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Adriana Trejtnarová: Inclusive education must include everything

15.4.2016 20:30
Adriana Trejtnarová (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček)
Adriana Trejtnarová (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček)

Inclusive education? Yes, but it must include everything and naturally it must benefit the child, as that is what we are after.

We very frequently encounter the concept of inclusion and inclusive education in society today, which simply put means the education of all children in one and the same educational stream irrespective of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions. I have encountered several opinions about inclusion recently that have thrown me off balance a bit, because I didn't know whether inclusion was the right direction or the wrong one.

Because I have only read about inclusion in articles online and in the professional literature, I am currently glad that I can hear all of the opinions on this topic today. Personally speaking, I was fortunate enough to attend a nursery school where I felt at home, because I was enrolled in a class that was comprised of children who were very diverse.

When I recall my preschool years, there were non-Romani and Romani children together with me in that class, and we also had a friend with a physical disability who suffered from cerebral palsey. As a child I didn't even notice, but today I am aware what a benefit that was to me.

I recall my preschool time as one of the nicest periods of my life. I fondly remember my teachers, who would not allow us children to experience insults or taunts - on the contrary, they taught us to help each other.

I took that with me to primary school. There were non-Romani and Romani children as well as children living in children's homes enrolled there.

I also have very good memories of primary school, primarily thanks to my teacher, who treated us as one whole, who drew no distinctions between us, and who mainly taught us how to be a proper collective where everybody helps everybody else. It didn't bother me at all when my teacher put me into a group with weaker pupils - on the contrary, I was proud that I could help them and it certainly was a big benefit to them and motivator for them.

The turning point for me came when I began attending a college preparatory school. For the first time ever, I felt like I was "different" at school.

More than once I had to face down allusions and insults there just because my skin is a different color. It was only at that school that I felt "different" - not all of the educators knew how to respond either correctly or quickly to the fact that I am Romani.

It took a long time for me to blend in to the class as a collective. I currently perceive the significance of inclusion even more as a result of that experience.

I am of the opinion that if the faculty had taken just a bit of a different approach, I might have blended into the class better and faster. That's why I perceive inclusion as a very important factor for this society, because children should not be segregated into separate classes just because they have different skin colors or do not fulfill the model of an ideal child - on the contrary, they should grow up in a society where cultural and ethnic differences will be accepted and understood rather as assets and benefits for our society.

I know some opponents of inclusive education might object that I had enormous luck in the teachers I happened to get.  Why should that just be considered luck, though?

I see this aspect as the biggest problem. This is not about the luck of the draw:  I encountered teachers who were prepared for inclusive education.

The question that arises from my experiences should be:  "Are our current educators prepared for inclusive education?" I don't want to insist that inclusion is the right or the wrong direction - there are many arguments for and against it that should be taken into consideration, but I do believe that inclusive education would be correct if it were to be properly conceived and if it were to involve everything, if the dedication and know-how of the teachers could be so big that the "luck" I had in the schools could be experienced by all children.  

Adriana Trejtnarová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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