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The essay proposal is on the attitudes of teachers which are either positive or negative towards pupils with dyslexia, particularly at kindergartens. I choose kindergartens because my bachelor degree is on early childhood studies and I will be more familiar with this educational level and children aged at that level. Research will show whether policy of inclusive education is implemented and how this is done, in pre-primary schools in Cyprus. The existing arrangements of special education in Cyprus will be clarified by analyzing local practise to identify barriers to inclusion, and how these arrangements reflect on the teachers' attitudes.
Analysis of the English educational system is considered to be a significant research tool in order to obtain information so as to recommend ways of improvement, regarding the Cypriot educational system. The reason why the English educational system will be explored is because the United Kingdom seems to be one of the top educational destinations and the progress of my MA degree here suits my expectations. I am also interested in the way the English system is organised and regarding inclusive education, the system is well-structured and also professional development of teachers is provided. What is more, the UK policy significantly influenced the Cypriot educational policy, legislation, terminology and practice (Angelides , 2006), and there are many similarities between the two systems.
The reason I have chosen this topic is because I want to explore the implementation and development of inclusive educational system in Cyprus; Cyprus is my home country and therefore there will be the beginning of my career. Apart from teaching, which is my main area of interest I am looking forward to be engaged with the field of special and inclusive education. In the future, one of my suggestions, and at the same time ambition, is that mainstream schools should be the first choice for every child. In this way, stigmatization and categorization of children with Special education Needs (SENs) will be prevented; what happens today in Cyprus is better described as integration and not as inclusion (Angelides,2007). I find it extremely interesting to be engaged with this idea because it fulfils me with goals and ambitions. In addition to that, achieving my ambition is not the main target but also offering my knowledge and ideas to this field is equally important since improvement of the system is highly required.
The following research questions are selected and constructed so as to be the foundation of my research and at a further point, by using them, to reach to a conclusion, and apparently, answers to these questions. I have designed these questions based on the main question of this piece of writing but also on the crucial issued need to be discussed in order to have a valid conclusion at the end.
1) How does inclusive education function in pre-primary schools in Cyprus?
In this piece of paper, the educational system of Cyprus needs to be examined whether is moving towards to inclusive education. In order to have an answer for this question, special education policies and laws in Cyprus will be considered. In addition to this, comparison between the Cypriot and the English system will be an extremely special component in order to explore the topic further in a different level.
2) What are the attitudes of Cypriot teachers towards teaching children with dyslexia?
This question aims to explore the extend of positive or negative attitudes of teachers with regard to the probability of them teaching students both with and without dyslexia in the mainstream classroom, and also the factors that influence these attitudes of teachers.
3) What is the relation between the variables that influence teachers' attitudes?
This research question will also examine the factor of teacher's gender, experience in teaching students with dyslexia and years of teaching.
4) Is the Cypriot education system ready to meet the challenge of inclusive education?
Finally, when the above elements will be examined, the last question will provide an overall view if the educational system of Cyprus is ready to accept the challenge of the inclusion and abandon the term of integration.
The key words regarding the literature review chapter of this assignment are: the Education System of Cyprus, pre-primary education provision of Cyprus, integration, inclusion, Education for Children with Special Needs(SENs) dyslexia and teachers' attitudes. Some definitions will be investigated in this paragraph to introduce the topic and set the theoretical foundations. "The education system in Cyprus is centralised. The responsibility for educational policy and the organization of Greek-Cypriot schools and the schools of all the other groups lies with the Ministry of Education and Culture (formerly the Ministry of Education to 1994). Specifically the Ministry is guilty for the development of educational policy, enforcement of educational laws and the preparation of educational bills. It also prescribes the syllabus, the curricula and the textbooks used in all levels of education "(Ministry of Education and Culture 2004-2007 cited in Spinthourakis et al.,2008).
The educational system in Cyprus is consisted of four levels: Pre-primary, Primary Education, Secondary Education and Tertiary Education (Spinthourakis et al.,2008). According to Cypriot Ministry of Education and Culture, "Pre-Primary Education is compulsory for all children between 4 8/12 - 5 8/12 years old. Children are also accepted over the age of 3. This level of education aims to satisfy the children's needs for the development of a wholesome personality in an experiential environment which enables them to recognize their capabilities and enhance their self-image". The next topic to be examined is education for children with special needs (SENs) in Cyprus. Children with special needs are educated in public schools, which are equipped with suitable infrastructure. The majority of children with special educational needs are educated within mainstream schools. Special education is also provided in special units at mainstream schools. Children with severe difficulties are educated in special schools equipped with appropriate staff to provide the support needed (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2006). The educational and other needs of children in nursery schools, primary schools, special units in primary schools and in special schools are addressed through programmes for Special Education (Ministry of Education and culture, 2006).
