Background to the study
Credible sources perceive inclusion in 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. It therefore involves a range of changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children with Special Educational Needs and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children. In this context, an inclusive school must put flexibility and variety at its core. This should be evident in the structure of the school, the content of the curriculum, the attitudes and beliefs of staff, parents, and pupils, and the goal should be, ‘to offer every individual a relevant education and optimal opportunities for development. Parents and pupils themselves have important contributions to make to shape the implementation of inclusion.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10% of any populations are disabled and in addition approximately 85% of the world’s children with disability below 15 years live in the developing countries (World Bank,1994). In 1994, UNESCO world conference on special needs held in Salamanca, Spain the idea of inclusive education was given further impetus. Every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs and those with special needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them with a child-centered pedagogy capable of meeting those needs. The concept of inclusive education is based on the fact that all children and young people, despite different cultural, social and learning backgrounds, should have equivalent learning opportunities in all kinds of schools.
UNESCO emphasizes that education systems, schools and teachers should focus on generating inclusive settings that uphold the values of respect and understanding of cultural, social and individual diversity. Essentially, inclusive education is an approach that looks into how to transform education systems and other learning environments in order to respond to the diversity of learners. Removing barriers to participation in learning for all learners is at the core of inclusive education systems (UNESCO, 2005). Focusing on inclusive education can be useful in guiding development of policies and strategies that address the causes and consequences of discrimination, inequality and exclusion within the holistic framework of EFA goals. Ainscow et al (2006) claim that the ‘rights’ perspective invalidates any argument that some children’s needs are best served in any kind of special setting. Collaboration and teamwork are also essential aspects of inclusive practice, according to recent research (Lindsay, 2007). Critical to the success of teamwork is time for planning and reflecting together.
The genesis of special education in Pakistan can be traced after the end of the 2nd world war and has since been mainly offered to all categories of children with learning disabilities. Education to these children was only offered in special schools until the 1970’s when units and integrated programmes were initiated. SNE has continued to expand although these learners have been a major challenge to the education sector.
Different scholars have put it clearly that investment in education is fundamental to improving a country’s economic growth, reduce poverty and boost a country’s general welfare. It was argued that the growth in output could only be adequately explained by the investment in human capital which is a distinctive feature of a modern economic system. According to World Bank report (1994), persistent self sustaining growth in real per capital income is attributed to human capital. Human capital is the critical engine of economic growth and its accumulation is enhanced by parental and public investment in children’s education. Education is considered a human right for all children and has been enshrined in several international documents since the universal declaration of human rights in 1948. The Education for All (EFA) movement and the subsequent international conventions have pointed out that particular groups of children are especially prone to exclusion or have been denied a chance to optimally participate in the learning activities which take place in formal, informal or non- formal settings. These children are educationally disadvantaged by the social, cultural, regional and economic environments in which they live. The right to be educated within the regular school setting is highlighted in instruments such as; the world declaration on EFA (, UNESCO, 1990), UN standard rules on the equalization of opportunity for persons with disabilities (1993), UN conventions on the rights of the child (1991) as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) which calls on all States Parties to ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and the Dakar framework for action (2000). More recently, the thrust of the Salamanca Declaration was reiterated and expanded at the meeting at the forty-eighth session of the UNESCO International Conference on Education, held in Geneva in 2008.
Evidence from studies around the world has demonstrated that investment in human capital through formal education is a vital engine to economic growth. Education can reduce social and economic inequality since it is a great equalizer if all children have equal opportunities to take advantage of it. Children with learning disabilities, whose parents do not take them to school and as a result they end up as outcasts in the society and afterwards live in abject poverty. Universal Primary Education (UPE) is intended to ensure that all children eligible for primary schooling have an opportunity to enroll and remain in school to learn and acquire quality basic education. Inclusion involves a process of reform and restructuring of the school as a whole to ensure that all pupils have access to a whole range of educational and social opportunities offered by the school. This includes the curriculum being offered, the assessment recording and reporting pupils’ achievements. The agenda of inclusive education has to be concerned with overcoming barriers to participation in education that may be experienced by pupils. According to Ainscow (2005) in his address at the Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress (ISEC) Conference in August 2005, he observed that inclusion is ‘process and not a state’. His emphasis, therefore, was on the dynamic and evolving nature of inclusive educational practices. It also reframes inclusion as an issue of school reform and school development rather than a process of fitting children into existing structures.
