Inclusion: SCF UK's Experience in Integrated Education

Case Study - Anhui Province, China Introduction of Integrated Education for Disabled Children

1. Background - Educational Situation for Disabled Children in China
Access to school for disabled Chinese children is still very limited. There are some special schools catering for a minority of pupils and some special classes attached to primary schools also exist. The special education system has many more facilities for those with sensory impairment despite the fact that, in numerical terms, mental disability is the greater problem.

Anhui Province is a poor province in Central China coming low on all development indicators. The population is around 56 million and the 1987 estimates of the number of children with mental disabilities were 236,000 (age 0-14). Very few of these children have had any access to education. In 1987 Anhui Province had a few special schools for sensory impaired children and had experimented with special classes attached to local primary schools for some children with mental disabilities.

The project came about by the coming together of SCF and Anhui Provincial Education Commission (APEC) through a third party in Beijing. SCF had expressed interest in early childhood development (ECD), pre-schools and disability; APEC was concerned about new legislation requiring provincial education commissions to work toward 'Education for all' which included making provision for disabled children. Their own research had suggested that integration might be a way forward, reducing the need for special schools and taking their existing experiment with special classes in primary schools further forward. APEC also felt that early intervention might make work easier, and so were interested in starting in kindergartens, although the ultimate goal was the primary sector to which the law on compulsory education applied.

Very early in the project, APEC concluded that the introduction of integration could be used as a catalyst for improvement of kindergarten curricula and methodology and thus benefit all children.

During this time SCF had no staff resident in Anhui. Contact was maintained through visits by the China Programme Officer (CPO) and Field Director and through visits of APEC staff and kindergarten and local education commission staff to Hong Kong. The form of the work and the training and support needed by the pilot school was very much decided and carried out by APEC. SCF was able to introduce important new aspects into the programme, such as working with the families and involving the community.

2. Pilot Project phase - 1988 - 1992
Integrated Education (IE) began with the development of one kindergarten in a rural town and this was joined by a second kindergarten in a city in 1990. Changes were brought about in the general teaching methodology moving from a formal teaching system to one in which learning was based on play, and small group activities. Special programmes were instituted for the children with special needs which included short daily one-to-one sessions, close cooperation with the family and access to all normal kindergarten activities. As it was impossible for teachers to le arn the practical skills needed in China, (as there was no model to see), small groups of teachers and administrators spent short periods in Hong Kong working alongside teachers in the integrated kindergartens run by the Salvation Army. This proved very effective in bringing about change. In addition APEC organised and ran some training for staff and families within the province.

SCF helped finance the Hong Kong training and provided some other limited assistance. SCF also arranged some visits and backup help for the Elementary Division of APEC. There was a great need for toys and educational equipment. These have all come from the efforts of the schools using mostly natural and junk materials.

3. Scaling Up Phase - 1993 Onwards
By 1992 APEC felt that sufficient experience had been gained to justify the first stage of scaling up. It was felt that the IE programme was proving to be a benefit for all children, able to provide a good start for children with special needs and to enable integration in the primary school, and to be cheap and relatively easy to accomplish. However a system was needed that did not rely on Hong Kong and would be replicable many times so that all 1800 kindergartens in the province would eventually be integrated. To accomplish this APEC requested the help of an adviser to help them for two years through the initial scaling up period.

Programme for new kindergarten joining the project in 1993-1994

Each kindergarten received training for a principal teacher and up to two classroom teachers in June. By September the school was required to have instituted the new teaching methods based on play and small group work and have recruited up to 2 children with disabilities (preferably aged 3 to 4) into, at least, one class. The schools were instructed to take only those children with mild/moderate disabilities as it was felt that they would not have the skills to educate those with more severe disabilities at this time. Special programmes for each child and work with families were to be started immediately.

The schools were expected to explain the programme to the parents of all children in the school and establish a small committee which included families, teachers, and local leaders and resource persons. They were also required to begin training all their staff in the new methods and spread the new methods to other classrooms as soon as they felt able. By the following year the two children should move up into the next year group and more children recruited. Within 3 years, each school is expected to have transformed the teaching method throughout the school and be admitting disabled children of an appropriate age, into their classes for the youngest children each year. At this point, the local primary school should be able to continue with the children having gained a good grounding and having a support system from the family in place. Each kindergarten will liaise with their local primary school to ensure that the children make a smooth transition into primary education.

The scaling up was accomplished by using short initial training courses, monitoring and supervision visits, annual seminars and a newsletter. Most of the training has been conducted by APEC personnel and it has all been sited within kindergartens themselves. An important element has been the involvement of teachers in the training of colleagues through newsletter contributions, the holding of seminars and training sessions and the giving of demonstration lessons. Within each school the principal teacher and the few classroom teachers who have attended training courses have has the responsibility to spread the new methods throughout their own kindergarten.

Using this methodology fifteen mo re kindergartens successfully joined the programme between 1993 and 1994. They were chosen so that there would be at least one in each city and prefecture across the province which would be able to support counties within their administrative district at the next level of expansion. This has already started and during 1995 the number rose to 49. By 1997 every county will have at least one kindergarten.

4. Results
Most kindergartens have instituted the new teaching methods throughout the school, leading to much improved education for all the children. This has laid to rest any fears of families and the community about the policy, and the project kindergartens are heavily oversubscribed as ordinary families see the benefits for their children in terms of confidence development.

