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Thailand takes first steps on long road to inclusive mainstream education | Global deve... - 0 views

  • Cultural barriers continue to deny disabled children access to schools, but progress on inclusive education is finally gathering
  • The strict hierarchy of Thai society means the drive for inclusive education needs strong commitment from both politicians and school leaders. In the past decade, there has been significant political progress in moves to implement a system that ensures children with disabilities have access to mainstream schools. However, with cultural barriers and resistance from some headteachers, the journey towards fully inclusive education has only just begun.
  • Some headteachers Lennon spoke to were amenable to the concept of inclusive education, but didn't feel they had the resources or training to implement it effectively. Others, with decades of experience of working in special schools, felt this institutional model was more suitable.
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  • However, many headteachers in Vorapanya's study cited the Buddhist belief in the need for compassion as a reason they support inclusive education. Meanprasat private school in Bangkok, which combines western-style "child-centric" learning with a Buddhist ethos of moral ethics and regular meditation, is recognised as a national leader in integrated educational practices. In total, 130 of its 1,300 students are disabled. The school's philosophy is that children with disabilities "should have the chance to mix with society and be accepted by it". More than 5,000 teachers visit the school annually and attend workshops held to help spread good practice.
  • Nanthaporn (Nuey) Nanthamongkol, a six-year-old girl with Down's syndrome, was due to be sent to a distant boarding school before he intervened. "Without our work, Nuey would have been separated from her parents, sent to a school 80km away," says Lennon. "For kids with Down's syndrome, this is the worst possible thing you could do."
  • State schools, however, which have much less funding, have been described by Vorapanya as having "woefully insufficient resources" to implement inclusive education properly. Headteachers have complained that while schools can now access a minimum of 2,000 baht (approximately £41) funding for each disabled child, this is not enough to cover the required resources or training expenses. Another problem is that this funding can only be given if the child has been officially certified with a disability. Teachers have reported that some parents do not want this social stigma or are fearful that this certification will lead to discrimination.

    Despite the significant challenges, Lennon is optimistic. "We are making great strides," he says. "If we keep doing good, the results will surely follow."

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