According to a report by American Psychiatric Association (2000), of children enrolled in public schools it is believed that 5% have specific learning disabilities. Suzanne (2007) notes that including children with special needs in regular classrooms has widened the range of ability represented in groups of young children. These trends have increased the complexity of inclusive early childhood classrooms. The right to education for all children is enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights and more recently in the millennium development goals (MDGs). However, in developing countries, the proportion of disabled children attending school is estimated between less than 1% and 5%. The UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities which came into force in May, 2008 requires the development of an Inclusive education system for all. Inclusion in education is a process of enabling all children to learn and participate effectively within mainstream school systems without segregation. It’s about shifting the focus from altering disabled people to fit into society to transforming society and the world by changing attitudes, removing barriers and providing the right support. The government of Pakistan has laid great emphasis on the educational rights of children and has set precedence in favour of inclusive education by establishing special units in regular public primary schools in Pakistan. The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education of 1994 emphasized the schools need to change and adapt the diverse needs of all learners. The UN convention established inclusive education as a legal and human right. One of the major concerns of educationists and human rights activists has been the issue of EFA. The inclusive education philosophy ensures that schools learning environments and educational systems meet the diverse needs of all learners irrespective of their learning difficulties and disabilities. As a result the government of Pakistan has made efforts to promote education of children with learning disabilities in Pakistan through the implementation of educational programmes which take into account the wide diversity of learners with special educational needs.
Efforts have been made to integrate these learners into regular mainstream schools and up to this day the government has tirelessly continued to make great efforts to include these pupils rather than integrate them. This formed the basis for the researchers’ topic of study in trying to unearth the challenges in the implementation of inclusive education in public primary schools.
Despite the governments’ undying efforts over the years to curb the problem of exclusion among children with special educational needs, this problem has persistently been on the increase. Children with learning difficulties have not been adequately provided with the basic resources, physical facilities and equipment to cater for their special needs like their counterparts in regular schools. They continue to suffer disproportionately from whatever acute/chronic problems affecting Pakistan’s education system. They are socially excluded from the mainstream settings by the nature of their learning disability. Most are taught in special schools for children with moderate and severe learning difficulties (Mittler, 2016). Collaboration and teamwork are also essential aspects of inclusive practice, according to recent research (Lindsay, 2007). Critical to the success of teamwork is time for planning and reflecting together (Hunt et al., 2017).
According to the ministry of education (MOE), the government attaches great significance to education for all children including those with learning disabilities. Thus, the researcher embarked on this educational research to find out the challenges facing the process of SNE implementation in public primary schools bearing in mind that the government in 2003 declared education in all public primary schools free (FPE) for all children. Therefore, problem addressed by this study was the challenges facing the process of implementation of the SNE programme.
1.3Objective of the study:
The purpose of this study was to investigate the challenges facing the implementation of inclusive education programme in public primary. The study set out to achieve the following three fold objectives;
To find out the status of implementation of inclusive education.
To analyze the factors hindering the implementation of the inclusion process for all the school-going- age children which include geographical factors, parental factors, school-based factors, socio-cultural and socio-economic factors..To establish the possible responses and solutions to the challenges facing SNE implementation.
2.1 Status of inclusive education world wide
An inclusive school must put flexibility and variety at its core. This should be evident in the structure of the school, the content of the curriculum, the attitudes and beliefs of staff, parents, and pupils, and the goal should be, ‘to offer every individual a relevant education and optimal opportunities for development’ (UNESCO, 2005). Parents and pupils themselves have important contributions to make to shape the implementation of inclusion (Lindsay, 2007).
