If your children are quite healthy, and you yourself have long graduated from school and university, it may seem to you that the development of an inclusive educational environment is not your topic and does not concern you. But it is not so. The very concept of inclusion suggests that not only those who need special conditions for something, but also everyone around are involved in the process.
In the future, inclusion implies the maximum inclusion of people with special physical needs in society when you interact with them at work, on vacation, solving some of your daily affairs. Therefore, it is imperative to have a general understanding of inclusion and everything connected with it.
You will learn how to quickly understand any topic that is new to you in our program “ The Best Self-Education Techniques ”. And we will cover the topic of organizing an inclusive educational environment in our today’s article.
Inclusive educational environment – what is it?
An inclusive educational environment is equal access to education for all children, adolescents, students, schoolchildren, including those with special educational needs, various health disorders and disabilities.
Such equal access is ensured through joint education and upbringing of normotypical children and children with disabilities and severe health disorders. The educational environment of inclusive education implies equal and equal communication of disabled children with their normotypical peers for the purpose of full-fledged personal development and socialization.
There are several main categories of children, in relation to which it is necessary to talk about inclusive education and special learning conditions.
Disorders that require a special learning environment:
- Visual disability.
- Disability due to hearing and speech impairments.
- Disability due to impaired motor function.
- Behavioral Spectrum Disorders.
- Disorders of mental development.
- Disorders of mental development.
- Complex health disorder.
The term “inclusion” itself has a foreign origin. In almost all European languages, words with this root mean “inclusive”, “included”, “inclusion”. Our frequently traveling compatriots are familiar with this term from their holidays in hotels operating on an all-inclusive or all inclusive basis.
And just like in such hotels everything necessary for a comfortable stay is included in the ticket, so the creation of an inclusive educational environment is aimed at ensuring that students and schoolchildren with disabilities can feel comfortable in an educational institution and receive all the necessary knowledge. and skills. How to achieve this? Let’s figure it out.
Inclusive educational environment: legal aspects
In addition to the fact that equal rights for all citizens of the Russian Federation are enshrined in the Constitution, the conditions for organizing an inclusive educational environment are regulated by a number of regulatory documents. This is, first of all, the state program “Accessible Environment” [ Electronic fund of legal and regulatory documents, 2019 ].
Many points are spelled out in the “Development of Education” program [ Electronic fund of legal and regulatory documents, 2017 ]. A number of methodological recommendations of an applied nature have been developed. For example, on the organization of admission of disabled people to universities [ Electronic fund of legal and regulatory documents, 2015 ].
A complete list of laws, standards, conventions and other documents regulating the conditions of an inclusive educational environment can be found on the website of the Institute for Inclusive Education Problems [ MGPPU, 2022 ]. In principle, there you can find answers to almost all questions regarding the functioning of an inclusive educational environment in Russia. But, I think, it would not be superfluous to explain the basic principles and content of inclusion in education.
Principles of an inclusive educational environment
The basic principles on which inclusion in education is built are spelled out in basic documents and regulations. These are the principles:
- Equal rights and equal chances in education.
- The supremacy of the interests of the child.
- Tolerance, acceptance of differences, non-discrimination.
- Maximum individualization of the educational process.
- Providing the necessary support.
- Flexibility of pedagogical methods and techniques.
- Parents’ right to choose.
- Social partnership .
- Participatory management of the educational process.
- The principle of early intervention.
Let’s explain the last couple of points in more detail.
The concept of “participatory management” comes from the English participation, which translates as “participation”. In the context of the educational process, participatory management involves the widest participation of stakeholders in the management of an educational institution and the organization of its work.
These can be parents of students, public organizations, patrons, sponsors, and even high school students who are ready to share their experience with elementary school students who need help and support. This approach is the opposite of traditional administration, when everything is decided by the director and vice teacher.
And we can safely say that participatory management is the only possible way to manage an educational institution in which an inclusive educational environment has been created, because the variety of individual needs of children with disabilities is too great to be able to get by with only direct instructions from the director and head teacher, which how to do.
Now a few words about the “principle of early intervention”. In short, this means that the sooner you start to adapt children with disabilities to society, the better the results will be.
Early intervention involves a whole range of social, pedagogical, medical and psychological measures to identify and correct violations in the development of children with disabilities. As well as the constant support of such children throughout their educational “route”, which is developed individually for them.
For a more detailed understanding of the principle of early intervention, we offer the article “Early intervention technology as a comprehensive support for children with disabilities” [ E. Chumak et al., 2014 ].
Now that we have dealt with the basic principles of forming an inclusive educational environment, we can move on to the applied part and see what makes up an inclusive educational environment.
