How the system of inclusive education was formed and implemented in Canada, Australia and Poland.
At the end of the second decade of the 21st century, no one doubts the importance of inclusive education. It contributes to the creation of a truly equal, democratic society. After all, when all children study together, inclusiveness ceases to be considered something special and becomes a norm of life. Students learn to respect others and, accordingly, themselves.
We offer you three examples of successful implementation of the principles of inclusive education abroad. It is the focus on the experience of other countries that will help to avoid unnecessary mistakes.
In Canada, inclusive education originated in the late 1960s. At that time, children with special educational needs were allowed to study in regular schools, but in separate classes isolated from other children. Under these circumstances, parents and educators in Hamilton, Ontario, came together to fight discrimination.
In the 1980s, inclusive schools became more numerous. Children with disabilities are increasingly involved in general school life. It is noteworthy that the inclusion of education has not yet been enshrined at the state level as mandatory, but more and more schools are joining it voluntarily.
The Inclusive Education Era has been going on in Canada since the early 1990s. The legislation of each province was organized according to the ideas of inclusive education. Discrimination on the grounds of disability was prohibited by law.
Inclusive education in Canada has developed through the active collaboration of participants and organizers of the learning process. The government expanded cooperation with educational institutions: gradually increased funding, allowed schools to distribute funds independently, and stimulated the development of a theoretical basis for inclusive education.
The state really heard the advice of parents. They were free to choose where and under what program their child would study, interacted directly with government agencies and legal circles, and this encouraged teachers to be more attentive to parental advice. In Canada, children with disabilities study according to individual plans, which are developed with the active participation of children and their parents. Thanks to the parents, the school learns about the child’s life, hobbies, ideas and aspirations.
The work of teachers in Canada is universal. Medical staff and correctional teachers constantly provide practical advice to the teacher. Thanks to this, he can independently provide the child with the necessary help and support, and if necessary – recommend the student to contact the right specialist.
Each province is responsible for basic education, taking into account the highest priority – the success of each child. To keep the system running smoothly, school boards are set up on the ground, consisting of parents, the school principal and interested community members. Therefore, the successful introduction of inclusive education in Canada is the result of concerted action by the state, parents, civil society and active representatives of the school, legal and community environment. Such cooperation should be an example for the reform of inclusive education in other counties.
In 2016, Australia ranked first in the UN ranking of education. But implementing inclusive education has not been easy.
In 1992, the Law on Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities was adopted. It forbade restrictions on the rights of people with disabilities in various spheres of public life, especially in the field of education. However, the first attempts to include children with disabilities in the educational process of mainstream schools demonstrated the unwillingness of a significant number of teachers to adapt to new working conditions. Teachers stated that they lack skills not only when working with children, but also to modify curricula for students with different educational needs and abilities.
To improve the situation, special training of teachers was initiated. Teachers themselves said that the basis of successful work should be a positive attitude towards children with special educational needs. They concluded that the negativity that took place in the early stages of working with children quickly disappeared due to the practice of interacting with children with disabilities.
Teachers quickly changed their attitudes toward inclusive education, and so did the school community. Thus, the school became responsible for adapting to the individual characteristics of each child. In total, about 6% of all students in Australia have significant health problems. Depending on the severity of the child’s illness, there are 3 options for education:
- Study in a regular class of a secondary school during the entire period of education;
- Training in the “support class” of secondary school;
- Training in a correctional school.
Nothing can restrict the right of parents to freely choose one or another educational institution for a child with special educational needs.
The Australian experience shows how teachers need to mobilize their strengths and knowledge not stop in the face of difficulties. After all, it is teachers who are the direct creators of any reform in education.
From the late 1970s, Polish educators began to draw attention to the fact that specialized schools could not fully meet the needs of children with special educational needs. Such institutions did not prepare the child for independent living, did not promote his socialization.
In recent decades, three types of schools for children with disabilities have emerged in Poland: special, integration (or with integration classes) and general education. Polish law gives parents the right to freely choose an educational institution.
No one can force a family to send a child to a special or integration school. It all depends on how the child will feel in a particular educational institution.
In order for a child with special educational needs to study at a particular school, it is advisable for parents to obtain a certificate from a specialized counseling center. The document should certify the degree of problems, contain recommendations on the organization of education and the choice of educational institution. However, parents are not required to provide such a certificate to the school administration when the child enters. Diagnosis and obtaining such a certificate should not restrict the rights of a child with a disability, but should help to choose the school that best suits him or her.
The Polish education system is designed in such a way that parents of children with special educational needs must constantly interact with teachers. Thus, six months before entering a regular school, parents must begin active cooperation with teachers. They communicate, provide detailed information about the interests and preferences of the child, share practical experiences.
Integration schools are the most popular. Thus, students from 19 settlements study at the school in the Polish city of Zombkowice. Her work is based on an integrated approach, ie children with disabilities study alongside other children. In classes with a total of 15-20 students, there are from 2 to 4 students with disabilities. A total of 37 students with special educational needs study in eight classes of the school. A teacher in this class has an assistant (sometimes this person may also have a disability, which allows them to better understand the needs and emotions of children and work more effectively with them).
The experience of Poland shows that there is no need to hurry: school education should have a high material and technical base. Due to the lack of this important factor, integration schools are still predominant, not inclusive.
The global practice of implementing inclusive education is a long process with many pitfalls. The examples of Canada, Australia and Poland show that the key to the success of the reform in these countries is the wide cooperation between the participants in the educational process. And most importantly – respect for each member of society.