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A few weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to facilitate another stretch of Inclusion Caravan, a project aimed at increasing the understanding of regular school teachers on disability, inclusion, and education, in the Philippines. The caravan, participated in by almost 700 teachers, was done within seven straight weeks in eight primary and secondary schools in Negros Island Region.
The caravan has allowed me to have conversations with teachers on their perspectives and feelings towards the issue. When asked about their specific recommendations moving forward, teachers unanimously expressed the need for a teacher training program aimed at increasing their understanding and capacities in accommodating children with disabilities in regular classrooms.
teachers unanimously expressed the need for a teacher training program aimed at increasing their understanding and capacities in accommodating children with disabilities in regular classrooms
Studies assert that in order to promote inclusive education, regular school teachers should be empowered to accommodate learners with disabilities. However, the question remains, ‘How should the teaching training program look like? What are its critical components or contents’?
In this document ‘Teachers, Inclusive, Child-Centered Teaching and Pedagogy’, UNICEF acknowledges the two opposing approaches on what knowledge, skills and attitudes teachers need to obtain to be able to teach in inclusive settings. The first approach highlights the teaching of different impairments, the medical causes of impairments, identification and special adjustments to make when teaching children with disabilities. On the other hand, the second one trains teachers in child-centered pedagogy, child-centered schools and education for all.
Each of these approaches has its limitations. For instance, the second approach may tend to overlook children with disabilities, and this may re-enforce the misconception that there is a requirement for specialized pedagogical approaches. Teachers may feel overwhelmed and doubt that they can teach children with disabilities within their regular classrooms. However, the first approach may situate the problem inside the child. This approach, based on the medical model of disability, may often lead to individual support models in practice. Individual education plans are set up with individual learning goals, and adjustments to make.
the second approach may tend to overlook children with disabilities, and this may re-enforce the misconception that there is a requirement for specialized pedagogical approaches
Presently, efforts in training teachers in the Philippines, both in pre-service and in-service contexts, are in place. Emphases on the contents, from my observations, are on the different impairments of children and how to teach them. However, is this something that the Department of Education and teacher education institutions should continue to pursue? Or is the approach of training teachers to consider each learner as an individual has to be critically considered moving forward?
The Inclusion Caravan will continue pushing for its mission in the years to come. Therefore, the project will continue exploring the most practical, inclusive, and culturally relevant contents in teacher training especially that in the next stretch, the caravan will specifically look into inclusive education strategies.