Inclusion in Central Java, Indonesia

Prof. Moch. Sholeh Y.A. Ichrom and Terje Magnussønn Watterdal

 

The Indonesian Ministry of National Education decided a few years ago to start preparation for pilot implementation of inclusive education in a small number of primary and lower secondary schools throughout the country. The main focus in Central Java is on including children with visual impairment. In spring 2003 Pemalang, Central Java was selected by the national, provincial and district education authorities to be one of the main pilot areas. This article explores the progress made so far in this pilot project.

Central Java is one of the most densely populated provinces in Indonesia with more than 32 million inhabitants on an area of only 34,000 square kilometres. Despite the population density, Central Java is predominately rural with an agricultural-based economy.

To ensure that the pilot implementation of inclusive education enjoys the full support of the local communities, an awareness programme was developed in co-operation with: the provincial and district education authorities; the University of Sebelas Maret in Solo; headmasters and teachers in special schools; and representatives from NGOs. In addition to introducing the education officials and other stakeholders to the vision of inclusion, we also focused on the link between inclusion, culture and religion. We identified elements of inclusion in the cultures as well as the religion of the different communities involved and built our awareness strategy on familiar values enriched by new ideas.

The response from the provincial education officials was therefore positive. However, since the districts now have the main responsibility for primary education, it was vitally important to seek their support as well. Their response was generally positive, but some education officials worried about the budget implications of inclusive education. Some headmasters and teachers were concerned about how to teach and manage children with special needs in regular classroom settings.

To address the concern of the district education officials it was agreed to find ways to co-fund the pilot implementation using national, provincial, district and project funds as well as to seek support from NGOs active in education and special needs education in the different districts. UNESCO also agreed to support some of the awareness activities with both funds and teaching materials. Furthermore the teachers in the designated pilot schools in Pemalang were offered a series of short and practical on-site upgrading courses in classroom management, teaching skills, orientation and mobility and Braille, since most of the children with special needs in the pilot schools have visual impairment. These courses were organised in close co-operation with the nearby provincial resource centre.

In 1998 the Directorate of Special Education had started to develop a provincial resource centre related to children with visual impairment in Pemalang in co-operation with Braillo Norway (a producer of Braille printing equipment and co-ordinator of education and rehabilitation programmes) and the University of Oslo. The resource centre is based in a special school for children with visual impairment. Many of the teachers from the special school participated in national and regional upgrading programmes and are now spearheading the efforts to pilot inclusive education in their community. The first children - six with visual impairment and two with learning difficulties - were enrolled in the pilot schools in July 2003.

The children and teachers in the pilot schools are supported by itinerant (travelling) teachers from the resource centre and the provincial government has made one full-time resource teacher available for each of the four pilot schools. Books in Braille and adjusted print are made available by the resource centre. Visual assessment of the children, and if necessary eye surgery for the children in the pilot schools, is performed in co-operation with Inverso Baglivo, a specialist low vision and eye health organisation.

Despite these efforts only a small minority of children with disabilities are in school. Most are still studying in special schools. However the move towards inclusive education has begun. More schools are scheduled to start pilot implementation in 2004 with strong support from the national, provincial and district governments. The efforts made by the teachers and the education officers gives us confidence that inclusive education has come to stay in Central Java, and that soon all children in the province will get a good education and be given the opportunity to develop their full potential.

Prof. Moch. Sholeh Y.A. Ichrom is based at the University of Sebelas Maret and Terje Magnussønn Watterdal is Project Manager, Braillo Norway/Directorate of Special Education. They can be contacted at:
Braillo Project Office
Komplek Depdiknas
Jl. R.S. Fatmawati
Cipete
Jakarta
Indonesia


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