Czech research finds teachers support educating all children together
Research performed as part of a project called "Systemic Support for Inclusive Education in the Czech Republic" has found that teachers are inclined towards educating children with disabilities together with healthy children. However, they condition that agreement on receiving more support for their work.
The sample of 4 000 respondents, more than 1 200 of whom were school directors, found enormous differences between the positions taken by educators in mainstream schools and those in the "special schools". Project director Jan Michalík reported the results at a press conference today.
The research was performed in April and May of this year, and its authors say it is the first comprehensive research ever undertaken on teachers' positions on this topic. "Generally, educators are not opposed to receiving children with medical conditions or disabilities in their classrooms, and to a certain degree they are also open to receiving socially disadvantaged children. However, they condition the reception of such children on receiving more support, which they expect and also receive," Michalík said.
The attitudes and requirements of mainstream teachers, however, frequently clash with those of their special school colleagues. "Most special educators are of the opinion that it is better for pupils with physical disabilities to be educated in the special schools," Michalík said.
Lenka Felcmanová of the Czech Professional Society for Inclusive Education emphasized that the authors of the research were very pleasantly surprised by teachers' positions on the education of children diagnosed with "mild mental disability". "The opinion predominates that schools are prepared to receive [children with 'mild mental disability']. A positive attitude also predominates when it comes to children with autism spectrum disorders," she said.
With respect to children with "mild mental disability", 53.5 % of mainstream school respondents said their school is prepared to educate such children. Only 16.8 % of respondents categorically rejected the notion that their school is prepared.
For the teachers, however, more aid is essential to meeting this challenge. They are asking for methodological support from school management, for more teaching assistants to be assigned in a predictable and more stable way than being approved annually, and for aid in finding ways to effectively collaborate with parents.
School conditions for educating children who need various forms of support in order to participate in mainstream instruction should be improved by an amendment to the Schools Act that passed in the spring. According to that legislation, all children are entitled to the provision of support measures according to their needs, free of charge.
The inclusive measures contained in that legislation will take effect as of September 2016. Approval of the new Schools Act should, according to the Education Ministry, mean additional demands on the state budget costing billions of Czech crowns in 2017 and CZK 1.5 billion [EUR 55 million] one year after that. Those figures were presented in the Action Plan for Inclusive Education 2016-2018, which the ministry published at the beginning of August on its website.
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