TEACHERS OF NON-SPED MAJOR TEACHING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS: PERSPECTIVES ON INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
The main aim of this research was to examine the teachers of Non-SPED major teaching children with special needs’ perspectives on inclusive education in a regular classroom setting. Teachers’ perspectives are crucial as it determines how students with special needs are perceived and where they are placed to be educated. The study also revealed the underlying reasons which could be used in making valid and effective decision for the future of inclusive education.
In addressing the research phenomena this study subsumed to qualitative approach for data collection via semi-structured interviews. This study was conducted in three of the far flung barangay elementary schools in Alangalang I District, which are not practicing inclusion to some extent. A total of twelve teachers, four from each school were selected as the participants for this study. The head teachers of respective schools assisted in identifying potential teachers as participants for this research study, maintaining low biasness.
The four research questions focused on perspectives regarding inclusion or inclusive education; the possible problems or difficulties that the teachers encounter in teaching children with special needs in the regular classroom setting; and their suggestions to make the implementation of inclusive education successful. The findings of this current study will contribute to the Department of Education’s future project of Inclusive Education.
Key Words: inclusive education, inclusion, teachers’ perspectives, children with special needs
Inclusive education is the most recent trend in the world today. UNESCO (2013) defines inclusive education as “a process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners and can thus be understood as a key strategy to achieve education for all.” Similar to those of the other countries, recent legislation and research in the country have been aimed at understanding inclusive education in the Philippine context. This thrust is reflected on its signing of international frameworks, such as the Salamanca Statement of 1994 and on its participation in the Education for All agenda (2000). More recently, the country also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 (Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2014).
Recent legislation in the Philippines also echoes this inclusion agenda (UNESCO, 2015). The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, for example, mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) to develop a basic curriculum that is learner-centered, inclusive and developmentally appropriate (Enhanced Basic Education Act, 2013). Furthermore, the Early Years Act of 2013 also aims for the system to promote the inclusion of children with special needs (CSN) in early childhood classrooms through providing accommodations, accessible environment and mutual respect for diversity (Early Years Act of 2013).
This research study focuses on the perspectives of non-SPED major teachers handling children with special needs. This research proposes to examine barangay elementary schools teachers’ perspectives on including children with special needs in general classroom. As the Philippine government is shifting towards inclusive society, it is important to understand the views of teachers who are at the front line and key players in implementing this philosophy.
The goal of the researcher is to use the views of these educators and contribute findings to the future Project of Inclusive Education in Region VIII– the recent program-initiative of the Department of Education, Regional Office 8 in partnership with the UNICEF. Deped-08 will launch the Inclusive Learning Intervention and Strategies for Out-of-School Children and Youth, as part of the efforts to advance inclusive education in the region.
With the foregoing impressions of the writer, this study hopes that the findings will be of value to other educators as well.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Several studies and literature that are related, directly or indirectly, to this present work are perused to provide worthy bases for comparison of the phenomena of inclusive education.
Definition of Inclusive Education
Inclusion is based on IDEA’s principle of the least restrictive environment (Turnbull, et al. 2013). IDEA’s presumption in favor of inclusion declared each state must establish procedures to assure that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities… are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature of severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular education with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily (Turnbull, Turnbull, Wehmeyer ; Shogren, 2013).
Inclusion then refers to the participation of students with disabilities alongside their nondisabled peers in academic, extracurricular, and other school activities.
Inclusive Education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school (Sokal, et al. 2015). In addition to the notion that inclusion embodies the concept of all children being educated in common settings with their age-matched peers, a philosophy of inclusion is concerned with both the academic and social processes in those settings. Canadian researchers Katz, Porath, Bendu;Epp (2012) defined academic inclusion as all students having full participation in the academic experiences of the classroom, including learning experiences with peers that are not separate or parallel to those of their classmates and that are not based solely on interactions with adults. Likewise, they defined social inclusion as each child being a full and respected member of the classroom community, including feelings of belonging, of being cared for and of being a part of something larger than themselves. In Canada, legislation and policy work has mainly focused on fulfilling the rights to academic inclusion while largely remaining silent on social inclusion in school.
Objective of Inclusive Education
One of the core objectives of inclusive education is to achieve great quality education for all novices, together with those with special and diverse needs, and for the advancement of inclusive, peaceful and fair societies as stated by UN human rights in authoritative of new guidelines on the Convention Rights for People with Disability (UN, 2016). According to the CRPD chairperson, the right to inclusive education means transforming culture, policy and practice in all formal and informal educational environments to ensure education is for all learners (UN, 2016). Hence, the 166 countries that have ratified it, the Convention under their obligation under Article 24 are mandated to provide inclusive education system at all levels and life-long learning (UN, 2016).