In terms of numbers of places it is, of course, a mere drop in the ocean. nevertheless, it looks as though the transformation of the whole sector will be possible in the not too distant future. Those children who have completed kindergarten and moved onto primary school are generally doing all right with only small changes being necessary in the primary school. This is fortunate as to transform the primary school system would be very difficult. Many primary schools are so overcrowded (70 children per class is not unusual) that introducing new less formal teaching would be difficult. With the grounding gained in the most children with mild or moderate disabilities to continue to make progress with just some preferential help from the teacher, small amounts of individual help at break times, some peer group help and continued collaboration between the school and the family.

Although the programme was initially directed at children with mental disabilities it now includes other children as the techniques needed are not dissimilar (for example, individual programmes, cooperation with the family etc.). Whether it would be possible to provide for children with severe disabilities remains a matter of concern for APEC.

This programme is now causing interest in other Chinese provinces and it is likely that the model will be adopted elsewhere.

5. Factors in the Development of Anhui Province Integrated Education Programme
The success of the project relates to the fact that the programme was suited to the Chinese situation, answered a real and pressing need and was simple and cheap to put into practice.

The Strength of Government Organisations (GO) in China
China has strong government organisations able to make decisions and carry them out. Although budgets are very low and personnel often under pressure it is nevertheless possible for Provincial Education Commissions to decide on policy, to assign staff and carry forward plans. In this sense, well planned projects which are in line with national policy have every chance of sustainability if inaugurated by government organisations with the right level of power and influence.

Working with the growing number of private institutions or government bodies with insufficient power would not have proved so fruitful. At present China has no independent NGO's. Even when these develop, it seems unlikely that they would provide such broad opportunities for development as GOs.

In other countries local NGOs have been important but in the field of education it seems likely that working through GOs may be the key. No NGO can undertake the responsibility to educate all children. Within disability work, NGOs have provided limited access to some children. This is usually selective, segregated, and high cost. If disabled children are to truly have access to educ ation then only governments can supply this.

Access to education is also a 'rights' issue. Only governments can guarantee rights. It is also on the agenda at the present time as a result of international agreements. If the 'right to education' excludes disabled children and the promises of 'education for all' are considered met without access for the disabled a great opportunity will have been lost. This could happen if governments can see no way of providing access because it is seen as a very expensive and difficult thing to achieve. SCF (and other NGOs) have a real role in placing this issue before governments, showing relatively simple and cheap ways of accomplishing it and helping with technical assistance at key points.

Project Ownership
Development work acknowledges the need for partners to 'own' the project. This has been very strongly felt within Anhui. That ownership has been clear from the start. It has been bolstered by:

Scaling Up - Clear Methodology
While still giving schools time to introduce change, the development of the second tier of kindergartens has been much faster than for the two pilot kindergartens. The experience of the pilot kindergartens had allowed time for APEC to clarify the essential elements that were needed and thus make training and ongoing support more effective. It was possible to devise a programme for the new schools which gave very clear guidelines as well as measure of independence. This meant that training time could be minimised and that schools could clearly see for themselves whether the guidelines were being followed.

Also, the two pilot schools were able to take o ver some of the training functions of the Hong Kong kindergartens but in a more effective manner as conditions and expectations were shared. Indeed, many new teachers on the programme were able to quickly assume training roles for teachers within their own schools and for other schools through contributions to the newsletter, and links with other kindergartens which were encouraged by APEC.

Early Intervention
This project testifies to the importance of early intervention. Compared with IE programmes in primary schools, everything has been easier. This is particularly striking when looking at those children who have moved onto primary school where the majority have continued to make good progress, to work alongside others, to pass the tests with minimal extra help and without major changes in the primary school.

Early intervention:

During the life of the project early intervention has assumed greater importance and schools are endeavouring to recruit all children at 3-4 years of age. This allows the child to complete 3 years at the kindergarten and be educated with her peer group.

In the development of services a policy of early intervention allows education authorities to work first of all in a sector which is often more open to change, less rigid and less controlled be examinations, detailed curricular and inflexible regulations.

School Improvement
IE can either follow school improvement or be a catalyst for school improvement, but it cannot be just grafted on to highly structured formal teaching methods. Using IE as means to change school has the advantage of avoiding the need for overt criticism or current practice at the early stages. Change can be presented as need to accommodate the new circumstances. This ensures the process of change is less threatening to all involved.

Despite much general prejudice against those with disabilities and thus some initial concern from many families of 'ordinary' children about the admission of those with special needs, the fact that education of all children is improved by the use of new methods has brought about a great change in public opinion. Children with special needs have been seen to bring about benefits for all. Discrimination and prejudice are difficult to counter but, when schools and classes with disabled children in them become the most sought after situations for children this can only help in reducing discrimination in the community. In this way school improvement, rather than propaganda, becomes a vehicle for changing attitudes.

Other Sectors
The major problem that has occurred in the programme has been the inability to cross the divide between the health and education sectors. The very different attitude towards disability which is bolstered by quite different concerns and methods of working has proved to be unassailable. This continues to be a problem.

On the other hand, there have been no inter-division problems. Co-operation from the small education sector has been good. During the life of the project, reorganisation of responsibilities in APEC has helped to avoid any such problems as the responsibility for basic education, special education and pre-schools have all come under the same director. This has helped ensure the transfer of children through the system and is enabling the gradual introduction of new regulations which support integration.

Save the Children

 


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