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LN – All in the same classroom. More children with disabilities go to ordinary schools

There are more than 90,000 children and adolescents like Alejo, who are included, thanks to the work of NGOs and the advancement of public policies; despite the achievements, many obstacles still persist Credit: kindness

“Your child should go to a special school for severe disorders,” said the psychologist of the evaluation board in charge of deciding whether Alejo Danon Schnek, then 4 years old and diagnosed with encephalopathy-a brain dysfunction syndrome-could go to a common initial school, just as their parents wanted.

Thanks to her family and many others decided not to lower their arms, and a step forward in public policies, Alejo, who is now 13 years old and communicates non-verbally, attends 6th grade in a public school common double day of the City, near your home. From 1st grade, he is fully included, he learns and he feels happy. Receive the support you need, and when you finish your primary and secondary education, you will have your degree on equal terms with the rest of the students, as established in 2016 by Resolution 311 of the Federal Council of Education.

As well as Alejo, there are more than 90,000 students with disabilities who attend common schools in our country. According to data from the Ministry of Education, from 2003 to 2017, the number of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities increased four times in schools of common modality. In that time, it went from 21,704 to 90,345. That is to say that enrollment increased 400% in 15 years.

The expansion of the regulatory framework, greater teacher training, the claim of parents together with civil society organizations and the change of social perspective on disability, achieved these achievements, which slowly tend to build a school for all.

“Today, all educational institutions have to be inclusive, it is the right of students to receive quality education and it is the responsibility of the system to live up to and accommodate all of them,” says Cristina Lovari, National Coordinator of Inclusive Education at the Ministry of Education of the Nation. For the official, “the proof of the advances of the last 10 years is in the systematic and significant increase of students with disabilities in the common school”.

In the province of Buenos Aires alone, in 2018, 10,000 boys moved from special schools to common schools, where currently 53% of the 92,000 Buenos Aires-based students with disabilities attend. Juan Pablo Eviner, director of Special Education of the General Directorate of Culture and Education of the province of Buenos Aires, believes that to achieve this great steps were taken, including “the training of 20,000 teachers with inclusive education tools during the past year , and currently, the incorporation of these in the teaching staff “.

Silvana Corso knows that inclusive education is not a utopia. She is the director of the secondary education school in Romania, in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Real, where the doors are not closed to anyone: they receive students in vulnerable situations (many, from Fuerte Apache), with psychosis and schizophrenia, with disability, girls taking pregnancies and babies. Finalist in 2017 of the Global Teacher Prize Award -known as the Nobel for education-, Corso has just inaugurated an early childhood space for the babies of his students. “It is not a question of resources or solidarity but of equity: it is to give each student what he needs,” he reflects.

All educational institutions have to be inclusive. It is a right of the students to receive quality education and it is the responsibility of the system to live up to and accommodate everyone.

Cristina Lovari, national coordinator of Inclusive Education

Paradigm shift

“While the progress in terms of inclusion is significant and the regulations are clear and strong, there are still obstacles that must be overcome.” Gabriela Santuccione, of Grupo Article 24, emphasizes that “it is necessary to work on the transformation of the special modality into a system of support for the common. “And he adds:” Beyond the advances, a political decision is needed to take concrete anti-discriminatory measures and make good use of existing and budgetary resources to achieve it “.

In this sense, José María Tomé, specialist in special and inclusive education, emphasizes that thinking about a school for all, inclusive, does not imply the closure of the special school, on the contrary, it implies a joint work. Let's not forget that special education today is a modality of the formal educational system, transverse to that system.

According to the National Study on the Profile of Persons with Disabilities, prepared last year by the Indec, the tendency to inclusion does not behave in the same way in private schools. While 82.1% of students with disabilities attend public common schools, only 17.9% do so in private schools.

Iñaki is in 3rd grade at a private school
Iñaki is in 3rd grade at a private school Credit: Courtesy

“You can never read or write”; “What do you want me to study for?”; “Better, learn some trade”; “Delays the rest.” These are some of the comments received by families who fight to get their children “accepted” in the classroom. Unfortunately, the so-called “attitudinal barrier”, based on the prejudice that a student with disabilities can not learn, is one of the obstacles that persist, according to specialists who participated in the III International Symposium on Inclusive Education, held a week ago in Buenos Aires. It is a look focused on the deficit, on everything that the student does not achieve or does not achieve; a “normalizing” model in which the child must adapt to school and not the other way around, as established by law.

Natacha (47) is Iñaki's mother (9), who has intermediate-level autism. At the end of last year, when her son was in 3rd grade, the lack of inclusive strategies on the part of the private school she attended made her think of a new school for her son. “We went through all the schools in the City -resume-, and the answer was always the same: there is no vacancy.” Finally, Iñaki was able to continue in the same school, thanks to the fact that the authorities managed to change their look and attitude. “We were lucky that the school reconsidered,” concludes Natacha. However, to find a solution, many parents end up denouncing these
discriminatory acts suffered in schools, in the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (Inadi). Last year, the agency received 2631 complaints, of which 20% had disability as its main motive.