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10% of any populations are disabled and in addition approximately 85% of the world’s children with disability below 15 years live in the developing countries. In 1994, UNESCO world conference on special needs held in Salamanca, Spain the idea of inclusive education was given further impetus. Every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs and those with special needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them with a child-centered pedagogy capable of meeting those needs. The concept of inclusive education is based on the fact that all children and young people, despite different cultural, social and learning backgrounds, should have equivalent learning opportunities in all kinds of schools (UNESCO, 2008). UNESCO emphasizes that education systems, schools and teachers should focus on generating inclusive settings that uphold the values of respect and understanding of cultural, social and individual diversity. Essentially, inclusive education is an approach that looks into how to transform education systems and other learning environments in order to respond to the diversity of learners. Removing barriers to participation in learning for all learners is at the core of inclusive education systems (UNESCO, 2005). Focusing on inclusive education can be useful in guiding development of policies and strategies that address the causes and consequences of discrimination, inequality and exclusion within the holistic framework of EFA goals. Research done by Burstein et al. (2004) suggests that successful inclusive schools provide a unified educational system in which general and special educators work collaboratively to provide comprehensive and integrated services and programming for all students. At these sites, inclusive practices have been carefully developed and implemented by the entire school system and are provided with resources to support and maintain change. Ainscow et al (2006) claim that the ‘rights’ perspective invalidates any argument that some children’s needs are best served in any kind of special setting. Collaboration and teamwork are also essential aspects of inclusive practice, according to recent research (Lindsay, 2007). Critical to the success of teamwork is time for planning and reflecting together (Orodho, 2014).
2.2Status of Inclusive Education
The readiness for acceptance of inclusion varies across countries and continents of the world. Mittler (2002) reviewed some of the significant developments in the education of students with intellectual disabilities that had taken place since responsibility for their education passed from health to education authorities. These included the shift from a categorical to a non-categorical, needs-based approach to teaching; a greater emphasis on changing the environment rather than the child; a shift from exclusion to inclusion
Most African governments’ commitments to SNE began in the 1970s. While countries within the advanced economies have gone beyond categorical provisions to full inclusion, most countries in Africa are still grappling with the problem of making provisions for children with special needs even on mainstreaming basis. SNE in Africa is still a new concept to many of its nations. Many African countries have shown theoretical interest in SNE by formulating policies such as mainstreaming, family, community or social rehabilitation and showing the desire to give concrete meaning to the idea of equalizing education opportunities for all children irrespective of their physical or mental conditions. Dissatisfaction with the progress towards SNE has caused demands for more radical changes in many African countries according to Ainscow (1991) and Ballard (1996) . Some of the African countries case studies are as follows:-
In South Africa, there are 12 million children in school and approximately 366,000 teachers in approximately 28,000 schools including 390 schools for children with special needs. Teachers in South Africa deal with a remnant of an inherited education system based on segregation and exclusion of particular group of students. The introduction of SNE in South Africa was a direct response to Act 108 of 1996 and a national commitment to the EFA movement as stated in the UNESCO Salamanca statement of 199. The education white paper 6 is the guiding document for the implementation of inclusive education in S.A. The apartheid government has established about 380 special schools SNE today.
The study adopted a descriptive survey design to investigate the challenges faced in the implementation of inclusive education programme in public primary schools notes that descriptive study designs are used in preliminary and exploratory studies so as to allow the researcher to gather information, summarize, present and interpret the study for the purpose of clarification. Brooks (2013) concurs that descriptive survey research is intended to produce statistical information about aspects of education that interest policy makers, educators and other stakeholders. The design adopted enabled the researcher to gather information from a wide range of respondents (for example head teachers, teachers and the area ministry officials on the challenges facing the implementation of inclusive education programme for pupils with learning disabilities in public primary schools.
The target population of the is study will be all the 42 public primary schools in study locale, 42 head teachers, 538 primary school teachers and 40 ministry officials. The researcher established that there are only five (5) public primary schools offering SNE in the study locale and therefore all of them will be studied.
From the study area, out of the total target population of 42 schools, a manageable sample was selected. Out of the 42 public primary schools, 12 schools were selected as the study sample and this represented 28.6% of the target population which was according to Gay’s (1992) recommendation. The key informants (area educational officers and guidance and counseling teachers) were purposively selected for the study since they are in constant contact with the community, parents and the pupils as well and hence the researcher believed they would give in- depth information on the study topic.
The research instruments used to collect data included: an observation checklist, a questionnaire, and an interview schedule. An interview schedule was used to collect information from key informants including Ministry of Education officials. Questionnaires were used to gather information from head teachers and teachers.
Data analysis was done using the statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) to generate descriptive statistics. The quantitative data from questionnaires generated in the form of descriptive statistic included frequency counts, percentages, measures of central tendencies, measures of variability and some correlation statistics. The qualitative data from interview and observation guidelines was analyzed using thematic analysis and reported in narrative form.