Moreover, the distinction between the terms of 'inclusion' and 'integration' needs to be made here. According to the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE 2002: 2 cited in Angelides, 2007), '"Integration implies something done to disable people by non-disabled people according to their standards and conditions- an assimilation model". In contrast to that, Thomas (1998) illustrates that 'inclusion' refers to the placement and education of all children, in spite of their singularities and needs, in the same educational environment, whereby Powers (2002) argues that 'inclusive education' aims at recognizing and responding to the diverse needs of all children, providing to them equal educational opportunities and rights, in order to allow them to access successfully the mainstream curricula and community in general. In addition, the term 'dyslexia' is important to be stated. According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA, 1996, cited in Ott, 1993), 'dyslexia is a complex neurological condition which is constitutional in origin. The symptoms may affect many areas of learning and function and may be described as a specific difficulty in learning, spelling, and written language. One or more of these areas may be affected. Numeracy, notional skills (music), motor function and organizational skills may also be involved. However it is particularly related to mastering written language, although oral language may be affected to some degree'.
Moreover, variables which are reflected on the teachers' attitudes will be examined in this piece of writing, and will be one of the major field of my research and discussion in my dissertation. The attitudes of teachers play a vital role on how students' feelings are affected. As said by Hegarthy and Pumfrey (2000 cited in Batsiou et al., 2008: 202) 'the important role of teacher' attitudes in the success or failure of inclusion of SENs students into mainstream classrooms because they can influence the children of their class, their colleagues or the parents of their students.' The teacher's gender and experience, as variables, in teaching students with dyslexia are the most important factors that influence the teachers' attitudes. As Avramidis et al., (2000 cited in Batsiou et al., 2008) state, teachers who had a high level of special education training and practice with inclusion, show significantly more positive attitudes towards inclusion than those with no special education training (Whinnery et al., 1991 cited in Batsiou et al., 2008). Another factor that influences the teachers' attitudes is their age and their previous experience. according to my experience in Cyprus, and as Batsiou et el. (2008) claim there is a big number of teachers who believe that it is not their own responsibility to teach children with SENs and that these children should be educated in special schools. These attitudes will be investigated largely in order to have a clear view on the current situation and furthermore how this situation could be possibly improved.
In addition, the policy documents from the Cypriot Ministry of Education and Culture will be a part of the literature review chapter. First of all, the research will be about the procedure which is needed to be followed in order to become an early childhood teacher in Cyprus and additionally a special teacher; the indispensable requirements, the teaching background, the status and so on. This information will be presented in my piece of writing taken from governmental sources, for example online information and relevant articles. In case of coming across articles or policies which are in Greek language and necessary to be included I will translate the information. This might happen with legislation documents which will be the foundation for my research because as a researcher is important to have full knowledge of the topic that is being investigated. For example, according to the online Ministry of Education legislation documents (undated), there are the duties and qualifications of a pre-primary education principal some of the duties are the coordination and planning of the everyday school life and some of the qualifications are university degree or equivalent qualification or qualification in the educational sector and teaching service of at least fifteen years. Education Policies are a significant field which will be one of my main tools when researching and elaborating on my dissertation. Critically analyzing governmental policies and documents will also be significant because there will be a clearer view on how inclusive education develops in Cyprus. Trowler (2003:95) defines what education policy is: "a specification of principles and actions, related to educational issues, which are followed or which should be followed and which are designed to bring about desired goals".
The paradigm framework of my assignment will be interpretive. "The interpretive paradigmâ€¦ is characterized by the concern for the individual. â€¦the central endeavour in the context of the interpretive paradigm is to understand the subjective world of human experience. To retain the integrity of the phenomena being investigated efforts are made to get inside the person and to understand from within" (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2007: 21). The philosophical approach of my dissertation will be interpretive because as a researcher I will focus more on the individual and on subjectivity of the situation rather than objectivity. The research philosophy is all about views and opinions; consequently the philosophical approach is interpretive. 'Subjectivity means that the world becomes real through our contact with it and acquires meaning through our interpretations of that contact. Truth, then, is a composite of realities, and access to truth is a problem of access to human subjectivity. This perspective guides the qualitative researcher in nursing to the subject matter of lived experiences, which are the original contacts with a world, and of the processes and content of interpretation...' (Boyd Co, 1993). Since the paradigm framework is interpretive the methodology will be qualitative because as Blumer (1969 in Cohen et al., 2007) highlights, within the interpretive approach "people are deliberate and creative in their actions, they act intentionally and make meanings in and through their activities". According to this statement, the methodology is indeed qualitative because as a researcher I will focus on the people's opinions rather than the numeric aspect of the situation like counting and comparing the teachers with negative attitudes, for example.
The two methods are going to be used are: interviews and observations. I guess that these are the most appropriate methods for this particular research because firstly through the method of interviews I will take into consideration the opinions from people who have a strong view on this particular topic because they are experts on the subject. Also, they are considered to be practitioners with experience. The method of the observation will clearly examine how the teachers react in their classroom despite their words in the interview. The methods of interviews and observation are discussed in detail below.
