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'Inclusive Education is our primary goal towards building an inclusive society'

this image shows a teacher teaching sign language to deaf students
© CBM/Heine
Deaf children learning sign language at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf (HLID) in Salt/Jordan, which is a rehabilitation centre for hearing impaired children and young people

Sian Tesni and Katharina Pfortner from CBM’s advisory working group on Inclusive Education discuss CBM’s approach to ensuring that all persons with disabilities have access to quality education.

A human rights based approach

CBM takes a human rights based approach to disability and inclusive development. The approach adopted for inclusive education is aligned with CBM’s Global Strategy 2013-2018. Ultimately, CBM aims to ensure that a person with a disability has a right to be included and to participate in society as a full member as defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, 2006). The human rights approach means that CBM’s work includes initiatives aimed at ensuring that its development work is disability-sensitive, i.e. take persons with disabilities into account and support their inclusion and full participation in society.

Education a must for all

Education is the main pillar in human development, conditioning success in life, so aiming for a disability-inclusive development through inclusive education is an important step to take. In inclusive education CBM believes that all children should be in school. Inclusion begins at birth. Therefore access to inclusive early education and care is essential for any child, particularly for the most marginalised: boys and girls with disabilities. Where there are no early education and early intervention programmes available, they need to be developed. (Read the short case study on Ruth).

Inclusive Education benefits society

Inclusive Education is good for all learners, as it is based on a new strategy on learning, that of accepting the diversity of learners as a general value. There is a benefit to everyone of having children, teachers, parents and community members with disabilities as part of the school environment, so that all children can attend their local schools. Inclusive education requires development of local skills and capacity, therefore we recognise that complementary or alternative models (where existing) also have a place and may be the best choice in some circumstances for some learners (e.g. learners with significant disabilities, or learners who are deaf).

Schools should be safe and welcoming places, celebrating diversity and enabling children’s voices in all aspects of their daily lives. Teaching and learning methods, curriculum and assessment need to be differentiated and child-centred in order to nurture individual progress and well-being. Regular support services need to be provided for the children within their locality (their school, home or after-school facility).

Respect and collaboration

Schools need to be founded on respect and with a commitment to collaboration between teachers, parents and community members, considering attitudes, environments, interactions, curriculum, methodology, resources and assessment. CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) programs play an important role in encouraging the whole community to participate in inclusive education (through awareness raising, participation in schools) and facilitate smooth and inclusive transitions (from early education to preschool, from preschool to primary education and from primary education to secondary and lifelong learning). Good practice examples have shown us that community participation is one of the most important premises of successful inclusive education.

Clear messages about inclusive education should stress its relevance across all aspects of education (from first birth to lifelong learning). Underlying this that all teacher preparation programmes need to incorporate inclusive education within the regular pre/in-service as well as specialist curriculum.

Case study on Ruth

This image shows Ruth sitting with her classmates and teachers, they are all smiling ©CBM
Ruth sitting with her classmates
Ruth first joined the CBR program in Santo Tomás municipality in El Salvador in 2003. She was then six years old and just started to stand on her own feet. Because of her disability she did not yet speak. Ruth and her mother joined the Early Education meetings, preparing together an individual rehabilitation plan for her, accompanied by the CBM co-worker. Learning together, the mother got enthusiastic about this work and became herself a CBR volunteer. We could observe how quickly Ruth developed knowledge and abilities, she started to walk and got better in expressing herself and in 2005 she could enter the first grade, accompanied by her smaller sister.
Her first teacher took very good care of her but unfortunately this teacher died and her replacement was not in favour of inclusive education. The CBR volunteer accompanied Ruth to school, but Ruth was so unhappy in school that after a few days she decided to stay at home.

The co-worker of CBM offered, in cooperation of the Ministry of Education, a teacher training in inclusive education and Ruth’s new teacher was invited. In these days the Ministry of Education agreed to the request of the CBR program to pay itinerant teachers that would accompany the inclusion program, which then could be amplified to 12 schools in the municipality.

From then on, everything went well. The itinerant teacher visited Ruth’s home and convinced Ruth that she should go back to school. The itinerant teacher also persuaded Ruth’s teacher to change his thinking about Ruth: instead of focusing on the difficulties she experienced, he would focus on her capacities and potential.

Ruth is now developing very quickly. She has good handwriting skills, can read, and excels in mathematics. She still finds speaking difficult, but her teacher and her classmates can understand what she is saying. She is an accepted member of her class, and her little sister no longer needs to assist her.

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