Sunday, 15 December 2019

Inclusion vs. diagnosis: Three years into the Czech inclusive education program

Prague Daily Monitor |
2 December 2019

Three years ago the Czech Republic launched the philosophy of educating children with disorders with the general student population. The National Institute of Continuing Education is therefore mapping the attitudes and needs of 6349 teachers and 355 headmasters in the area of inclusive education. There are schools which are working in more difficult learning environments and want to grow the program, thus they are cooperating with the Support of Common Education and Teaching Practices project.

The bright side is that most teachers have experience in inclusion of children with extra needs in their classes. On average the teachers have two to five years of teaching experience, in schools included in the inclusion program, with over a quarter of the teachers having over 16 years of experience. Another 27% of teachers had experience with at least 10 integrated children with learning difficulties. The most common issues the teachers are engaged with are students from socially disadvantaged families, have learning disabilities, or suffer from speech or behavioral disorders.

The development is actually not new. Although the population often misunderstands the program, the trend has been one the same since the 1990’s, and even more so since 2005, when further law were passed to support it. This by no means leads to the conclusion that the government is shutting down special schools for specific disorders. The trend implies that if the guardian of the child agrees, there is an opportunity for children who are thought to succeed in general education. The most challenging disorder for teachers are children with behavioral disorders, but in general most teachers feel they are handling the situations well and the headmasters agree, although to a lesser extent. One of the largest issues teachers report are a lack of cooperation on the side of the parents.

The Czech state also claims success and is proud of the upgrades and awareness of the program, made to incorporate all types of students including ethnic minorities and foreign children. There are issues around conservative institutions not fully implementing the programs, or a lack of professionals with specific skills to help integrate children, but the program is gaining experience and know-how. In the mean-time there are local support centres or professionals which the teachers can turn to for help.