Click here to download ENG, BM, and MANDARIN in PDF
Click here to download ENG, BM, and MANDARIN in PDF
The idea of a Memorandum arose as a result of a survey project on “Parents’ Perceptions and Expectations towards Inclusive Education”, conducted by Asia Community Service and Bold Association for Children with Special Needs, Penang in 2011.
The first draft was strengthened with feedback and valuable suggestions from many individuals, parents and practitioners. With the endorsement and support gained from a coalition of over 60 nationwide NGOs, this document was eventually submitted through the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) to the Minister of Education Malaysia, in April as a Memorandum in conjunction with the National Education Review 2012.
It is hoped that the circulation of this booklet will shed some light on what is the current situation and how we can help improve the education of children with special needs. It is important to understand the issues so that we can prepare to meet the challenges. The possibilities of successful inclusion are evident in many developed nations.
This publication would not have been made possible without the hardwork of many people. We wish to acknowledge the diligence of the research and drafting team, as well as the Malay and Chinese translation teams. We are grateful for all their voluntary effort and time. We also want to acknowledge the NECIC for the funding assistance towards the printing of this booklet.
Last but not least, we wish to thank the Minister of Education for his time in reading this Memorandum and trust that we can work together to realise all the recommendations suggested in the Memorandum in due time.
CEO, Asia Community Service
Vice President, NECIC
Dr.Tan Liok Ee
President, Bold Association for Children
with Special Needs, Penang
Council Committee, NECIC
MEMORANDUM TO THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION
INCLUSIVE EDUCATION AS NATIONAL POLICY FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
The Principle of Inclusive Education
Malaysia has accepted and ratified the 1994 UNESCO Salamanca Statement which calls for Education for All. This means that children with special needs are recognised as having the same rights to education as their peers. More than that, the Salamanca Statement includes the call for Inclusive Education and the Salamanca Framework for Action specifies that educational policies from national to local levels should stipulate that children with special needs or disabilities attend their neighbourhood schools. In other words, children with or without special needs should learn together, and from each other, in the same classrooms.
The two strong beliefs underlying the principle of Inclusive Education are:
- ALL children are educable although they may learn at different rates and levels, and
- ALL children will benefit from an inclusive program regardless of their differences.
Research has shown that children with special needs improve in their communication and social skills when placed in mainstream school settings, in addition to improving in other academic skills. Equally important, research has also shown that children who have classmates with special needs in their classroom grow up to be more accepting of people with different needs. Children who mentor special needs friends are likely to master their academic work better and show improved self-esteem. In short, Inclusive Education benefits ALL students, not just those with special needs.
Malaysia has also ratified the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 24 of the UN-Convention stipulates that “persons with disabilities shall not be excluded from the general education system on the basis of disabilities”. This has been enacted in Clause 28 of the Malaysian Persons with Disabilities Act 2008.
NKRA in Education
Despite Malaysia’s endorsements of these International Instruments, the implementation of Inclusive Education and provision of quality educational services for children with disabilities here is far from satisfactory.
We are very concerned that the Government Transformation Program, set up to strengthen the efficiency of the government delivery system towards a fully developed nation by the year 2020, may have adverse effects on education of children with special needs.
One of the six national key result areas (NKRAs) in education is “widening access to quality and affordable education” with emphasis on early education, literacy, high performance schools and reward incentives for school administrators. This and other NKRAs, are achievement orientated, intended to provide clear measurements for achieving high quality education. However, there are no explicit provisions for improvements in inclusive education for students with disabilities. In the nation’s rush to attain higher student and school performances, we are concerned that the education rights of the special needs population will be sidelined or overlooked.
It is pertinent to point out that at least 6% and perhaps as much as 15% of school-going children are estimated to have some form of special needs or learning disabilities. But, it is important to note that approximately 85% of children with disabilities are in the mild category; 10% are considered moderate; about 3% – 4% are estimated to be severe, while only 1% – 2% are classified as profound.
Education for All means that it is the right of every child, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, to remain in school until primary education is completed. There must be provisions for ALL children, including those with special needs or disabilities, to continue secondary education, even if it means following a specialised stream, training them in a trade, vocational skills, self-employment and/or independent living.
In response to the Minister of Education’s continuing emphasis on seeking views from the public, we wish to remind the Minister of our country’s international commitments on Inclusive Education. We offer, in this Memorandum, specific recommendations on the implementation of Inclusive Education as the way forward.
1) Clear and Committed Policy Directions
Inculcate an Inclusive Culture – Our education system should focus on building an inclusive culture in ALL schools, where diversity is embraced, respected and valued. This commitment must first be clearly and firmly espoused by the policy makers themselves who must promote this policy to school stakeholders at all levels – namely heads of schools, teachers, as well as the school administrative staff, students and their family members.
Caring as an Index – In line with this clear policy direction, the key performance index (KPI) for schools should include a “caring” index as a measure of the school’s efforts to embrace, respect and value differences among its students. The argument in support of this is that nurturing a caring attribute among students is an important component of the character building process in which the more able care for the less, working towards a truly caring and integrated society in which there is a natural co-existence of friendship and classmates rendering assistance without condescension. Such social integration nurtured within the school environment will have positive long-term effects in adulthood and contribute to the building of a truly 1Malaysia.
Incentives – Just as other KPIs/NKRAs are recognized with financial incentives and awards, “Caring Schools” which show increased enrolments of children with special needs in mainstream classes and/or make special efforts to be inclusive (e.g. with the provision of ramps, accessible toilets, etc.) should be given the same formal recognition and similar awards. In fact, we would argue that special financial assistance should be given to schools that practise inclusion as the extra money is necessary for employment of teacher aides, specialized allied health services professionals (eg speech therapists or occupational therapists), purchase of teaching resources and/or renovations to provide better access.
