INCLUSION OR ILUSION
Author: Katerina Topalova
With the same architecture, no new equipment and no specially trained staff, the elementary school children will start with the inclusion in two weeks. Regulation of the rights of students with special educational needs is one of the issues envisaged by the new law on primary education adopted this summer, which will apply from the new school year.
Quickly, with a debate but without the acceptance of all recommendations of the Ombudsman, the law was passed. The Minister boasted that there would be a quality education for everyone.
Current practice says that they are discriminated the moment they were enrolled in the kindergartens, dismissed and left at the mercy of the personal policies of principals, teachers and schools, faced with totally unskilled staff and a severe shortage of professionals and special educators in all segments of education.
Parents say that by law – there is inclusion, but in practice it is totally different. Education for their children is not nearly equal, and is often unproductive. Just before the start of the school year, there is a dilemma whether schools have an accurate record of how many children with special needs will attend? Do they have the necessary means to attend classes? Are they physically accessible to these students? Does the staff know how to answer each pupil?
Educational inclusion is an opportunity for quality access to reforms in education. Above all, it is a pedagogical rather than a defectological challenge with the necessary involvement of a large number of experts in different areas necessary to support children, especially children with special needs, in order to reach their full potential in the process of upbringing and education. Learning is most effective in an environment of interpersonal relationships and interactions, especially when the pupil feels supported, respected and recognized.
This is precisely what its essence is – how regular schools and classrooms develop in a way that responds to the educational and social needs of each pupil and shaped in a place where every pupil belongs, accepted and supported by classmates and all other members of the school community.
But in order for schools to adapt to the diversity of students, profound changes are needed to be made in the education system. The condition for inclusion is the cultural reconstruction of the school system. Inclusion is also a culture of civic behavior. Every child sometimes needs additional support. We all need inclusion. Sometimes we give, and sometimes we receive support.
Apart from paper text and unfulfilled promises, parents of children with disabilities have received nothing so far. Is this law just an illusion or will it be the beginning of a true inclusion?
We will have to break down many barriers. Inclusion is a process that needs to be constantly worked on, but are we ready to start?!