04 SES 08 A, Case Studies of Inclusion in Central Asia
The countries of Central Asia are grappling with education reform, which involves sustaining or resurrecting the Soviet system of education or adopting measures associated with higher achievement in the West. Inclusion of children with special education needs has traditionally been viewed outside these frameworks of reform because the traditional approach—known as defectology —frames disability as a diagnosis for treatment and rehabilitation rather than as a single aspect of a whole child requiring adaptations in the learning environment (Daniels, 2005). Thus, inclusion becomes an act of pity or charity for children. This view is detrimental to all children because it perpetuates a rigid, standardized model of education based on the outdated idea of finite capacity to learn rather than fostering children’s individual talents and infinite potential (UNICEF, 2007).
By changing the framework of disability from defectology to inclusion, it is easy to see inclusive education reform as a moral and practical issue, as exclusion of children with disabilities and learning difficulties from education becomes:
- a human rights issue because all children have the right to education, as guaranteed in various UN charters.
- a social justice issue because segregation denies them the opportunity to be active participants in society.
- an economic development issue because exclusion from education denies children an opportunity to grow into productive members of society.
In this context, the Education Support Program of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) has supported a number of projects to demonstrate local services with the potential for replication. As education systems across the region demonstrate increasing interest in inclusive education, it is even more important to understand the genesis, successes and challenges of these local models and to explore how they might contribute to system-level reform (Stake, 2005).
In addition, there is a gap in academic research on inclusion in Central Asia. To help fill this gap, OSF began a series of case studies with the goal of understanding the barriers and opportunities for groups of ordinary citizens who come together into associations, foundations, and other types of NGOs to serve the needs of children with disabilities. In an environment that still strongly favors segregation and institutionalization, a growing number of parents and professionals are acting on their own initiative to increase the social and education inclusion. What has motivated these initiatives? How have they found ways forward in very tight funding environments? How do they see the future of their work?
In order to explore these questions, OSF has identified several cases in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that address inclusion in its local context. Each case uses qualitative methods to answer questions developed by teams consisting of an international researcher and a local researcher. Data sources for each case include semi-structured interviews with key informants, relevant policy and project documents, and observations from site visits to classrooms or centers for children with disabilities.
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