Class Size – Reduce class size in primary schools to not more than 25 children in each class. This has been a long-term objective of our education system and should be implemented as an important KPI that will truly take our education system to a higher level of achievement and, in the same process, provide a better foundation for Inclusive Education practices.
2) Implementation Strategies in Key Areas
a) Pre -service and In-service Teacher Training
Disability Awareness – ALL teaching staff must be trained in disability awareness and the basic fundamentals of Special Needs Education. Teachers are the key persons in implementing Inclusive Education and must be dedicated advocates of equality in education. Pre-service and in-service training must prepare teachers to provide for, and handle, the learning needs of a diverse classroom population and different learning styles.
Emphasis on Collaboration with Families – Families, particularly parents of children with special needs, are vital partners. They can share crucial information on ‘what works’ for their child with teachers, as well as carry over teaching from school to home. As parents, their inputs are necessary for designing their child’s IEP. Training must equip teachers with the necessary interpersonal and consultation skills for collaborating with families as this can help make inclusion successful in schools.
Emphasis on Inclusion – Training of all teachers should place strong emphasis on inclusion. Teachers must be trained on how to detect and meet the learning needs of students with special needs in mainstream classrooms.
Training Modules – Training modules must include some simple screening measures to detect different kinds of special needs, designing of proper Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) and lesson modification within the scope of the regular school curriculum, collaboration between teachers and with other professionals involved in supporting the child with special needs, fostering peer relations and peer support for the child with special needs in the classroom.
b) Provision for Additional Resources
SENCO - Create the post of a Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for schools with student populations above 800. The SENCO’s function is to ensure that every child with a special need in the school has an IEP and has access to other specialist resources he or she may need (such as occupational therapist, speech therapist, child psychologist). For smaller schools, one SENCO may serve a cluster of schools, performing the same function.
Teacher Aide - Allow for the employment of teacher aides and/or student support, whether full-time or part-time, to assist in the implementation of IEPs in mainstream classes and to support the inclusion of children with special needs, especially in the initial stages of adjustment to mainstream classes.
Allied Health Professional Service Provision - Allow for budgetary considerations for the employment of speech-language therapists, audiologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and / or other such professionals to provide screening measures, direct / indirect intervention and support services to teachers and students alike.
Budget - Allocate sufficient budget for additional resources for the classroom and teachers as well as budget for schools to run awareness campaigns and training on disability issues and inclusion at the school or community level.
c) Flexibility in Curriculum and Classroom Management
Flexibility - Recognise the need for flexibility in including children with special needs and allow for it as part of the inclusive process - in particular in the use of teaching and learning aids and communication devices (e.g., the use of computers or visual aids).
Modifications - Allow leeway to teachers to modify teaching methods to facilitate different learning styles as this will stimulate greater interest among other children in addition to helping those with special needs.
Child-centred - Empower teachers to adapt general curriculum guidelines to suit children with different learning styles so that different children may learn in different ways even within the same classroom. All children, not just those with special needs, will benefit from this practice.
Assessments - Wherever possible, allow for adaptations in assessments and examinations so that Special Needs children can be evaluated fairly and with due consideration of their needs. An ability achievement report, for example, is more useful than results in competitive examinations.
Reasonable Accommodation - Permit the practice of reasonable accommodation, such as the use of adaptive devices or providing extra time during formal examinations for students with special needs.
d) Interim Steps to ward a Truly InclusiveEducation System
Recognising that it will take some time to move towards a truly inclusive system, we further make the following suggestions as interim steps forward:
Acknowledge Model Schools - Adopt and acknowledge schools that are already practising inclusion successfully on their own initiative. Make these schools role models for others to emulate by providing them with extra financial aid and awards and/or additional staff.
Encourage Innovative Ideas - Have annual competitions for schools to come up with innovative ideas for mainstreaming children with special needs. Reward and give due recognition to school principals, teachers and students who create and successfully implement these innovative ideas.
Reduce Special Education Classes - Reserve special education classes for children with severe learning difficulties and increase the inclusion of special needs children in mainstream classes, thereby reducing the need for more special education classes.
Review Teachers’ Roles - Review the job descriptions of general education and special education teachers with the aim of training all teachers to work with some special needs children in mainstream classrooms.
Quality Assurance - Upgrade and constantly monitor the skills of teachers especially those who are receiving the special education incentive allowance.
Specialisation - Recognise that special education teachers have their area of specialisation and therefore administratively, teachers who are trained in educating a particular group of students (e.g., the hearing impaired) should not be assigned to students that they are not trained to teach (e.g., the visually impaired). Likewise, teachers who are trained in the education of gifted children will, understandably, be ill-prepared to teach children with learning difficulties.
Options for Choice - As more schools move towards Inclusive Education, make the option for placing their child with special needs in mainstream classrooms available to all parents. However, during the interim period, parents may still choose to place their child in special education classes if they so decide.
Consultation with Parents - Input from parents is meaningful and contributory in the process of development of educational programs for children with special needs. Family members know best and are the most influential persons in the lives of children with special needs.
Inter-Agency Network - Work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other agencies (e.g., hospitals and their specialist staff) to provide the extra support, training, resources or rehabilitation specialists where possible.
Barrier-Free Environment - Work with JKR to ensure that ALL schools comply with the Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL) 34A, which has been gazetted by all states in Malaysia since the early 1990s, to remove all physical barriers in public schools.
With the above recommendations, and in line with our commitment to International Instruments on Education, we urge the Ministry of Education to make known the Short Term and Long Term Action Plans with specific time frames and goals (e.g., 2 Year Action Plan or 5 Year Action Plan) to achieve 100% Education for All within the set time frame.