Family Involvement in Inclusive Education
Outline of an EENET project
One of EENET's main aims is to promote the sharing of information between individuals and organisations working in countries which have limited access to information and/or financial resources. Family members have a crucial role to play in the education of their children. In many countries the transformation of schools and education systems has been brought about by the parents of individual disabled children.
In some countries parents' organisations are well-established and in others they have only just begun to organise themselves. This project will facilitate the telling of a series of stories from a wide variety of cultural contexts about the way in which parents have influenced the education system to become more inclusive. The final document will provide useful reference material for individuals and organisations as they campaign for more inclusive provision for their children. The majority of EENET's contacts so far have been with parents of disabled children, however, EENET is keen to involve family members of other marginalised groups in this project. In the case of children who are displaced by conflict, orphaned by AIDS and street children, this may involve substitute families.
EENET acknowledges that inclusive education is a very new concept in many countries and that there is sometimes considerable confusion about the terminology. In some contexts the words 'special', 'integrated' and 'inclusive' are used inter-changeably. However EENET believes that inclusive education is a dynamic process which is constantly evolving according to the specific culture and context. Instead of changing the child to fit the educational system, inclusive, rather than integrated, education enables education structures, systems and methodologies to meet the needs of all children, not only a small number of so-called 'special needs' children.
The role of the family
EENET believes that education is much broader than formal schooling, and need not only take place within the four walls of a formal classroom. The home, family, and traditional and informal systems of education are essential for the educational inclusion of all children. Family members of disabled children often have a great deal to teach the so-called professionals because they have an intimate knowledge of their child and their particular impairment. Similarly the families of other marginalised groups have a great deal to 'teach' the teachers about their way of life and belief systems. Greater family and community involvement in formal education is essential to the inclusion process.
The Family Involvement Project
Stage One: Preparation
A consultant was identified in January 1999. The first task was to draw up a proforma, which consists of six key questions and a series of prompts under each question. Where possible, a facilitator would carry out an interview with the parents' group and young disabled people would take part. The proforma is only meant as a guide. It was pilotted early in 1999 and adaptations made.
Stage Two: Selection of groups and collection of stories
Introductory letters were sent to parents' groups, and practitioners who work closely with parents, primarily in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. The selection process took the following issues into account
- Representation from each major region in the world;
- A balance of local and national examples;
- Experience of campaigning for inclusive education;
- Active participation in the education process;
- A variety of educational responses – not only school-based experience;
- Most of the case studies should come from the countries of the South.
Positive responses were received from 12 groups and the proforma was then disseminated to those groups. Stories and taped interviews have now been received from South Africa, Lesotho, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Romania and Australia. Further scripts are awaited from Portugal and the UK Although efforts have been made to identify parents and family members from other marginalised groups, no stories have yet been received. Similarly there are no stories from South-East Asia or South America.
Stage Three: Editing stories
The stories are in the process of being edited and additional material is being collected about the particular context in which the parents are working. Ideally a short workshop would be held for the representatives of each organisation to help with the final editing and checking of the stories. However there are insufficient funds for this at present.
Stage Four: Publication
The stories will be published as a collection with an editorial which will identify the main themes. The main purpose of the publication will be to share the stories with parents' groups, although it will also be a useful reference document for all those involved in education. Short summaries of some of the stories will appear in EENET's newsletter "Enabling Education".
Too many connections