Special Education Needs In Mainstream School: Equity And Adequacy Requisites Literature Review Example
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Over the past generations, offering education to students with special needs had always been complex. Those who had learning disabilities were usually segregated from the mainstream, not just in education but also in social and economic activities. These youngsters were usually the ones who suffer, mainly as an effect of their sensory impairments or their physical disabilities, which went against their acquisition of new knowledge. Since then, it was believed that “human bodies must conform to a certain standard or norm” (Wang, 2009, p.154). This was carried on until in 1997, Jenkinson proposed that special students should be educated in segregated classrooms, designed to accommodate the needs and incapacities of these children (Wang, 2009, p.154). Still, Jenkinson proposed that the best way to nurture a child’s learning development is to accommodate them in a regular class, for them to become self-supportive adults in the future (Wang, 2009, p.154). However, this act of “inclusion” may also be complex and would require special considerations on things that would have significant effects on the school’s mainstream, such as equity and adequacy.
The context of special education
General context. In an inclusive classroom, both disabled and non-disabled students are being combined and educated at the same time, and in the same room. Educational inclusion is set to include all students in one learning environment that will nurture the students according to their needs. For students who have had special needs—or those who suffer from physical, emotional, mental, and/or behavioral problems—this would mean trying to get along with other students who are very different from them. They are placed in a regular classroom with the others, and then involved in an instructional setting by which they acquire new knowledge and pursue development. For this to take place, there are a number of teachers who support them all at the same time, such as “the general education teacher, the special education teacher, the teacher assistant and possibly parental or community volunteers” (Lamport, Graves, & Ward, 2012, p.55). This is exemplified in the “co-teaching model”, wherein there is partnership between a general education teacher, as well as a special education teacher. Typically, this class consists of different types of children, including the gifted children, the mentally-retarded children, the emotionally challenged children, the hyperactive children, the slow learners, those who are of low economic status. This brings complexity to teachers and school administrators, and they should be flexible enough to target each student according to their needs, and based on their health status or condition.
The demands of inclusive practice. In practicing the integration method of education, there is the condition that the teaching methods and the curricula should go well with the demands of the students and the environment. If the special students are to have full access of the regular schools, as implied in UNESCO’s Action on Special Needs Education, then both the curricula and the teaching methods should be re-modified. This would allow them to accommodate the special needs and the diversity of the students, especially as most of them have problems in their health, their behavior, or their mental development. There should be greater flexibility and stamina, especially for teachers, as they should provide students with new knowledge geared according to their abilities. They should have new methods of improving the course of learning, which would rely on their ability to manifest the integration of all the students’ needs. Yuen and Westwood (2001) quoted the words of Forlin when they stated that “policies of inclusion rely on teachers’ acceptance of them, belief in their worth, and an ability to cope” (p.72). This is very true, since the inclusion method of education focuses more on the teachers’ sole ability to synchronize the various aspects of knowledge acquisition and development, according to the needs and conditions of their students.
Effect on academic achievement. In an inclusive education, there is more interaction between the disabled and non-disabled students. There are more opportunities for the disabled ones to learn new ways and witness the behavior and actions of those who are non-disabled. This would produce positive results on both sides, especially when it comes to fostering the self-esteem of the regular students as well as the special students. In the mainstream school, there are usually less disparities between the students, and there is an overall sense of worth on the way students share the activities collectively. In a study done by Ntshangase, Mdikana, and Cronk (2008), they were able to prove that the disabled students had higher self-esteem in an inclusive classroom (p.80). In another study done by Dessemontet, Bless, and Morin (2012), students who had intellectual disabilities, and were put in an inclusive classroom, progressed more in literacy skills than those who remained in special schools (p.583). For this, it is evident that special students should be accommodated in inclusive classrooms, instead of putting them in special education context. However, for this to take place, there is a need for both equity and adequacy to take place, since these things can affect the teaching method being implemented. Both equity and adequacy are vital in the teaching setting, especially in the special education mainstream, where all students should have the right to receive equal treatment and opportunities in learning education.
The need for equity
Policy equity. The education systems were reviewed in 2001, with the goal of increasing the capacity to include all learners into achieving “equitable outcomes for all” (OECD, 2003, p.11). This is the main aspect of “equity”, in which it is being proposed that “all children have a right to education and as a consequence, the right to make progress” (OECD, 2003, p.11). This is being reflected in the implementation of the inclusion method, in which the special students are given equal opportunities to learn, in the same way as the regular students. According to the policy of the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, failure to provide right education to the disabled children would only mean a “denial” of the right of the child. This was mentioned by Sen in 1992, in which it was stated that
People [should] have equal access to basic capabilities such as the ability to be healthy, well-fed, housed, integrated into the community, participate in community and public life and enjoy self-respect. (OECD, 2003, p.11)
Gender equity. In the mainstream school of the inclusive education, there are gender differences that take place when it comes to the supervision of equity. It has been found out that in almost all countries, the male special students exceed in number when compared with the female special students, in a ratio of about 60 to 40 (OECD, 2003, p.16). More so, the proportion of the males to the females tend to rise with age, such as in the case of Netherlands. This is also reflected in school programmes, wherein males tend to have had higher percentage than the females, as males are typically between 60-70% (OECD, 2003, p.17). This may be explained by the fact that males are usually more prone to illness and trauma than the females, and the former more likely expresses themselves openly in school when compared to females. As an effect, the education of the males are given more priority, and this can disturb the equity of the special education system. This leads to an inequitable outcome, and it can affect the provision of special programmes, which should be appropriately provided to both the male and female special students. There are times when gender equity becomes unfeasible, especially in large populations where the number of males and females appears disproportionately, which then affects gender equity in education.
