People with particular academic wants deserve an schooling
Since the adoption of the Salamanca Declaration in 1994, inclusive education has become an important educational reform strategy for many developed and developing countries. Bangladesh was no exception to meet this growing demand. It aimed to implement inclusive education in mainstream schools to achieve the goal of education for all. In the past few decades, Bangladesh has enacted laws and guidelines for inclusive education. However, it has been found that these guidelines have been heavily adopted by several international treaties. Many classroom teachers and practitioners still lack a solid understanding of the concept of inclusive education. This limited awareness, together with professional development in this particular area of education, has hampered the implementation of inclusive education in schools.
Despite significant advances in access to primary education, research has shown that 4 million school-age children, including those with disabilities, are out of school in Bangladesh. One study found that students with special educational needs in Bangladesh are either not promoted to a higher grade or drop out of school each year. I find it very regrettable that there is still a lack of progress in this area in Bangladesh, while in other countries this is not the case. There are hardly any opportunities in this country for both men and women to become qualified special educators. The majority of universities in Dhaka do not offer any educational / teaching programs, let alone one devoted to special education. Several countries such as Finland, Singapore and England have made significant progress in introducing special education in schools.
In Finland, the aim of special education is to provide pupils with special educational needs with equal opportunities for compulsory education with their peers and according to their abilities. Schoolchildren with special educational needs are initially admitted to regular classes and, if necessary, are given special educational support in small teaching groups. If these students have minor adjustment or learning difficulties, they can receive part-time special education through a special educator. If necessary, individual learning plans are also formulated for them. Students with SEN can complete their studies in one or more subjects either according to a general or adapted curriculum. Your assessment would therefore be based on the criteria of the general curriculum or an individualized curriculum. However, if this is not possible, another alternative will be considered. Students with SEN would receive special education in either a special group, class, or school. Reasons for the transfer include more than a learning disability, illness, disability, emotional disorder, and delayed development. Parents / legal guardians and a psychological, medical or social supervisor would mutually agree on the transfer of such students to a special school.
Students with SEN in Singapore receive tuition in special schools. By January 2010, 20 special schools had been founded, operated by 13 voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs). These VWOs are funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). Singaporean special schools tailor their programs to meet the diverse learning needs and abilities of students. Three of these schools are designed to target students with sensory impairments (e.g. visual impairments) and offer a curriculum similar to that of regular elementary schools. Five schools cater to the needs of students with autism and also have a curriculum that is similar to mainstream schools. Other schools focus on helping students with intellectual disabilities or multiple disabilities. These special needs schools will receive additional funding to foster stronger home-school partnerships and support students from families in need.
In England, the current regulations for SEN are set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. For students with SEN, different levels of support are offered, depending on the need for support. It is said that the majority of children with SEN receive school support known as “SEN support”. People with complex needs receive an “Education, Health and Care Plan” (EHCP). Those eligible to receive it are between 2 and 25 years old. A Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) is required in every school. Such a person is responsible for supporting students with special educational needs. A child with special educational needs can be enrolled in either a mainstream school or a special school, but where possible, local authorities are required by law to teach children in mainstream schools.
Bangladesh still has a lot to do in terms of special needs education. Mainstream schools need to be made more disabled-friendly (e.g. building wheelchair ramps and providing Braille textbooks for visually impaired students) and more resources need to be made available for initiating teaching programs for special education teachers. Special schools can even be built if the government and educators believe they are a better option for students with special educational needs. Both teachers and parents need to understand that students with special educational needs learn differently, and there is nothing wrong with that. More education and training are needed to not only provide quality education to students with special educational needs, but also to make the educational environment more inclusive.
About the author: T. Mahmud graduated from high school in Dhaka. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Simmons University, USA, and a Masters in Special Education and Inclusive Education from UCL (University College London).