04 SES 04 C, Within the Inclusive School: Building spaces, promoting participation
Diversity of pupils is a reality every school has to face. The differences between children caused by age, sex or personality are magnified by social stratification, migration in the society and variable conditions the children live and grow up in. On the other hand we need to remember that individuals tend to conform, supporting, on the contrary, the pupils’ population uniformity. We therefore have to expect both diversification and unification processes in today's schools (Hloušková et al, 2015).
The matter of working with the children's diversity in school is related to the inclusive education concept. The Salamanca Statement brings about a request to educate all children together, regardless of their origin, race, socio-economic statut or health (The Salamanca, 1994). Inclusion in the society must be connected with all levels of education. Within the Czech Republic, inclusion (both theoretically and in practice) often concerns primary schools. In this supply, however, we aim to show that elements of inclusion - or exclusion - are present already in preschool education.
Inclusion in kindergartens in the Czech Republic is provided for in Education Act Amendment from 2016. Children with specific educational needs are entitled to various supporting measures, however in practice these are mostly aimed at the primary school environment and preschool education lags behind. Definition of child with specific educational needs provided in the School Act, Par. 16 , comprises children with disabilities, impairments, and children who are socially disadvantaged. Disabilities include physical disabilities, impaired hearing, impaired vision, mental disabilities, autism, speech impediments, several concurrent disorders and specific learning disabilities or behavioural disorders. Health impairments include impaired health, long term illness and mild health disorders resulting in learning difficulties.
Social disadvantages include different native language, different social-cultural position, different ethnic origin, status of asylum seeker, risk of sociopathological phenomena and court ordered institutional care. It also includes exceptionally talented pupils.
To make education really inclusive, it is important to realize whether all children are really receiving the help they need in the school environment, whether they can participate, be heard and feel that they belong (Lechta, 2010).
Success of inclusive education in kindergartens, and not only there, largely depends on its performers, the teachers. For this reason our research considers their perception of the matter important. The goal of the research was to capture and describe what experiences with diversity and inclusion process teachers in kindergartens have. Another goal was to detect what helps teachers in the inclusion process, and what makes the process more difficult.
Within the research we interviewed 34 teachers from various kindergartens across the Czech Republic. The interviews had a form of focus group discussion. During the spring 2017 we compiled 4 discussion groups, each with 8 to 9 participants. Research participants (32 females and 2 males) were aged 22 to 58 years. Current employment in a kindergarten and at least 2 years of experience on the position of kindergarten teachers were criteria for participation. The discussion took approximately 120 minutes and focused at how the participants perceive and evaluate the term "diversity" within the context of their own kindergarten. Other discussion topics included the way participants understand the term "inclusion" in their kindergarten, what are benefits and limits of inclusive process and what participants consider the largest obstacles of the inclusion process. All respondents in our survey have experiences with inclusion; their kindergartens are attended by pupils with specific educational needs. 80 % respondents work with such child or children in their own class, 20 % reported having met an integrated child in their kindergarten in past. Data were analysed in the context of grounded theory, we used the first phase and detected categories in the open coding process. Afterwards the results were compared to results of a similar survey realized in Austria by Helena Stockinger (Stockinger, 2017).
The analysis detected 5 categories. IT’S UP TO US; MISSING SYSTEM SUPPORT – the category reflects lack of experience, information and supporting materials the teachers daily face. They don’t usually learn about a child with specific educational needs joining their class until June of preceding school year. Most of them reported anxiety about new situation; the teachers weren’t sure how they were going to work with the child. School directors or founders did not offer any help, methodical support or training. All respondents would really appreciate such help. DIVERSITY AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN; HELP OFTEN COMES FROM CLASSMATES – despite initial worries, respondents evaluate the participation of a child with specific educational needs as beneficial not only for themselves, but also for other children. It opens many new topics for children to explore. CHILDREN ARE FINE, PARENTS NOT SO MUCH – in this category respondents report encountering communication problems with parents. They were either parents of the integrated child (parents refused cooperation, didn’t respect given recommendations…) or parents of other children who worried the quality of education would suffer. EFFECTIVE COOPERATION WITH THE CHILD'S ASSISTANT IS NOT A MATTER OF FACT – teachers who have experiences with personal assistance for integrated pupil report that it did not always make the work easier in the class. They did not know how to communicate with the assistant, or how to include him/her in the education process. CHILDREN IN ALTERNATING CUSTODY HAVE THEIR OWN SPECIFIC NEEDS – this category describes children from divorced families where court ordered alternating custody. Respondents agree that after switching family environment, children exhibit behavioural issues for at least two days. This is alarming because alternating custody has recently been considered an appropriate family arrangement in the Czech Republic.
Hloušková, L., Trnková, K., Lazarová, B., Pol, M. (2015). Diversity of students as a theme for school leaders. Studia paedagogica roč. 20, č. 2, rok 2015. Brno: MU. Lechta, V. (2010). Základy inkluzivní pedagogiky. Praha: Portál. Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education (1994). Salamanca. Online: http://www.unesco.org/education/pdf/SALAMA_E.PDF Stockinger, H. (2017). Umgang mit religiöser Differenz im Kindergarten. Eine ethnographische Studie an Einrichtungen in katholischer und islamischer Trägerschaft in Wien. Religious Diversity and Education 35. Münster-New York: Waxmann.
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