Inclusion mandates that children with special needs should not only be physically placed in the general classrooms, but also changes to the values, attitudes, policies and practices should be made to ensure that children with special needs fully and actively participate in the class (Monsen, et al. 2014).
According to Sucuoglu, et al. (2013), demands on high standards in quality and diverse teaching have significantly increased the responsibilities of all educators such as: paper bureaucracy; adapting various enriched teaching methods, active and positive interaction with all students. Thus, teachers developed ambivalent perception towards inclusive education whereby some having very positive attitudes, some having negative perspectives and views (Monsen, et al. 2014), and while a few are unsure of teaching children with special needs in regular class (Sucuoglu, et al. 2013).
In the study of Mukhopadhyay (2014) indicates that although teachers understood the benefits of inclusive education, they did not possess a favorable attitude towards inclusion of learners with special needs in their own classes and lacked adequate knowledge and skills in teaching learners with special needs in regular classrooms. General education teachers anticipate inclusive schooling to improve social school climate; however, they expressed several concerns: declining teaching quality, having insufficient professional skills themselves, higher work load, and lack of resources. Their special education colleagues expected improved learning opportunities would result for all students, but were worried about changes in their professional role and the political realization of inclusive schooling (Hintz, et al. 2015).
On the contrary, the latest study of Deo (2017) found out that teachers are knowledgeable and have deeper understanding of inclusive education. All eight teachers were supporting inclusive education and were in favor of inclusion of students with special needs. However, majority of them had reservations due to limited resources and teachers or other personnel. This study was conducted in four different mainstream primary schools in Nausori District, Fiji, which were practicing inclusion to some extent.
Therefore, those teachers who support inclusive education have positive perceptions and tend to share great achievements. Teachers who embraced the personal responsibility and are receptive of the concept of inclusive education are most likely to accommodate and facilitate classroom learning environment via various rigorous strategies including quality and effective instruction, effective monitoring procedures of pupils progress and valuing the notion collaboration amongst key stakeholders inclusive of CSN (Ryan, 2009, cited in Monsen, et al. 2014: p 115).
Most research studies show the perceptions of teachers both in the general and special education regarding inclusion of children with special needs in the regular classroom setting. In connection to the present study, the purpose is also to examine the teachers’ perspectives on inclusive education. It can be deemed similar to the previous studies therefore, the researcher has decided to replicate and made some modifications on the selected topic. The current research will be conducted solely in the general/ regular classrooms in three barangay elementary schools where teachers have no background in special education and most of them are novice in the implementation of inclusive education.
In addition to the legislative basis for inclusion, Vygotsky’s social development theory also provides a sound foundation for a more inclusive education. Vygotsky’s well-known theory of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) refers to the distance between the actual development level achieved through independent problem-solving and the level of potential development that can be achieved with the guidance of adults and more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978). Although Vygotsky’s theory is often used to discuss assessment and instruction, it also emphasizes the relationship between the individual learner and the environment. He also stresses the importance of the more knowledgeable other (MKO), which could be the teacher or the student’s peers inside the classroom (Daniels, 2009; Bruster, 2014).
Aside from looking at the teacher’s role in a child’s learning, it is also essential to examine their impact on a child’s affective development. Erikson’s psychosocial theory supports the importance of a child’s social environment in both cognitive and affective development (Daniels, 2009; Mcleod, 2013). The theory propounds that teacher, as part of a school-age child’s social environment, play a crucial role in the latter’s overall development. Additionally, Urquhart (2009) states that a positive emotional relationship between a teacher and a learner is necessary to successful learning, regardless of the classroom placement. Building this constructive relationship, however, entails positive attitudes and beliefs from teachers. In this regard, the perspectives of teachers should be one of the priorities in the inclusion agenda.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
This research proposes to examine teachers’ perspectives on inclusive education of non-SPED majors teaching children with special needs. The ideology of inclusion is brilliant, as well as sensitive which require crystal effective direction on its implementation process. Therefore, this study will anchor on the following four guiding questions:
1. What are the regular classroom teachers’ perspectives on inclusive education?
2. What is general teachers’ knowledge on inclusion or inclusive education?
3. What possible problems or challenges do non- SPED major teachers encounter in teaching children with special needs in the regular classroom setting?
4. What suggestions or recommendations do teachers in the general education can make for the successful implementation of inclusive education?
SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS
This study examined the non-SPED major teachers’ perspectives on inclusive education in Alangalang I District. This study further obtained information regarding the general education teachers’ knowledge on inclusion, the possible problems that regular teachers encounter in teaching children with special needs in the regular classroom setting, and their suggestions to make the implementation of inclusive education successful.
