Is inclusive education only a long-term prospect?
The results and challenges of inclusive education were considered recently by the Regional Association of People with Special Needs “Perspectiva” at an event organised by Novosti press agency. The Rector of the Moscow State Psychology Training University, Professor Rubtsov, said that integration is difficult, when students with very different abilities are educated together. He outlined some of the challenges which needed to be resolved before inclusive education can be introduced. Teachers, for example, need training and information materials. It is necessary to find teachers capable of working with a range of abilities. And finding jobs for people with special needs who have been educated should be addressed. For all of these issues, federal legislation needs to be amended. The Professor thought this could not all be done at once, but had to be a slow, evolutionary process. First, material and administrative resources need to be found; methodology has to be developed and tested in a number of establishments, before being spread more widely. The Ombudsman for Children’s Rights in Moscow, E. Bunimovich, explained that the capital has already passed through several of these stages. The Moscow State Psychology Training University has developed methodology and trained staff. Local legislation is being adopted. Bunimovich said he did not agree with everything in the document, but it was much easier to discuss the topic with civil servants now. He said that it was important for federal legislation to be adopted as soon as possible, as some things cannot be decided at regional level (educational standards, staffing – tutors as well as teachers, social workers and psychologists). He also mentioned the readiness of the public to accept inclusive education and equal rights for people with special needs, including in the workplace. It was observed that children do not differentiate between peers with different abilities and different nationalities. Hostility and discrimination come from the adult world.
In Moscow such challenges have already been overcome by teachers. Yekaterina Romanova, a teacher at an inclusive school, said that regular joint activities involving all students and their parents help to unite them, and prevent discriminatory attitudes towards children with special needs. And, as has been shown by experience in other countries, having special needs children in the class does not lower overall standards of achievement.
A new booklet issued by the Perspectiva organization describes what the teachers should do when a special needs child joins the class. It was presented by the manager of the project, Yulia Simonova. It is based on the experience of schools which have tried out inclusive education. It will be distributed together with a DVD with a 45 minute film about inclusive education, showing kindergartens and schools conducting inclusive education. They experience new challenges every day. However, the mother of a child at such a school in Moscow said that it is all worth it. She could see how much her child likes learning, and how much she likes going to school. Kiril Drozdkov, a student with special needs at inclusive school No 1161, showed how successful the system can be – he finished the 5th class with top marks.