INCLUSION OF STUDENTS WITH DISSABILITIES INTO MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS
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The main objective of the study will be to understand the attitudes of schoolteachers in acknowledging why students with special needs need to be included and integrated into the normal education setting and how they can teach them in their schools. Throughout history, many people have not recognized the rights of individuals with disabilities. There have been some changes in social behaviors and attitudes, which has made it possible for people to acknowledge the civil rights of the disabled people. Most schools have started admitting people with disabilities, creating education systems that make it easy for both the teachers and students to learn. In recent years, one of the reforms in most education systems is the inclusion of the students with disabilities in the education system. This has been in an attempt to improve how the learners with disabilities receive education and services. The reform has focused on placing the students with disabilities in the normal education setting, which includes the physical education class. Many scholars have written reports advocating the inclusion of students with disabilities in the mainstream schools. Some teachers have opposed the inclusion of the learners with disabilities in their classrooms, claiming that the policymakers do not know the realities of the classroom. This paper will study the inclusion of students with disabilities in the mainstream schools.
In developed countries, most people expect to be treated equally, including people with disabilities. However, most people with disabilities rely on other people for their rights, such as the right to education and health care facilities. In advocating the need for equal treatment, this paper will study how people with disabilities should be included in the normal education system. The thesis of the study, which is the inclusion of learners with disabilities in mainstream education, will be researched to discover teachers’ experiences when they try to include these students in their classes (Pather, 2011). The background of the study will discuss the benefits of inclusion and some of the challenges teachers encounter in implementing the inclusion policy. The research will then provide the methodologies that will be used in the study.
2.0 Research objectives
The main objective of the study will be to understand the attitudes of schoolteachers in acknowledging why learners with special needs need to be included and integrated into the normal education setting and how they can teach them in their schools. The study will also study the challenges that teachers, professionals, regular students, and school administrators experience when associating with the disabled students. The study will also focus on changing the understanding and attitudes of the stakeholders in accommodating the learners with disabilities in mainstream school.
The study will focus on answering some questions related to the inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream schools. The first question will focus on the significance and characteristics of the inclusive program for students with disabilities in mainstream education. The study will also aim some of the issues faced in different development stages of the inclusive program. The study will also focus on defining the core values of the inclusive program, paying attention to how teachers and schools can practice the ideas. The research will also study the challenges that teachers and students go through when dealing with students with disabilities. This will include checking whether the teachers receive adequate and sufficient support when dealing with these students.
3.0 Research questions
According to Rogers, 2003, a researcher should first make an outline that would help in defining the focus of the research before coming up with any research methodology. Doing this implies the development and identification of the research questions. This research will consider the current methodologies and literature used in preparing and settling on the research questions for the study. The following will be some of the questions that will be used during the study.
1. Do the physical education tutors have qualifications and sufficient training to help in the inclusion of learners with challenges in the mainstream classes of physical educations in high schools?
2. What are some of the experiences that physical education teachers have had in dealing with learners with disabilities? Have these experiences made teachers develop attitudes in dealing with these children?
The following are the questions that will be investigated in the research. These questions will be supplementary to the research study.
3. What are the hardships and barriers do students with disabilities and the physical education teachers encounter during the learning?
4. What are the realities that the teachers experience in having assistants to help with the needs during the physical education tutorials?
5. What are the experiences that students with disabilities in the physical education classes in mainstream secondary schools?
4.0 Background of the study
Throughout history, the rights of individuals with disabilities have been largely unrecognised. More recently, there have been some changes in social behaviours and attitudes, which has made it possible for people to acknowledge the civil rights of disabled people. Although many people have increased their inclusion, acceptance, and awareness of people with disabilities, life for these people has not been easier as they have not been accepted into society in general. Many members of society have termed people with disabilities as being evil, sick, dumb, depraved and even inhuman (Clough & Corbett, 2000). Historically, these people were perceived as sinners, or possessed by evil spirits. Their civil rights also have been taken with a low opinion. However, in the modern world, they have been increasingly included in society, with some of their rights being observed; for example, their rights to education and to health care (Cavet, 2000).
Most schools have started admitting students with disabilities, creating education systems that make it easy for the teachers to teach and the students to learn (Dyson & Gallannaugh, 2008). However, it is important to note that it has not been the case in all schools. To most people, the inclusion of students with disabilities in the physical education environment and in mainstream education is a new concept. Historically, students with disabilities were educated in special schools, which was a case of neglect and exclusion by society (Cooper & Tiknaz, 2007). These students were taken to special schools for their studies, where, in most cases, the schools were segregated by type of disability. Recently, one of the reforms introduced into most education systems was the inclusion of students with disabilities, which was an attempt to improve how they receive education and services. The reform has focused on placing students with disabilities into the normal education setting, which includes the physical education class (Farrell & Balshaw, 2002).