This study was limited to a qualitative-phenomenological research conducted to twelve non-SPED major teachers of three far flung barangay elementary schools in Alangalang I District. A semi-structured interview was administered to the respondents who were selected through purposive sampling. Data gathered were treated or analyzed using the qualitative data analysis.
This chapter presents the research design and procedures used in conducting this study.
This qualitative research used a descriptive case study approach of Sharan Mirriam (1998) which follows the following procedures: conducting literature review, constructing a theoretical framework, identifying a research problem, crafting and sharpening research questions, and selecting the sample technique.
Population and Sample
A purposive sampling was used in determining the subjects of this study. Only twelve Non-SPED major teachers from three barangay elementary schools in Alangalang I District were considered samples.
A purposive sampling was used in determining the subjects of this study. Only twelve Non-SPED major teachers from three barangay elementary schools in Alangalang I District were considered samples such as Tabangohay Elementray School, Langit Elementary School and Tinaisan Elementary School.
Before this study was conducted, the researcher wrote to the school heads for permission. Upon approval of the request, a time frame was prepared to schedule each identified school one at a time for the gathering of data. With the use of audiotape recorder, the researcher conducted interviews through focused group discussion to teachers who are Non-SPED major from the three identified barangay elementary schools in Alangalang I District.
The researcher prepared interview questions and submitted to the research adviser in Leyte Normal University for validation. After it was validated, the researcher revised the same implementing the suggestions and comments of the expert research adviser.
The answers to interview questions of the participants were carefully transcribed and analyzed by the researcher to come-up with codes, categorization, concepts and themes of the phenomenon being investigated. The information gathered were further analyzed to formulate findings and recommendations.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The following themes were developed from the transcription analysis of the interview results which answered specific questions in the research problem.
1. Non-SPED Major Teachers’ Perspectives on Inclusive Education
A. Ideas on Inclusion or Inclusive Education
Majority of the participants in this study have an idea on the principle of inclusive education. This was reflected in the following statements of the participants during the interview which say that, “Inclusive Education means to include or accept all school age children with or without disabilities “(P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P7 & P8). Through this inclusion program, the rights of children to be educated will be attained (uttered by P6, P9, P12). Moreover, two participants were aware that inclusive education is a DEPED Program for all of out-of-school children and youth including those children with special needs.
The results revealed that non-SPED major teachers’ knowledge on inclusive education is limited. Most of the participants only think of the academic needs of children with special needs.
B. DepEd Policy on Inclusive Education
“Children with special needs’ need special attention, care and focus” (P1, P4);
“Children with special needs can’t cope up with the lessons in the regular classroom setting” (P2);
“It is not a good idea to accept children with special needs in the regular classroom” (P5);
“Children with special needs should be handled by SPED teacher with proper training on special education”(P5);
“Inclusive Education could be a problem in the regular classroom setting” (P6, P8);
“It will create conflict (P12);and
“The government should come up with additional SPED schools”(P12).
“Willingness to apply differentiated instructions/activities in order to cater the needs of all types of learners”(P7);
“Teachers found it helpful for the child with special needs but, they needed orientation and training of teachers”(P9);and
“Teachers who will handle children with special needs in the regular classroom were expecting that they will be given additional compensation to be motivated to accept the challenge” (P10).
The results also revealed that non-SPED major teachers considered inclusive education as stressors and it will create chaos on their part. The needs of children with special needs will not be fully addressed.
2. Problems or Difficulties in Inclusive Education
The following themes were made based on the analysis of the results of the interview on Non-SPED major teachers about the possible problems of difficulties that they will encounter in teaching children with special needs in the regular classroom settings. These are:
? Preparation of Non-SPED major teacher
? Learning ability or style of the child with special needs
? Behavior management
? Prioritizing the regular children over children with special needs and
? Absence of teachers’ knowledge about special education and skills in handling children with special needs.
Thus, the teachers who are non-SPED majors are not ready to handle children with special needs as implementers of inclusive education.
Based on the results and findings, non-SPED major teachers on inclusive education had opposing views about the research topic as far as its implementation is concerned due to lack of knowledge on the said program. There are some areas in the program that need to be improved such as training for non-SPED major teachers on inclusive education and providing them the skills in handling children with special needs
Suggestions from Results and Discussions
Based on the findings of this study, the following suggestions were made as suggested by the participants for the effective implementation of inclusive education:
1. Partnership of Non-SPED major teachers and Special Education teachers in a class
2. Training of Non-SPED major teachers on special education
3. Establishment of SPED Center for every regular school
4. Providing of the needed facilities and equipment
5. Hire more special education teachers with actual experiences in handling children with special needs.
6. Conducting awareness program on special education for families who have children with special needs.