Feb 15 2013
Almost a decade ago, some Western European countries started to integrate students with learning disability to the mainstream schools as an effort to realize what is called inclusive education, i.e. an education that addresses all children as unique entity according to their condition and needs, where schools have to be able to serve them regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional differences. The framework of action was documented through Salamanca State of Action, the world conference of special education held by UNESCO in 1994. While it took several years for developed countries to do some trials and errors within the system, developing countries, however, have not been aware of this movement, and in fact, these regions are far left behind in taking actions.
The case of children with learning disability seems to be rising in the developing countries, these past ten years. The numbers are actually not increasing, but the data taken and attention to them are more seriously paid by the governments to catch up with the world movement. Protections and facilitations to these children are very urgent since they too, deserve to get proper education and treatments whenever necessary. In the past, students with learning disability will be excluded from the mainstream system and be treated special because the paradigm was they were disabled and needed specific methods to treat. With the increasing appreciation of human rights and especially children rights to education, the perspective to facilitate these children have come to a new understanding that inclusion to mainstream is also needed to provide them with ‘normal’ experience to mingle and socialize with others.
Addressing this call, for developing countries, is a priority that needs serious commitments both in the regulation and service. Regulations will help schools to take strategic steps in preparing the system, human resource and infrastructure to facilitate students with learning disability to join combined sessions with their peers and therapeutic sessions with the therapists. Comprehensive regulation affects the delivery of the service, hence it is very urgent to establish legal protections to these children and their families. While not all families with disabled or special needs children are wealthy, financial support will also have to be provided. Collaboration with international aid agencies will be positive to lessen the budget burden within the government while keep prioritizing actions to protect and serve children with learning disability as well as their families.
Facilitating these children, however, take more than just system, buildings, and therapeutic equipments. It takes special teachers and therapists to meet the needs of special needs children. When it comes to facilitators, an important element that has to be prepared is training and education. Cooperation with universities and teacher colleges will be vital to ensure proper expertise is equipped to these professionals. Holistically, regulation, service and integrated collaboration of related stakeholders are highly demanded to make this call work. It is a challenge but not impossible to do!