Many scholars have written reports advocating the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream schools. The inclusion of these students in the normal learning setting has been debated for a long time (Farrell, 2004). Some teachers have opposed the inclusion of learners with disabilities in their classrooms, claiming that the policymakers do not know the realities of the classroom setting. These teachers believe that special education personnel should be responsible for dealing with these children – even if they are included in regular classes – and that their inclusion in mainstream classrooms should be only for socialization (Forlin & Lian, 2008).
In a normal classroom, the teacher’s aid is an individual who spends more time with a disabled learner and is responsible for how the student’s instructional program is implemented. These specialist teachers spend time with the students on an itinerant basis, making the class teacher believe that they are not responsible for taking care of the student with disabilities (Gil & Da, 2010). This attitude has resulted in the special needs students’ being marginalised.
The idea of inclusion has led scholars to debate on how learners with special needs should be included in the normal setting of education. The idea of inclusion aims at removing the differences between regular education and special education and providing all students with appropriate education, regardless of their level of disability (Fuchs et al., 2002). The concept of inclusion involves creating a new education system, which would make all schools responsible for providing all learners with appropriate resources and facilities. The students would also receive an appropriate curriculum irrespective of whether or not they have disabilities.
The inclusion and integration of disabled students into a mainstream education system is a philosophical move from the normal accommodation of learners with disabilities (Gyimah, Sugden & Pearson, 2009). The normal education system treats some learners as equal, which makes it easy for the teachers to meet the needs of some students with ease, but some students are much more difficult to teach than others, because of their attitudes or learning skills, even if they are all normal. The inclusion model is argued using a broader social agenda, which claims that the policy of equality should start by making local schools accessible to all students regardless of their level of disability (Hewitt, 2005).
4.1 Benefits of inclusion
The inclusion of disabled students in the mainstream education system has many benefits, one of which is that it is consistent with the social justice notion about normalization. When a student with special needs learns in a local school, as opposed to a segregated special school, they are seen as part of the local community (Humphrey & Symes, 2011). These students can develop friendships among the normal students and learn cognitive skills and problem-solving skills in cooperative groups with their normal peers. This interaction and development would not be possible if they are taken to segregated special schools instead.
4.2 Challenges faced in implementing the inclusion model
Despite the fact that the inclusion of learners with special needs in the normal education system has some advantages, there are still some issues that have not been resolved. One of the major challenges is the changing socio-political climate. Most countries worldwide have increased the implementation of national standards (Mukherjee, Lightfoot & Sloper, 2000); they have placed more emphasis on examination results and increased the bureaucratic demands on school administrators. As a result, it is hard for the schools to implement the inclusion policy. Most schools want to be associated with students who can maintain or improve the academic excellence of the school, which makes life difficult for students who fail to give appealing results. Although most special schools are seen as the centres of academic excellence for their students, not many mainstream schools can advise their acceptance of students with special needs (Moran & Abbott, 2002). This is mainly because they fear being labelled as a dumping ground.
Another major issue affecting the implementation of the inclusion model is the resistance of teachers to the notion. The practical implementation of inclusion places added pressure on specific teachers, especially those who are likely to be involved in the inclusion. Although many teachers accept the notion philosophically, they resist the inclusion of children with serious problems, such as behavioural and emotional disorders, and intellectual disabilities (Mittler, 2000). When the students with severe behavioural and emotional disorders are included in mainstream education, many problems ensue, including the resignation of some teachers. In the inclusion process, the pre-school teachers seem more positive, which may be because they can be more optimistic when the learners are young (Marshall, Stojanovik & Ralph, 2002). In contrast, resource teachers, psychologists and principals are less optimistic. The classroom teachers are the least enthusiastic, mainly because they are the ones who spend more time with the students.
Another major problem is the lack of competence among teachers. Most teachers resist the inclusion and integration of special needs children into mainstream education because of a lack of confidence in instructional methodologies they use and in the amount and quality of the support they receive (McLaughlin & Jordan, 2005). Most teachers are not taught how to handle the special education cases. Changes in policy result in mainstream teachers being required to handle students with learning difficulties and different levels of disabilities and – in some cases – extremely challenging behaviours. A lack of the specialised skills required make the teachers feel inadequate (Loreman, Earle, Sharma & Forlin, 2007).
Related to the teachers’ feelings of inadequacy is that there has been inadequate professional development and pre-service training. Most teachers feel that they receive insufficient training and skills from in the in-service and pre-service courses to handle students with learning disabilities (Bailey, 2004). There are notable gaps between the policies given by the educational bodies and the actual teaching practice. Teachers face a lot of struggles in trying to balance accommodating the students with disabilities without affecting the normal learning of other students (Mahat, 2008).