The major research method is to interview some important people in order to go in depth regarding the situation and examine what they believe. Their views and opinions might meet my findings or contradict to them. This is a qualitative research method in which the researcher chooses a direct way to investigate the issue by extracting from the interviewers their beliefs and ideology. The type of the interviews will be semi-structured interviews. "With semi-structured interviews we are dealing with a dimension of greater or less structure,â€¦, interviewers have their shopping list of topics and want to get responses to them, but as a matter of tactics they have greater freedom in the sequencing of questions, in their exact wording, and in the amount of time and attention given to different topics" (Robson, 1993 p.237). Taking into consideration the previous statement, in my research, due to the fact that the topic is all about opinions, semi-structured interviews are appropriate for my research. I would like to feel, as an interviewer, that I have the freedom of choosing the right questions at the correct point but also elaborating on an issue that might draw my attention. I would like to have the freedom regarding the sequencing of the questions or the expansion on some and so on. Additionally, as an interviewer I will be allowed to ask extra questions, apart from the key questions, in case the interviewee does not respond to something I really need to know.
What is more, the other major research method will be used is observation According to Moyles (2002:396 cited in Cohen et al., 2007) 'observational data are sensitive to contexts and demonstrate strong ecological validity'. Observation can be of facts, such as the number of books in classroom, the number of students in a class and it can also concentrate on events as they take place in a classroom, how the teachers react with children in the classroom (Cohen et al., 2007). The choice of observation as a second tool for my research is very significant, because as Robson claims (2001:396 cited in Cohen et al., 2007), what people do may differ from what they say they do, and observation provides a reality check; observation also enables a researcher to look afresh at everyday behaviour that otherwise might be taken for granted, expected or go unnoticed'.
In order to collect my data I intend to interview four people; two teachers working at public and two from private kindergartens, in order to have a clear view, and also compare their views, on how they react and their attitudes towards children with dyslexia. Observation method will be applied in four different kindergartens, two private and two public. The sample will be 80 children in four kindergartens in Nicosia between the ages of 4 and 6. It is worth noting that the sample in this research for interviews will be rather small, in order to emphasize on the opinions and the knowledge of each kindergarten teacher.
The basic research tool is the interview schedule (see appendix) which will include the main and the prompt questions to the interviewees. The way the questions are constructed is based on the main research questions which are stated in the Introduction chapter. Therefore, the interview questions are designed and derived from the key research questions of the whole research. As Tuckman (1972 in Cohen et al., 2007 p. 356) highlights "the first step in constructing interview questions is to specify your variables by name. Your variables are what you are trying to measure. They tell you where to begin", so the interview schedule can be the key to begin with. There will be, I guess, some interview questions which will differentiate, at some point, according to the person interviewed. The interviews will be in the Greek language in order for the interviewees to feel free to express themselves and it will be more convenient to answer and give full answers to the questions in their mother tongue.
"The great tension in data analysis is between maintaining a sense of the holism of the interview and the tendency for analysis to atomize and fragment the data-to separate them into constituent elementsâ€¦" (Cohen et al., 2007 p. 368). Cohen et al. (2007) mention the stages the researcher should follow when analysing the interviews. Firstly, the researcher generates the natural units of meaning, then classifies and categorizes them. Additionally, the researcher structures the narratives to describe the interview answers and then there is the interpretation of data. These are the stages I should follow in order to analyse the interview data. I intend to use a digital recorder and also to take notes during the interviews. What is more, since the interviews will be in the Greek language I will have to translate everything in English. I assume that the transcription of the interviews will be one of the obstacles I will have to encounter while researching and analysing data. In relation to this, I would consider it as a challenge. Once I will have the interview data I will start translating in order not to waste time afterwards when I will have to start writing my dissertation.
The ethical issues of a research is a major field to discuss since it includes sensitive issues like anonymity, personal cases or even children's problems sometimes; therefore is a topic which needs special attention. Regarding my research I will firstly inform the interviewees before the interview about the topic of my research, the aim of it and ask them if they want to share their opinions with me. Furthermore, there is the issue of anonymity; when presenting the data derived from the interviews, the names or any personal information of the interviewees will not be referred apart from their titles. I will be also using directed speech by stating the words of the participants which is something that makes the research more vivid and reliable, in my point of view. Since all the participants agree to help for the good for research and investigation I will then send a letter to each one of them to thank them for their cooperation and how helpful the interview was for my research.
The possible outcome of my research will be that special and inclusive educational system in Cyprus needs to improve and that it lacks quality. That is because according to my experiences as a student in my country for many years, the system lacks the professional development that teachers must have. Also the format of the system needs to be organized in terms of focusing on the problems the school has to face. In my point of view, the education context in Cyprus needs essential changes; the research will mainly show the current situation which might reflect on my personal experience. teachers should adopt more positive attitudes towards teaching children with dyslexia and that is something I noticed when I was a younger students myself; some teachers did not have the same attitude to all the students. I assume that the data analysis will demonstrate the truth behind these personal experiences because at that time I did not have the adequate knowledge to realize everything. Also, the level of knowledge today- teachers have, I guess will not be at a satisfactory level and that is due to the Cypriot system which hires its teachers at a rather old age; people who might not have the willingness to learn and expand their knowledge on something new.