LN – Inclusive education: a difficult path for many parents, but possible

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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: Courtesy

“Your child should go to a special school for severe disorders,” said the psychologist of the evaluation board responsible for deciding if 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 the fact that his family and so many others decided not to lower their arms, and to an advance in public policies, Alejo, who is now 13 years old and communicates nonverbally, is in 6th grade in a common public school double day of the City, close to your home. From 1st grade, you are fully included, learn and feel happy. Receive the support you need, and when you finish your primary and secondary education, you will have your degree on equal terms as the rest of the students, as established in 2016 resolution 311 of the Federal Council of Education.

Like 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 and boys and adolescents with disabilities in common schools increased fourfold. In that period, it went from 21,704 to 90,345. That is to say, that enrollment grew 400% in 15 years.

The broadening 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 a right for students to receive quality education and it is a responsibility of the system to live up to and accommodate everyone,” says Cristina Lovari, National Coordinator of Inclusive Education of the Ministry of Education of the Nation. For the official, “the proof of the progress of the last 10 years is 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 went from special to common schools, where 53% of the 92,000 Buenos Aires students with disabilities currently 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 the same in the teachers “.

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

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

Cristina Lovari, National Coordinator of Inclusive Education

Paradigm shift

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

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

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


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

“You can never read or write”; “What do you want me to study for?”; “Better, learn a trade”; “Delays the rest.” These are some of the comments still received by families who fight for their children to be “accepted” in classrooms. Unfortunately, the so-called “attitudinal barrier”, based on the prejudice that a student with a disability cannot learn, is one of the obstacles that persist, according to the 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, in everything that the student does not reach or does not achieve; a “normalizer” model in which the boy must adapt to school and not vice versa, as established by law.

Natacha (47) is Iñaki's mother (9), who has intermediate autism. At the end of last year, when her son was in 3rd grade, the lack of inclusive strategies by the private school he attended made her think of a new school for her son. “We toured all the schools in the City,” he summarizes, “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 his 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, at the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (Inadi). Last year, the agency received 2631 complaints, of which 20% had disability as the main reason.

Inclusive education involves, in the first place, a change of look, modifying the focus of attention, emphasizing the context, not the individual. That is, to think about how to eliminate the barriers of learning, participation and presence.

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

“Nothing will change if the heads don't change first. The teacher trains you for ideal students who are not in schools,” says Corso. Therefore, the principal considers that the change agent is the teacher. Its management is focused on training permanently and advocates for a school prepared to give rise to the uniqueness of each boy. To achieve this, it is important to work as a team and exercise a distributed leadership where, for example, the pedagogical coordinators observe classes and help think about new strategies for the classroom, or an integrating teacher offers training to the rest of the teachers.

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

Diversity enriches and improves learning processes. Inclusive education re-hierarchy places the educator.

José María Tomé, teacher and researcher

For Tomé, the first barrier is prejudice. “You can never make a value judgment on diversity,” says the researcher. “Everyone has their own singularities and there is wealth. Diversity enriches and improves learning processes. From that place, we must think teaching theories. “.

Coral Elizondo, a 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 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 previous 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 must replace the master classes where the teaching of teaching predominates , which leaves many children on the margins for which no alternatives or opportunities for achievement are offered.

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

Five good practices of inclusive schools

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

The obstacles families face

Not vacant

Schools cannot argue that they are not prepared, that the quota for students with disabilities is already covered or condition enrollment to support availability 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 type of school they want for their children. Inclusive education means that all people are educated together and schools must adopt the necessary modifications

Segregation practices

They cannot deny entry due to lack of support staff or demand support if the student does not require it, or take it out of the classroom, or refuse entry of students to school when they attend without the support person

Deny supports and adjustments

Students with disabilities must learn and participate in equal conditions: 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 subjects and participate in all activities that take place inside and outside the school.

Do not grant the title

They cannot 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 on equal terms as the rest of the students

Where to report

Any person facing any of these or other obstacles can file a complaint with the Ministry of Education of their province and make the complaint in the Inadi: 0800-999-2345 or in the national line Coexistence: 0800-222-1197

For teachers

  • Recently, the Ministry of Education, together with UNICEF, launched booklets with pedagogical resources for inclusion in:

www.argentina.gob.ar/noticias/ya-estan-disponibles-los-materiales-educativos-para-fortalecer-la-inclusion-en-las-escuelas?4

– ”
Training of educators for educational inclusion“by Vanesa Casal María José Néspolo (Editorial Location)

– ”
Inclusive education“by José María Tomé (Editorial Location).

More information

ACIJ and
Article 24 Group offers a site with information on the tools that can be used to claim the effective fulfillment of the right to inclusive education:
www.porunaeducacioninclusiva.org

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Publicado en el diario La Nación