Inclusive education supposes, in the first place, a change of view, to modify the focus of attention, putting the emphasis on the context, not on the individual. That is, to think about how to eliminate the barriers of learning, participation and presence.

For Elsa Guiastrennec, coordinator of the area of ​​Special Education in the Directorate of Continuing Education in the province of Buenos Aires, it is necessary that the values ​​of inclusion be worked on by teachers and managers, so that they can later be reflected in the classroom. “The school must provide spaces for teachers' true beliefs about diversity to appear, which may express, for example, that they do not feel prepared or that they need help,” he explains.

“It's not going to change anything if they do not change their heads first, and teachers train you for ideal students who are not in schools,” says Corso. For that reason, the director considers that the agent of change is the teacher. Its management is focused on training on a permanent basis and advocates for a school prepared to give rise to the uniqueness of each child. To achieve this, he emphasizes that it is essential to work as a team and exercise a distributed leadership where, for example, the pedagogical coordinators observe classes and help to think new strategies for the classroom, or an integrating teacher offers training to the rest of the teachers.

In this line, Guiastrennec emphasizes that collaborative “helps to find strengths, encourages mistakes without fear, to try, to try, to create in an environment of freedom”. The result is “strengthened school teams.” Another strategy is peer tutoring, where one student teaches another. For Guiastrennec, “it has many advantages and benefits” and “the important thing here is that they rotate the roles”.

Diversity enriches and improves learning processes. Inclusive education rejerarquiza the place of the educator.

José María Tomé, teacher and researcher

For Tomé, the first barrier is prejudice. “You can never make a value judgment about diversity,” the researcher points out, “each one has its own singularities and there is wealth.” Diversity enriches and improves learning processes. “

Coral Elizondo, Spanish pedagogue dedicated to providing advice in educational centers in Argentina and Spain, believes that the best strategy to provide an inclusive quality response for all students is the so-called “direct instruction”, which has theoretical bases in the social construction of the learning, in neuroscience, cognitive psychology and pedagogy. For Elizondo, it must be accompanied by a Universal Design for Learning (DUA), which is based on multilevel teaching, where each student receives challenges and challenges in relation to their level, and taking as a starting point their prior knowledge and motivation to achieve the proposed achievement indicators.

“The teacher offers guides, support and feedback to guide all students on the path of success, with different instructions for each of them,” says the teacher, for whom the DUA should replace the master classes where the rote teaching predominates , which leaves on the margins many children for whom alternatives and opportunities for achievement are not offered.

“It is necessary, more than ever, to talk about ethics, ethical literacy and even the ethics of care,” Elizondo warns, “the damage we do to children in schools, in classrooms, when we discriminate against them. , when we put barriers, when we have low expectations, when we take them out of the classroom, when we make them invisible and we do not allow them to participate, that damage is irreparable, “he concludes.

Five good practices

  1. High expectations Starting from the strengths, respecting and recognizing the needs of each student; share, guide, help and care, as well as make adjustments and offer support.
  2. Teacher training Offer tools to improve learning practices, where everyone learns and everyone teaches.
  3. Collaborative work If support staff work in isolation with students with disabilities, there is no inclusion; It can even function as a teacher's pedagogical partner and participate in the teaching process.
  4. Innovative strategies Direct instruction with a Universal Design of Learning (DUA) approach is a strategy that shows high impact in schools.
  5. Students in the classroom If the child works outside the classroom and the teachers exclude it from the curricular design, there is no true inclusion; the barriers that prevent the boy's participation in class must be eliminated.

The obstacles that families face

Do not give vacancy

Schools can not argue that they are not prepared, that the quota for students with disabilities is already covered or condition the enrollment to the availability of support or impose double enrollment or mixed schooling, among others (based on resolution 311/16)

Refer to special school

Parents have the right to choose what kind of school they want for their children. Inclusive education implies that all people are educated together and schools must adopt the necessary modifications

Segregation practices

They can not deny admission for lack of support staff or demand support if the student does not require it, or remove them from the classroom, or refuse to admit students to school when they attend without the support person

Deny supports and adjustments

Students with disabilities must learn and participate on equal terms: modify teaching strategies, offer different forms of communication in class (sign language, braille), modify infrastructure, reduce noise levels in the classroom, among others

Reduce the day

People with disabilities have the right to take all the subjects and participate in all the activities that take place inside and outside the school

Do not grant the title

They can not repeat the school year based on their disability, they must be evaluated according to their individual pedagogical plan (PPI) and they will receive a degree in equal conditions that the rest of the students

Where to report

Anyone who faces any of these or other obstacles may file a claim with the Ministry of Education of their province and make the complaint in the Inadi: 0800-999-2345 or in the national line Convivencia: 0800-222-1197

More information

Beginning June 24,
ACIJ and
Article 24 Group will have available a site with information on the tools that can be used to claim the effective fulfillment of the right to inclusive education;


Publicado en el diario La Nación