07 SES 08 B, Social Justice
Inclusive education (IE) is high on the agenda of educational reforms worldwide. In some regions, however, IE is still understood narrowly as educating children with disabilities in mainstream schools (Ainscow 2005). Nevertheless, internationally, the term IE is increasingly seen as quality (mainstream) education for all, a reform that embraces diversity in children (UNESCO 2001).
Teachers are key to quality IE. However, as noted by Forlin (2010), pre-service teacher education can only be expected to establish basic teacher competences, laying a foundation for learning throughout teachers’ careers as the need arises.
Such a specific need arose within the Czech Republic with the acceptance for re-settlement of refugee families from Myanmar (Burma). While the Czech Republic has for some time received immigrant workers, the acceptance of refugees is a new national phenomenon. This means that schools must not only include children
whose home language is not Czech and whose prior education may be significantly different, as with immigrant children, but also children and their families who may have been traumatised, who are both culturally and linguistically isolated, without extended families or former neighbours in their new country and who did not make purposeful and informed decisions about moving to the Czech Republic, as made by economic immigrants. This calls for greater support, emotional empathy, understanding and wider cultural and linguistic knowledge from schools, teachers and teacher educators than even those with prior experience of working with immigrant children may have acquired.
In 2008, the Czech Republic joined global resettlement efforts with its pilot programme for resettling 40 refugees from Myanmar. They arrived in late 2008/early 2009 from Malaysia, their interim host country. In 2010, another same-sized group of Myanmar refugees was also accepted, via Thailand and Malaysia. The children from the two groups of refugees became the focus of a two-part research study conducted in 2009 and 2010/2011.
The first part of the research conducted in 2009 investigated the educational experiences of the first resettled group (in detail described in Bačáková 2011). It found multiple examples of exclusion, misunderstanding and dissatisfaction in students, parents and school staff. The overall picture from the Part 1 data was that most schools were not inclusive and most head teachers and teachers did not fit the profile of inclusive teachers (EADSNE 2012), although there were notable exceptions. Inadequate teacher development, for IE in general and specifically in relation to refugee children, was the problem that underlay all the barriers listed. Access to CPD about both generic and refugee-related aspects of inclusion was, therefore, the most urgent requirement.
Only by addressing teacher development promptly could the negative experiences found in Part 1 of the study be avoided or reduced for the children of the second resettled group who were to enrol in mainstream schools near their new homes in spring 2011. This concern generated the initiation of a refugee-relevant CPD seminar, and the second part of the research conducted between December 2010 and June 2011.
The seminar was planned to address the barriers identified in Part 1 of the study. It dealt with matters relevant to successful inclusion of all students, non-Czech students and refugee children. Five months after the seminar, Part 2 data collection in the four schools took place, aiming to map the educational experiences of the second group of refugee children, families and teachers. Deducing the actual and possible impact of the CPD Seminar on the Part 2 schools’ educational practices was planned, by comparing Part 1 with Part 2 findings.
Ainscow, M. 2005. “Developing Inclusive Education Systems: What are the Levers for Change?” Journal of Educational Change 6 (2): 109–124. Bačáková, M. 2011. “Developing Inclusive Educational Practices for Refugee Children in the Czech Republic.” Intercultural Education 22 (2): 163–175. EADSNE. 2012. Teacher Education for Inclusion: Profile of Inclusive Teachers. Odense: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Florian, L. 2012. “Teacher Education for Inclusion: A Research Agenda for the Future.” In Future Directions for Inclusive Teacher Education: An international Perspective, edited by C. Forlin, 212–220. Abingdon: Routledge. Florian, L., and M. Bečirević. 2011. “Challenges for Teachers’ Professional Learning for Inclusive Education in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.” Prospects 41 (3): 371–384. Forlin, C. 2010. “Future Directions for Teacher Education for Inclusion.” In Teacher Education for Inclusion: Changing Paradigms and Innovative Approaches, edited by C. Forlin, 246–253. Abingdon: Routledge. OECD. 2010. Educating Teachers for Diversity: Meeting the Challenge. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Publications. Symeonidou, S., and H. Phtiaka. 2009. “Using Teachers’ Prior Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs to Develop In-Service Teacher Education Course for Inclusion.” Teaching and Teacher Education 25: 543–550. UNESCO. 2001. The Open File on Inclusive Education. Paris: UNESCO.
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