This study was based on the classical liberal theory of equal opportunities advanced by Sherman and Wood (1982) cited in Orodho (2015) who expressed the view that there should be equal opportunities in education for all. This theory asserts that each individual is born with a given amount of capacity. According to this theory, educational systems should be designed with a view to removing barriers of any nature for example, barriers based on socio-economic factors, socio-cultural factors, geographical factors, school-based factors which prevent learners who have a learning disability to take advantage of their inborn talents since disability is not inability. The education offered to such groups of learners will accelerate them to social promotion since education is a great equalizer which enhances life chances of the children with special needs (Orodho,2015).The theory demands that opportunities be made available for individuals to go through all levels of education (primary, secondary and tertiary) to which access will not be determined by the disability of the learners but on the basis of individuals capability.
In this way, education would at least provide equality of economic opportunities where all classes, races and gender could benefit economically from excellent academic performance. The theory further states that social mobility will be promoted by equal opportunity for all citizens to education. Many economists have supported the policy on free primary education (FPE).started by the government in 2003 which advocates for a radical reform of the schools in terms of curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and groupings of pupils. This policy makes education free and compulsory for all in trying to meet them millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015. Through acquiring quality education by all children of school-going age on an equitable basis and the children’s right to education. The leadership provided by the United Nations (UN) initiatives and the commitment of nearly all governments to EFA and the Salamanca declaration and framework for action have undoubtedly helped to strengthen these programmes. The local communities, parent groups, associations of disabled persons, churches and community leaders have tirelessly worked for the inclusion of disabled children into local schools in partnership with the government and professionals. By enhancing the implementation of inclusive education in all public primary schools, it’s hoped that the factors that hinder the access to education for such children will be reasonably reduced or completely eradicated.
RESEARCH FINDINGS AND DICSUSSION
4.1Status of Implementation of Inclusive Education
The first objective focused on the status of implementation of inclusive education in the study locale. The study revealed that there were inadequate teaching and learning materials such as a favorable curriculum, equipment and other facilities which had the greatest representation cited by a whooping percentage 40% of the total. This was closely followed by insufficient teacher training and experience cited by 32.5 percent of the total. The other concern was inadequate teaching and learning materials such as a favorable curriculum, equipment and other facilities which had the greatest representation as cited by 40% of all respondents. This was closely followed by insufficient teacher training and experience at 32.5%. The current level of training of the SNE teachers was reported to be inadequate in handling the SNE curriculum. There is therefore need for further training to the SNE teachers. Other barriers such as socio-cultural, socio-economic, parental factors and geographical factors were represented by the remaining 27.5%.
4.2Factors Hindering Implementation of Inclusive Education
The main problem encountered by the parents in educating their children with learning disabilities was stigmatization, negative attitudes from members of the society and parental ignorance. The quality of teaching was affected where regular and the special pupils were taught in the same class since the teacher concerned had to divide their time and attention between the two category and this made the syllabus coverage a slow process. The majority of the respondents were female teachers and this showed that most female teachers had a motherly touch for the special children and therefore taken up the SNE course or had the interest of such pupils at heart. Pupils with special learning needs have different learning ability as compared with their regular counterparts and should be treated according to the individual differences in school and at home.
The study’s primary goal was to determine the status of implementation of inclusive education and, the emerging challenges and how to deal with the challenges. First, the outcome of the study established that in the last five (5) years, the SNE programme has faced several challenges which have hindered complete success in the process of implementation of SNE. Only five (5) out of the total 42 public primary schools in the study locale have integrated special units in the mainstream schools which is a very small representative portion. According to the Area Educational Officer-SNE coordinator, the total number of pupils who have been assessed and given placement in the special units within the regular schools was only 116 pupils out of the total 16,782 pupils in the mainstream schools. This gives a negligible 0.69% a representation far below MOHESTs recommendations. Majority of the respondents rated the status of SNE programme implementation as poor/ very poor at 38.8% and 23.8% respectively. The above status has been as a result of inadequate or total lack of the very important teaching and learning materials such as a revised curriculum, trained teaching force, proper physical facilities, other resources and equipment for the special learners in these schools.
Secondly, the quality of teaching/learning materials was evaluated using an observation checklist. The pupils with learning difficulties instead used the same facilities with their counterpart regular pupils. This posed a major challenge to both the teachers and the learners. Some of the respondents felt that more schools should open up a special unit for the pupils or try and integrate them in the regular classrooms which would call for more time since the teacher will need to give specialized attention to the learners with learning difficulties.
