In the last 15 years the number of girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities studying in common-modality schools grew four times: 98,600 according to the 2018 Educational Statistical Yearbook. However, there are many challenges and needs for improvements that these institutions still face to provide a truly inclusive and quality response to all their students.
What are the good practices in inclusive education? Specialists in the field highlight the following:
- Paradigm shift. Inclusive education supposes, first of all, a change of perspective, modifying the focus of attention, placing the emphasis on the context, not on the individual. That is, in thinking about how to remove barriers to learning, participation and presence.
- High expectations. Starting from the strengths, respecting and recognizing the needs of each student; sharing, guiding, helping and caring, as well as making adjustments and offering support.
- Teaching attitude. The desire of the teacher is another key. José María Tomé, an Argentine pedagogue specializing in inclusive education, asks: “Sometimes we first hear educators say ‘but I don’t have a bathroom, I don’t have resources, I don’t have a blackboard.’ The first question to be inclusive is’ Do you have the attitude? ‘,’ do you feel like it? ‘ If I think that my student is not going to learn, she is not going to learn. “
- Listen to parents. Teamwork, training and openness to parents and professionals are key.
- Teacher training. Offer tools to improve learning practices, where everyone learns and everyone teaches. “Nothing is going to change if their heads do not change first. The teachers train you for ideal students who are not in schools,” says Silvana Corso, director of the Romania secondary school, for whom the agent of change is the teacher . Her management is focused on training permanently and advocates for a school prepared to give rise to the uniqueness of each boy.
- Spaces for dialogue and reflection for teachers and managers. It is necessary that the values of inclusion are worked on between teachers and managers, so that they can then be reflected in the classroom. “The school must provide spaces for the true beliefs of teachers regarding diversity to appear. That they can express, for example, that they do not feel prepared or that they need help”, details Elsa Guiastrennec, a specialist in special education.
- Collaborative work. If support staff work in isolation with students with disabilities, there is no inclusion; Support teachers can even function as the teacher’s pedagogical partner and participate in the teaching process. For Corso it is essential to work as a team and exercise distributed leadership where, for example, pedagogical coordinators observe classes and help to think of new strategies for the classroom, or an inclusive teacher offers training to the rest of the teachers. Along these lines, Guiastrennec emphasizes that the collaborative “helps to find strengths, encourages making mistakes without fear, to try, to try, to create in an environment of freedom”. The result is “strengthened school teams.”
- Innovative strategies. Direct instruction with a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach is a strategy that shows high impact in schools.
- Students in the classroom. If the child works outside the classroom and teachers exclude him or her from the curricular design, there is no true inclusion; Barriers that prevent the child’s participation in class must be eliminated.
- Slowly. It is recommended that schools do not try to make all the changes together but only a few things, well done and shared by all. In this regard, Tomé believes that there is no inclusive school but that it is a permanent construction.
- Transformation of the special modality and redistribution of resources. Gabriela Santuccione, from Grupo Article 24, emphasizes that “it is necessary to work on transforming the special modality into a support system for the common.” And she adds: “Beyond the progress, a political decision is needed to take concrete anti-discrimination measures and to make good use of existing and budgetary resources to achieve it.” In this sense, Tomé emphasizes that thinking about an inclusive school does not imply the closure of the special school, on the contrary, it implies joint work.