04 SES 02 B, New Insights From Researching Inclusive Education In Europe And Beyond
The article reports on findings from an international research project on factors determining the quality of inclusive education in Croatia and Poland. This comparison should promote reflection about current status in implementing inclusive, quality education in Croatia and Poland, and lead to identifying the priorities for change in the process of development of high quality inclusive education. The study will show how far each country has moved forward in creating a system-wide change for overcoming barriers to education access, participation, learning processes and outcomes, and to ensure that all learners are valued and engaged equally.
The two countries have been chosen as examples of newer EU member states with similar post-communist background and a long history of exclusion of children with disabilities from mainstream education system. Poland and Croatia have a relatively long history of implementing integration/inclusion in education (the right of students with disabilities to learn in mainstream schools was legalized in 1980 in Croatia and in 1991 in Poland). Despite of a satisfactory legal regulations in both country, the process of providing all learners with equal educational opportunities is still considered a challenge. Although some studies (e.g. Ćwirynkało and Żyta 2015; Žic Ralić, 2012) indicate that there are a number of positive changes in the past several years, many schools still lack solutions and atmosphere that could be called fully inclusive.
For the purpose of this study Ainscow, Booth, and Dyson’s (2006) theory was used, according to which inclusion can be perceived in three overlapping ways: as reducing barriers to learning and participation for all students; as increasing the capacity of schools to respond to the diversity of students in their local communities in ways that treat them all equally; and the putting of inclusive values into action in education and society.
A sample of 173 teachers in primary schools in Poland and 139 from Croatia completed the Scale on quality indicators for inclusion – for teachers. Participants’ opinions on quality indicators for inclusion in six domains (Inclusive ethos of the school, Curriculum focused on students, Differentiated teaching and learning, Support in monitoring and evaluation, Inclusive support in school and Resources for inclusive education) were investigated.
In general, teachers reported positive estimations of inclusion quality. Respondents from both countries gave highest estimations on the scale ‘Support monitoring’, while the lowest estimations were given on the scale ‘Inclusive support in school’ by Polish participants and on the scale ‘Resources for inclusive education’ by a Croatian sample. Croatian teachers gave more positive estimation of the quality of inclusion in comparison with Polish teachers only regarding ‘Inclusive support in school’. In case of other scales the results gathered from a Polish sample were significantly higher. The results are in accordance with previous studies that indicated the lack of specialists in schools, insufficient amount of didactic aids for children with SEN, architectural barriers, lack of professional education and rehabilitation support, (in) competence and work overload of teachers as well as not always positive attitudes towards inclusion of children with SEN as the main problems of inclusive education in Croatia and Poland (Žic Ralić 2012; Kranjčec Mlinarić et.al. 2016; Ciechanowski et al. 2010; Ćwirynkało, 2013). In the discussion, an attempt to present how two different societal contexts shape the development and implementation of inclusion was made.
Based on the findings, the priorities for change in the process of development of high quality inclusive education in both countries are improvement of support available to children with SEN and their teachers as well as improvement of teacher’s competences for inclusive education.
Participants were asked to complete the General questionnaire for teachers, which consisted of questions about age, gender, working experience. The Scale on quality indicators for inclusion – for teachers (Ivančić, 2012) was used to measure the quality of inclusive education in primary schools in Croatia and Poland. The Scale was created by Ivančić and Stančić (Ivančić, 2012) on the basic of inclusive practice, questionnaires for self-evaluation of school quality in Croatia (Bezinović, 2010) and questionnaires represented in the Index for Inclusion (Booth et. al. 2000; Booth & Ainscow, 2002). The Scale was translated from Croatian into Polish forward and backward in order to avoid differences in meaning in the two versions (Croatian and Polish) of the scale. Both scales have good reliability (Cronbach Alpha for Croatian scale= 0.96, Polish scale=0.95). The instrument consists of six hypothetical domains: Inclusive ethos of the school; Curriculum focused on students; Differentiated teaching and learning; Support in monitoring and evaluation; Inclusive support in school and Resources for inclusive education (Ivančić, 2012). Items are rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale; each item receives a score between one to five; strongly agree (1), generally agree (2), I cannot decide (3), generally disagree (4) strongly disagree (5). A lower score indicates a higher quality of inclusion (Ivančić, 2012). The sample consisted of 139 teachers from Croatia and 173 teachers from Poland, in charge of second grade of primary schools’ students. The following sampling criteria were taken into account: - working in a mainstream primary school; - being an in-service teacher in charge of second grade students out of which at least one has special education needs; - in Poland: residing in one of the selected voivodeships (three voivideships in Poland: Kuyavian-Pomeranian, Warmian-Masurian and Podlaskie); in Croatia: residing in one of 2 Croatian districts (Zagreb or Zagreb County); - giving consent to participate in research. The vast majority of participants in both countries were females (Croatia – 94,2%; Poland – 98,3%). The average age of participants is only slightly lower in Croatia (44,78) than in Poland (45,53). Also, the average work experience is similar in both countries (Croatia – 20,71; Poland – 22.26). There are no statistically significant differences in age and length of service between Croatian and Polish teachers.