Inclusive educational environment: components
We already know that inclusion in the field of education is understood as a set of conditions that ensure equal access to education for all children, schoolchildren, adolescents, and students. And we know that in order to get an education, you need to visit an educational institution, climb the stairs to the floor where the classroom is located for classes in one or another subject, look at the blackboard where the task is written.
Or, as an alternative, sit down at the table at home, turn on the computer and listen carefully to the explanation of the teacher in Zoom. And if for a physically healthy person these are completely natural actions, a student or schoolchild with disorders of the musculoskeletal system will not get to school or university on his own, will not be able to climb the stairs, and it is often even difficult for him to sit down at the table and get up from the table.
A student with a hearing impairment will not hear the teacher’s explanations, and a blind or visually impaired student will not see the text on the board, in a computer, or in a book. And here we come to such a concept as a spatial and subject component of an inclusive educational environment. What it is? Let’s see.
Spatial and subject component of an inclusive educational environment
This is, first of all, an accessible or barrier-free architectural space of an educational institution. And it’s not just ramps for wheelchairs at the entrance to the building. Inside the building, you also need to somehow move around, because the audience can be on the second, third, and even fifth floor.
Therefore, a hot topic for educational institutions implementing inclusion are freight elevators designed to lift wheelchair users. Or, if we are talking about a kindergarten or elementary school, the location of the study rooms is exclusively on the ground floor.
In the middle and senior grades, a separate classroom is allocated for each subject, and students during the break must have time to move from the literature classroom to the chemistry classroom, from the physics classroom to the English classroom, so there is no lift or assistant who will roll the stroller along special guides to stairs, no way.
But getting to the office is not all. It is also necessary that the width of the doorway allows the wheelchair to enter a classroom or audience, and the width of the passage between the rows of tables allows you to maneuver and take your place in the row so as not to interfere with everyone else.
For the visually impaired, bright markings are needed wherever there is a chance of not seeing an obstacle, stumbling and falling. Typically, the markings are bright yellow or red lines that are applied to tables, doors, corners, railings and stairs.
In addition, rubber inserts are made at the edges of the steps so that the visually impaired can find out where the step ends and not slip on the edge. The same inserts are practiced on the way to the steps of the stairs, so as not to stumble over the edge or not to miss the moment when you need to start descending the stairs.
For the visually impaired, special furniture is also provided. For example, tables and beds with beveled edges so as not to hit the corner. And also desks with “sides” so that a pen or pencil does not fall under the table. If for an ordinary normotypical child it is not a problem to find a dropped pen under the table, for a visually impaired child it is often an impossible task .
In addition, in classrooms and auditoriums where the visually impaired study, there should be additional lighting. The total illumination of the room in this case should be at least 1000 Lux. If for some reason this is not achievable, it is necessary to provide individual lighting for each training place for the visually impaired at the level of 400-500 Lux.
The topic is discussed in more detail in the article “Features of the organization of an inclusive educational space in institutions for students, pupils with disabilities” [ D. Skryabina, Ya. Korlyakova, 2015 ].
The parameters of a barrier-free environment also include technical training aids that are necessary for a particular health disorder. So, for the blind and visually impaired, all educational material should be duplicated in Braille or presented in the format of an audiobook for self-acquaintance and assignments.
For the deaf and hard of hearing, either sign language interpretation or additional sound amplification equipment like hearing aids and other means is needed. More details can be found in the article “The use of technical means in teaching children with hearing impairments” [ knowledge, 2015 ].
Of course, the technical means are gradually being improved and modernized, but the general technical principles remain the same, so the article is relevant. But this is not all that is needed to create an inclusive educational environment.
Content and methodological component
The properties of the educational space as an inclusive environment include a special content-methodological component. This implies the filling of the educational process for children, students, schoolchildren who require special learning conditions. The usual “look at the blackboard” habit for each of us is not suitable for the blind and visually impaired. Remarks like “you should have listened carefully” are inappropriate for deaf-mutes.
And the obsessive “get out of the classroom” is absolutely inapplicable to a person in a wheelchair. And not only because children cannot be expelled in the middle of the educational process somewhere where they will be left unattended. Such a student may be glad to get up and go out, but he cannot do it purely physically.
Nevertheless, since the task of inclusion is to provide education to disabled people on an equal basis with normotypical ones, then the requirements for the level of knowledge of children with health disorders should be the same or not much lower than for everyone else.
We can only talk about the individual pace of learning, but not about the fact that some information from the school and even more so the university program can be skipped. And if a not too healthy and often ill student does not remember something from a physics course and then goes to study as a philologist, this is still half the battle.
But the future accountant, who has not learned how to draw up a quarterly report, simply will not be able to find a job and complete the main task for which inclusion is started: integration into society, a full-fledged professional career and socialization along with normotypical people.
So how can we teach disabled children on a par with normal children so that they receive the same amount of knowledge as their physically healthy peers? As a rule, almost all children with disabilities study according to an individual plan. And this is not only in the case of mental retardation and mental disorders that make it impossible to master the educational material on an equal basis with everyone else in terms of physiological indicators.
