04 SES 11 B, The Debate on Inclusion
Disabled people worldwide have diachronically been deprived of their basic human rights due to barriers that hinder their social involvement and participation (Rieser, 2000). In education, exclusion was sustained through separatist methods that developed dual educational systems; special and mainstream. During the past few decades however, disabled activists challenged discriminatory policies and practices and demanded equal access and participation in social life (Barton, 2001). This acknowledgement had serious implications regarding education as well. Theory and research were now focalized on how to make educational settings more inclusive, in order to accommodate all students. This new set of principles and values actuated researchers worldwide to propose queries regarding the successful integration of disabled children into mainstream education, the differentiation of legislation and the curriculum, in addition to the attitudes of teachers, children and parents. As a result, inclusive education aims to establish conditions that allow effective education for all and to create policies and practices that respond to diversity and equality (Booth, Ainscow, Dyson, 1998). Despite the variety of inclusive policies worldwide and the vast improvement of the educational systems, the marginalisation of disabled children is still evident.
In Cyprus a dual educational system has traditionally developed, which divided children into special and mainstream settings (Phtiaka, 2006; Symeonidou, 2002). Seventy years after the foundation of the first special school in Cyprus and the legitimized segregation, inclusive education was authorized by the Education Act for Children with Special Needs (1999). This legislation gave disabled children the right to be integrated into mainstream schools (Phtiaka, 2006; 2007). The historical development of segregation however, indicates the separatist nature of education in Cyprus and dominance of the charity and medical models, which could be regarded as the causes of difficulties regarding the implementation of the current legislation (Phtiaka, 2007). Furthermore, Phtiaka (2006) states that several stereotypical approaches and ways of thinking have not been overcome within the public opinion and within teachers’ understandings, while Liasidou (2007) argues that schools were unprepared for such a drastic change. Under the current legislation, children with disabilities receive individualized support and instruction in special units, which are established in mainstream primary schools, and are also included into mainstream classrooms with or without an assistant teacher (Phtiaka, 2006). Although the operation of special units is a common practice for the education of children categorized as having 'special needs', it is a practice that allows the mainstream school to perpetuate a separating culture, practice and pedagogy. This study addresses the functioning of special units in mainstream primary schools in Cyprus, since their suggested operation by the current legislation raises several questions concerning their functioning, learning facilities and personnel, and cooperation with mainstream teachers and parents. The main research questions of this study are concerned with the operation of the special units in mainstream settings, the development and implementation of disabled children’s individual education program and the implementation of their timetable.
Barton, L. (2001) Disability, politics and the struggle for change, Publications: David Fulton Booth, T., Ainscow, M., Dyson, A. (1998) Understanding inclusion and exclusion in the English competitive education system, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1:4, 337-355 Cohen, L., Manion, L., Morrison, K. (2007) Research Methods in Education, Firth edition, London: Routledge-Falmer Liasidou, A. (2007) Politics of inclusive education policy-making: the case of Cyprus, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1-13 Phtiaka, H. (2007) Educating the Other: a journey in Cyprus time and space, in Barton, L. & Armstrong, F. (Eds) (2007) Policy, Experience and Change; Cross-Cultural reflections on Inclusive Education, London: Springer Books Phtiaka, H. (2006) From separation to integration: parental assessment of State intervention, International Studies in Sociology of Education, 16 (3), 175-189 Rieser, R. (2000), Disability discrimination, the final frontier: disablement, history and liberation, in Cole, M., (eds), Education, Equality and Human Rights: Issues of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Special Needs and Social Class, Routledge Symeonidou, S. (2002) The changing role of the support teacher and the case of Cyprus: the opportunity for a cooperative teaching approach, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17:2, 149-149
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