04 SES 09 A, Exploring Attitudes Towards Students with Special Educational Needs
International agreements, conventions and laws concerning human rights define inclusive education as a policy that promotes an equal context of living, where every citizen can benefit of the social advantages and human rights in a more just and equal society (Loreman, et al., 2014). There are three factors to be noticed for accounting the benefits of inclusion practices: educational: adopting learning strategies according to individual needs and differences of all the children ; social: inclusive school context, where each child participate equally in the process of education and development in a society based in human rights and cooperation ; economic: establishing schools for all students is less expensive than building separate school units designed exclusively for special needs students (UNESCO, 2009). In the Greek educational settings, according to the recent law (4115 Act of 2013) “Special Education School Units constitute the Supporting Centers Of Special Education of public or private education, irrelevant to the education level. They compose the Special Education Units and the schools, being part of them, establish the School Network of Education and Support. The role of each school network is focused on promoting the cooperation of school units, empowering their actions in order to the different needs of students, facilitating their inclusion in the mainstream classroom and providing guides to the integration classes, to parallel support classes and to education at home”. Perception concerning school performance is oriented toward the means and conditions of education and the organization of learning experience that promote the needs of educational reform in order for the teaching procedures to be ameliorated as well as for the learning context (Moll & Diaz, 1987).
Studying attitudes in the school environment consists of a great importance because it has been admitted that except for the knowledge, it is the evaluation and use of that knowledge that counts the most (Johnstone & Reid, 1981). Attitudes contribute to the socialization process of human personality (Daruwalla & Darcy, 2005). Modern social psychology defines the meaning of attitude toward an object, an idea, or a person as a long lasting system, containing the elements of cognition and sentiments, developing in the direction of behavior expression (Georgas, 1995). The cross-cultural dimension of attitudes is being represented differently across societies and compose the meaning of attitudes, beliefs, values and principles (Triandis, 2002).
The measurement of regular education students’ attitudes toward the special needs students can be perceived as an important action contributing to the reinforcement of social participation and inclusive education of children with disabilities in general classroom (Bossaert et al., 2011). According to previous research, primary (Soulis, et al., 2016) and secondary (Rosenbaum, et al., 1985) education children express positive attitudes toward to their special needs peers, but their knowledge concerning the real meaning of disability and the difficulties a disabled person has to affront has led to the conclusion that the assumption of inclusion is far to be completed successfully (Eleftheriou, et. al., 2013 ; Magiati, 2002 ). Determinants like age, gender, having a relative or a friend with disability or not influence children’s attitudes toward the special needs students (Gash, 1996 ; Vignes, et al., 2009).
The purpose of this study was to assess students’ attitudes toward their disabled peers. Following the directions of the Greek Institute of Pedagogical Issues, concerning the conduct of research, and after having the official permission of Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affair, the principals and pre-school teachers gave their approval to enter the school. A letter was also sent to the parents, describing the aims of the study and requesting their written consent, permitting the children’s participation in the study. For primary education students, the psychometric tool used to assess their attitudes was an adapted form of the Gash Questionnaire (Gash, 1996). The instrument was used in previous studies (Magiati et al., 2002 ; Shamsi et al., 2014 ) and it consists of 2 parts: the first part contains 20 questions in a three point Likert Scale (yes, sometimes, no) and the second part contains demographic informations about age, grade, sex, friendship with a special needs person (Gash & Feerick, 1996). The Chedoke-McMaster Attitudes Towards Children with Handicaps Scale, (CATCH), (Rosenbaum, et al., 1986) was used as an evaluation tool of secondary children’s attitudes. Each of the 36 sentences is referred to a different attitude component (12 questions represent cognitive component, 12 questions represent sentiment component and 12 represent behavior component). The first part consists of the 36 questions, which are assessed in a 5-point Likert scale (0 to 4) and the second part is referred to demographic data.
The present study aims to underline the importance of attitudes expressed by primary and secondary education students towards to their disabled peers. It seems that they dispose a positive attitude toward the special needs students, but they lack of readiness to accept being co-educating with them in the same regular classroom. This perception can be mediated by the establishment and function of appropriate and special systems in inclusive education and by special qualified professionals in order to provide their specified support to students and teachers in the regular school.
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