Most teachers are not comfortable handling large class sizes, which makes the inclusion of students with special needs a hard experience for them. Special units and segregated settings offer reduced sizes of classes, which is in recognition of the high demands placed on teachers of special needs students. Teachers believe that large class sizes make it hard for them to handle all the students adequately, especially considering they are supposed to give more attention to the students with disabilities (Anderson, Klassen & Georgiou, 2007).
More recently, society in general has accepted people with disabilities in the community. The inclusion of students with disabilities in the mainstream education system is one way of practicing equality between the able and disabled students. Most schools have started admitting students with disabilities and creating education systems that make it easy for the teachers to teach and the students to learn. However, this was not the case a few years ago as students with special needs were taken to special schools; thus, discrimination was shown. In implementing the inclusion policy, school administrators and teachers should make sure that the inclusion policy does not negatively affect any member of the involved parties: teachers, normal students, and students with disabilities.
5.0 Significance of the study
There are many studies done on inclusion. However, not many researchers focus on the adoption of students with disabilities in the physical education classes. The study of the inclusion of students with needs in the physical education classes will help us learn the experiences of the teacher in teaching the learners with special needs the physical education. It will help us learn how teachers cope with the inclusion of learners with special needs in their classes. The study will also help identify the challenges that teachers face and suggest some reform measures that can be done to give the teachers a quality experience to handle all learners regardless of their level of disability. Studying how learners with disabilities are included in physical education will also help us in learning the experience of these students in physical education classes. The study will provide a triangulation effect. In this, the researcher will get the chance to explore the topic using the experiences of the students and teachers.
6.0 Research methodology
The main of this section is to describe the research methods that will be used in the research questions for the thesis. The research will consist of two phases that will be conducted at different stages. The first phase will be designed to explore and investigate the current status of how education is delivered to learners with disabilities by their teachers. The first phase will also look at the current status of physical education, which will be analyzed according to the opinion of the disabled children. The phase one results will be analyzed, with the findings being checked whether they are consistent with previous research. This will be used to study whether there is a major shortfall in the professional development and in-service training of the physical education teachers during the teaching of the disabled students. The results of the first phase of the study will be used to study whether it will be necessary and important to take action, which will initiate and design the second phase of the study.
It is important for every research to have appropriate and adequate research methods to answer the outlined questions. The following methods will be important to use for the study.
In the first phase, a literature review will be carried out to give the researcher an insight of the current trends in this field. This will include some of the problems that the students with disabilities and the physical education teachers experience when they meet in the physical education classes and mainstream schools.
• Questionnaires will be given to the current students with disabilities that will be available for the study.
• Questionnaires will also be given to physical education teachers in the available learning institutions.
• After the questionnaires, there will be semi-structured interviews that will involve the physical education teachers, especially the previously questionnaired teachers.
• There will be observations made of the physical education teachers teaching the students. This will be done during a physical education session. There will also be discussions with the teachers.
• There will be a workshop with the P.E teachers from secondary schools in the study area.
The research will include four different methodological tools; interviews, observations, questionnaires, and a workshop. These methodological tools will also include follow-up visits. The different methodologies were designed to help triangulation, which can be discussed as the use of two or more approaches to investigate a research question to increase the level of confidence in the findings. Triangulation can also be defined as a way of using different research methods in a study to get different answers to a particular research question. Triangulation helps in increasing the received knowledge, enhancing the validity of the test. There are many advantages of using triangulation in a study. For example, triangulation helps the researcher in increasing his understanding of the topic. It also increases credibility, validity, and accuracy.
There are different types of triangulation. These include investigator triangulation, multiple triangulation, theory triangulation, methodological triangulation, and data triangulation. The triangulations that will be used in this study will be method triangulation and methodological triangulation. Moreover, the method triangulation is described as the rationale for using two research methods together, the quantitative research method and qualitative research method.
The quantitative and qualitative research methods have some major strengths and weaknesses. For example, some of the major strengths of using the quantitative research method are that the collection of data can be quick, with the collected data being quantitative, precise, and numerical. On the same note, the collected data can be analyzed in a short time. The quantitative method of study can be used to study large numbers of people. The major weakness of this research method is that the categories and theories used can fail to reflect local understandings.
Some of the strengths of the qualitative research methods are that the data found is based on the understanding of the participants. The qualitative research method can be used to describe the complex phenomena. It can be used to study limited case studies in depth, providing the researcher with the description of personal experiences of the participants. The major weakness of this research method is that it might be difficult to predicate quantitative, which may make the analysis of the collected data consume a lot of time.
For the study to get accurate results, the mixed method approach will be used. This is because the mixed method gives the researcher some strengths that can be used to offset the weakness of the two research methods. Using a mixed research method will limit the weakness and strengths of the research methods if they were used alone.
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