment is critical to achieve inclusive education. Policy makers must be made aware of the importance and benefits of inclusive education. Inclusion in education is not likely to expand unless concerted efforts to promote more mainstream approaches are made at the national level. To assist this process inclusion can be linked to a reform of the education system as a whole. Inclusive education ties closely together with the goal of Education of All and could be adopted as a philosophy to guide the EFA national action plans.

 

However if governments plan to achieve inclusion, they need to define a set of inclusive principles and more practical aspects to guide the transition process through those principles. The principles of inclusion, set out in international declarations, need to be interpreted in the context of individual countries.

 

 


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