Resources equity. In the mainstream educational system, the purpose focuses on the goal of providing special students with the opportunity of being a part of the society. For this to take place, however, there should be enough support provision and resources for the implementation of special programmes. This includes not just the teachers but the financial provision, in addition to other support provision like the facilities, teaching materials, as well as an effectively-designed curriculum and learning activities. These resources are vital to be able to promote equity in the provision of education to special students who are accommodated in an inclusive setting. Still, resources do not just include the material equipment but the strategy on how special students should be taught, in a way that would harness their self-esteem and their perception of the world. Teaching can become a critical issue when the students have special needs, or when they suffer from illnesses or disorders that can prevent them from learning effectively. More so, in an inclusive classroom, teachers are more likely to pay less attention to special students, which reflects one of the disadvantages of putting them under inclusive educational setting. This will result to a disproportionate representation of equity in terms of the resources. In a setting where there is high tendency for diversity, it may be difficult to address each child’s educational needs.
The need for adequacy
Human rights. There were important legislations that were signed in the United Nations, with its goal of providing adequate supervision and provision of education to all constituents. In the Article 2 of the UN convention, it was clearly stated that “all rights shall apply to all children without discrimination on any ground, including those with special educational needs” (Wang, 2009, p.158). Article 23, on the other hand, functions on insisting that education is to be designed in a way that is “conducive to the child achieving the fullest possible social integration” (Wang, 2009, p.158). In the provision of an adequate opportunity to all students, there should be equal opportunities for all, as citizens should ensure the education of special students as a part that is integral to the educational system. As insisted by legislation, the principle of the inclusive educational system is to ensure that all children are given appropriate and adequate education in which they learn together collectively. This is based on human rights, wherein it was clearly stated that all children have equal rights, and that everyone is the same in almost all manners. Nobody is perfect, and each one should have sufficient opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills, such as the rest.
Social justice. In an inclusive educational setting, there is social justice when there is equity and adequacy in the provision of education. Like equity, the concept of adequacy is likewise closely associated to the manner in which teachers address the needs of every child through the curriculum and the designated school activities. To address these, therefore, there has to be positive attitude over the course of learning, in which teachers welcome the learners into the school system. The attitude of the teachers have always been vital ever since, and it has been proven that the negative attitudes of teachers may lead to student difficulties and decreased learning opportunities (Carrington & Brownlee, 2001). For social justice to occur in the inclusive educational system, teachers should deal positively to every student, especially those with special needs. Although the programs of inclusion can put the educators into a much considerable pressure, there should be adequate resilience in knowing the learning styles of the students, the pace of learning, and the need for individual attention. This also includes adequacy of the resource staff, to manage the students well and make sure that their needs are being addressed, which entails them to acquire new knowledge.
For effective and appropriate acquisition of new knowledge, there should be a state of belongingness to a child, who is put within a context, where others are not the same as he or she is. In addition to teachers and school owners, the student’s peers are also important in imposing positivity and equity within the school community. In fact, some studies suggested how peers influence the students’ behavior and success in an inclusive educational system. According to Nikolaraizi and de Reybekiel (2001), it was mentioned that the more severe the disability, the less acceptance there is for the child (p.167). Peers can influence the attitude and behavior of special students—if not all students—for them to be willing to engage in educational activities with the other students. If there is constancy in the relationship of a child with his/her peers, then there is a state of “belongingness” in which the child feels accepted and cared for by the society. Thus, there is equity within the environment; and where there is equity, there is also adequacy. This is one of the extreme benefits of the inclusive system: to integrate both the regular and special students. By integrating them both, they learn how to live side by side in a changing, evolving, and multifaceted world.
Carrington, S., & Brownlee, J. (2001). Preparing teachers to support inclusion: the benefits of interaction between a group of pre-service teachers and a teaching assistant who is disabled. Teaching Education, 12(3), 347-357.
Dessemontet, R.S., Bless, G., & Morin, D. (2012). Effects of inclusion on the academic achievement and adaptive behavior of children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56(6), 579-587.
Lamport, M.A., Graves, L., & Ward, A. (2012). Special needs students in inclusive classrooms: the impact of social interaction on educational outcomes for learners with emotional and behavioral disabilities. European Journal of Business and Social Sciences, 1(5), 54-69.
Nikolaraizi, M., & De Reybekiel, N. (2001). A comparative study of children’s attitudes towards deaf children, children in wheelchairs and blind children in Greece and in the UK. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 16(2), 167-182.
Ntshangase, S., Mdikana, A., & Cronk, C. (2008). A comparative study of self-esteem of adolescent boys with and without learning disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 23(2), 75-84.
OECD. (2003). Education policy analysis. Paris, France: OECD Publishing Office.
Wang, H.L. (2009). Should all students with special educational needs (SEN) be included in mainstream education provision?-a critical analysis. International Education Studies, 2(4), 154-161.
Yuen, M., & Westwood, P. (2001). Integrating students with special needs in Hong Kong secondary schools: Teachers’ attitudes and their possible relationship to guidance training. International Journal of Special Education, 16(2), 69-83.
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