Both Polish and Croatian early education teachers gave positive estimations of inclusion quality. Teachers from both countries gave highest estimations on the scale Support monitoring, while the lowest estimations were given on the scale ‘Inclusive support in school’ by Polish participants and on the scale ‘Resources for inclusive education’ by a Croatian sample. Croatian teachers gave more positive estimation of the quality of inclusion in comparison with Polish teachers only regarding ‘Inclusive support in school’. This indicator is related to access to teaching assistants, that is more available in Croatia than in Poland. Possible explanation of higher estimations of teachers in Poland on all other dimensions is that they usually receive more support from speech therapists, school pedagogues and school special pedagogues in realization of inclusive education. Many Croatian teachers from this sample and in general are not supported by special pedagogues. Research conducted in Croatia indicate that teachers do not feel competent enough to work with students with SEN (Kranjčec Mlinarić et al. 2016) and lack knowledge and skills in this area (Batarelo Kokić et al. 2009). On the contrary, higher results in a Polish sample may be associated with their generally positive attitudes towards inclusion (Ćwirynkało and Żyta 2015; Ćwirynkało and Myśliwczyk 2016), as well as higher scores in attitudes towards inclusion in comparison with Croatian teacher (Ćwirynkało et al. 2017). Based on the findings, the priorities for change in the process of development of high quality inclusive education in both countries are improvement of support available to children with SEN and their teachers as well as improvement of teacher’s competences for inclusive education.
Ainscow, M. Booth T. & A. Dyson. 2006. “Inclusion and the standards agenda: negotiating policy pressures in England.” International Journal of Inclusive Education, 10 (4-5): 295-308. Booth, T., and M. Ainscow. 2002. Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools. CSIE. London: Centre for Studies on Inclusion Education. Ćwirynkało, K. 2013. “Nauczyciele wobec zmian warunków kształcenia uczniów ze specjalnymi potrzebami edukacyjnymi (SPE).” (“Teachers towards changes in the conditions of education of students with special educational needs”) In: Miejsce innego we współczesnych naukach o wychowaniu. W poszukiwaniu pozytywów (The place of Other in modern education science. In search of positives), edited by I. Chrzanowska, B. Jachimczak, K. Pawelczak, 391-402. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza. Ćwirynkało K., Kisovar-Ivanda T., Gregory J., L., Żyta A., Arciszewska A., and S., Zrilić, 2017. “Attitudes of Croatian and Polish elementary school teachers towards inclusive education of children with disabilities.” Croatian Review of Rehabilitation Research 53 (Supplement): 252-264. Ćwirynkało, K., and I. Myśliwczyk. 2016. “Mainstream School Teachers’ Attitudes toward Inclusion of Children with Special Educational Needs in Poland.” In ICLEL 2016 Conference Proceeding Book. 2nd International Conference on Lifelong Education and Leadership for All, edited by O. Titrek, I. Mikelsone, L. Pavitola, G. Sezen Gültekin, 680-687. Sakarya: Sakarya University. https://www.iclel.com/iclel-16-publications Ćwirynkało, K., and A., Żyta. 2015. “Przekonania nauczycieli na temat edukacji włączającej uczniów ze specjalnymi potrzebami. Raport z badań.” (“Teachers beliefs concerning inclusive education for students with special needs. Research report”) Szkoła Specjalna (Special School) 4: 245-259. http://www.szkolaspecjalna.aps.edu.pl/media/785228/sz-s-4-15.pdf Ivančić, Đ. 2012. “Pokazatelji kvalitete inkluzivne osnovne škole” (“Indicators of Inclusive quality in primary school”). Doctoral thesis. Zagreb: Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Zagreb. https://www.bib.irb.hr/pretraga/?q=Ivančić,+Đurđica+%28203191%29&by=author Kranjčec Mlinarić, J., Žic Ralić, A., and N., Lisak. 2016. “Promišljanje učitelja o izazovima i barijerama inkluzije učenika s poteškoćama u razvoju.” (“Teachers’ reflections on the challenges and barriers for integration of students with disabilities.”) Školski vjesnik. 65: 233-247. https://hrcak.srce.hr/160178 Žic Ralić, A. 2012. “Inclusive education in Croatia” Proceedings of the International Scientific and Professional Conference “Inkluzivno obrazovanje - sostojba i predizvici", Strumica, Macedonia: Union of Defectologists of the Republic of Macedonia, Ministry of Education and Science, Faculty of Philosophy - Institute for Defectology, 50-61. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236121610_Inclusive_education_in_Croatia
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