Almost every disabled person constantly needs one or another type of treatment: inpatient, outpatient, sanatorium-resort. If the specifics of the procedures are such that they need to be carried out in the morning when classes are going on, it is necessary to provide for such students the opportunity to record the material of the lesson so that they can review it later.
Considering that they will not have the opportunity to ask a question immediately after the teacher’s explanation, it is necessary to provide for such an opportunity later on an individual basis. Similarly, you should plan the writing of control and laboratory work.
If a child can go to school, but needs help to perform certain actions, parents have the right to request the help of an assistant, tutor and other specialists in psychological and pedagogical support. By the way, it is better to clarify the presence of such specialists even before a disabled child goes to school.
If there are none in the school closest to the place of residence, the district department of education is obliged to solve this problem, depending on the degree of readiness of the child for school and other factors. Either it will be another school, or an individual distance learning plan with a specific performance monitoring system.
Of course, work must be carried out in the so-called ” zone of proximal development .” This term was introduced into scientific circulation by the Russian teacher and psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). This refers to any tasks that the child has already realized, but cannot yet complete independently, but only with the help of adults [ L. Vygotsky, 1984 ]. Of course, such assistance should be provided to the child, but without “excesses” and attempts to do the task instead of the child.
In addition, it is necessary, if possible, to strive to ensure the continuity of the system of inclusive education at different levels. Thus, the level of preparation for school in kindergarten must meet the starting requirements for a first-grader in school. And the program of the university should be clearly based on the knowledge gained at school.
Ideally, continuity should always be observed, and in the traditional education system too. But, if a normotypically healthy child is able to adapt to new requirements with minimal outside help, and a physically healthy student simply goes to the library and fills in all the knowledge gaps found on his own, it can all be difficult for a disabled person.
Therefore, a smooth transition from one educational level to another, “joining” the knowledge gained at different levels and further adaptation of a disabled child is the task of adults.
Such experience has already been gained, in particular, in the transition from preschool to school inclusive education. You can get acquainted in the review “Inclusive educational environment of preschool educational institution and primary school: an integrated approach” [ Yu. Boginskaya, 2015 ].
There are developments for higher educational institutions, where an inclusive information and educational environment is considered as one of the conditions for the formation of professional competence of students with disabilities [ M. Fidarova, S. Alborova, E. Ivankova, 2020 ].
In general, the content-methodological component means the development of an individual “route” for the education and development of the child, adapted to his abilities and circumstances, the flexibility of educational methods and training formats. But in order for all this to come true, it is important to implement another fundamental component of inclusion.
Communication and organizational component
The communicative-organizational component means the personal and professional readiness of teachers to work in mixed children’s groups. This is not only your own professionalism and mastery of teaching methods.
It is also emotional intelligence , the ability to empathize and teach this to physically healthy children, to create a favorable climate in the children’s team. And also to overcome the resistance and misunderstanding on the part of the parents of normotypical children, many of whom are still wary of the fact that their children will study in the same class with children who have a deviation in mental or mental development.
In this regard, a pilot study of the interaction between teachers and specialists of an educational organization within the framework of the Inclusive Educational Environment project is very interesting [ T. Sunko, 2020 ]. Answering a question about the difficulties of working in an inclusive classroom, 49.2% of teachers named the main problem the rejection of inclusive education by parents of normotypical children. The remaining 50.8% of the teachers surveyed consider the lack of didactic materials for the implementation of the inclusive education project to be the main difficulty.
At the same time, 18.8% of teachers have an unambiguously positive attitude towards the idea of inclusive education, 68.8% perceive the idea more positively than negatively, and only 12.4% of respondents have not formed their attitude to this topic.
Be that as it may, inclusion in education is gaining momentum, and more and more institutions are implementing the project of an inclusive educational environment.
Thus, the project “Inclusive environment in a preschool educational institution” was implemented by the MAOU “Secondary school No. 2 of the city of Neman” [ M. Markvald, 2018 ].
The project “Inclusive environment in an educational organization” was implemented in MDOAU No. 197 in Orenburg [ A. Baidanova, 2020 ].
The MBOU Krasnoyarsk secondary school developed its own project of an inclusive educational environment back in 2013 [ T. Poddubnaya, 2013 ].
Among the universities in the lead is the Higher School of Economics. A large-scale project “Inclusive Higher School” has been implemented here, aimed at creating a comfortable educational environment for students with disabilities [ NRU HSE, 2017 ].
So, let’s summarize what an inclusive educational environment (components) includes:
- Spatial and subject.
- Communicative and organizational.
Only in their trinity, these components can give a decent result and the maximum possible implementation of the idea of inclusive education in action.
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