Third, the study established that teacher preparedness in terms of training and experience posed a great challenge to SNE implementation. According to the study findings, most teachers agreed to the fact that their professional training was inadequate to take charge and impart knowledge and skills to pupils with special needs in education. They embraced the need to undertake specialized further training in special needs education so that they can be professionally prepared to handle such learners.
Finally, other barriers/ challenges were also identified to have rendered the process of implementation a failure. Such barriers/challenges include the following:
Socio-cultural factors whereby according to the research results, most respondents felt that the society greatly contributed to the negative attitude towards learners with special needs in education and that the reason for such failure is the cultural believes and values in the society. Some cultures blame the causes of disability to ancestral sins and other misdeeds and such believes lead to exclusion of such pupils in any school environment. The study showed that the attitude reported was generally unfavorable and many teachers, regular pupils and the society at large were seen to perceive such learners in a negative light.
Parental factors has as well contributed to the problem of exclusion in that the parents of pupils with learning difficulties suffered extreme stigmatization by the members of the society. Some parents were also found to be ignorant about their child’s incapability since they have not taken their children to the area assessment and placement centre in the county. It’s worth noting that majority of members of the community are very unsupportive and these parents are left to struggle with their problems bearing in mind that most of these parents are languishing in abject poverty. Parents and pupils themselves have important contributions to make to shape the implementation of inclusion (Lindsay, 2007).
School-based factors such as unavailability of instructional materials, lack of an SNE learner-centered inclusive curriculum and inadequate teaching strategies. Most of the physical facilities in the sampled schools were highly unsuitable for the SNE pupils. Toilets, Playgrounds, play materials, classrooms and building designs which were not adapted to suit the SNE pupils. The play fields were littered with objects, stones, grass and pieces of wood exposing the learners to great dangers and therefore they should be cleared of such dangerous things. The play items which were available in a few schools need to be repaired so they can be of use to these pupils.
Geographical distance between schools and homes forced the concerned parents to take their disabled children to school daily and to pick them up after school which proofed cumbersome to the parents and as a result, most parents opted to keep their children with learning disabilities permanently at home to avoid such inconveniences. Socio-economic factors were, according to the research findings, the least influential challenges to the process of SNE implementation since the Government in 2003 declared primary school education free for all pupils and therefore the parents’ financial burden was partly settled. It’s good to note that families with such special children were mainly from poor economic backgrounds and such parents do not even have the very basic education which would make them want their children to be better than selves in terms of academic attainment.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMENDATIONS
It is concluded that majority of the respondents were extremely dissatisfied with the process of implementation of the SNE programme and were experiencing a myriad of problems in their quest to implement inclusive education .Thus, based on the results of the study undertaken, the following recommendations are made:
The government should make all the possible efforts to improve and modify the existing physical facilities to make sure they are barrier-free and therefore easily accessible to all learners. It should also increase the budgetary allocation to SNE in its annual budget.
The Government should come up with feasible education policies for both the regular pupils and for those with learning difficulties.
Provision of play facilities and other items to enhance the special pupils learning would as well be recommended.
The existing general curriculum should be modified to suit the needs of theses learners.
Teacher training should be enhanced especially through in-service training of the classroom teacher and more colleges established for those willing to undertake training in the SNE field and those already in existence upgraded to offer quality teacher training.
Creation of mass awareness among all the stake holders on the plight of learners with special needs and especially establish collaboration between the teachers and parents. This will go along way in changing the negative attitude towards implementation of the SNE programme.
Currently, some of the teachers interviewed argued that the ongoing home-based programmes have not been very successful since they lack financial support to undertake this programme.
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Booth, T.et al (2002). The Index for Inclusion. Bristol: The Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education.
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http://www.unesco.org http://www.worldbank.orgKENPRO (2010). Challenges Facing Inclusive Education in Regular Primary Schools.
Kristensen K. (2002). Proposals for Adjustment of Education of Learners with Barriers to Learning and Development into Ordinary School Settings.
Kauffman, J.M. (1995). The Illusion of Full Inclusion: A Comprehensive Critique of Current Special Education Bandwagon. Austin, Tex.: PRO-ED
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