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This chapter presents the findings of the study arranged according to the focus group discussions. As already detailed in section 1.4, research methodology, data was obtained from the CWDs and their parents and caregivers, teachers and schools' principals from formal and special schools and some key respondents of the disability related organizations in Yangon Division. These included some representatives from the Department of Social Welfare, Department of Basic Education and Department of Myanmar Education Research Bureau (DMERB) and some respondents of NGOs and DPOs of disability and child education advocators. The study covered four formal schools and four special schools in targeted areas.
The discussion in this chapter summarizes the policy including its implementation, its opportunities and its limitation. It also addresses the benefits of the policy and the factors that have influenced policy implementation (i.e. Institutional, Environmental, community prejudices and support). The chapter closes with a discussion of the level of participation of the PWDs.
4.2 Focus group discussion
From the data of qualitative reports, a profile of disability in Myanmar from the parents' point of view was compiled. Obviously, most families who have CWDs are facing a risk in economic, social and educational dimensions. Not only did they have to worry about how to care for their children for their long-life, but they also had to protect the child from hostile attitudes of the society, from almost all educational systems by social rejection, and by the lack of knowledge about the disability issue. The research method of focus group discussion gives the chance of educational interventions for the CWDs.
Some of the parents mention that it is still difficult to create a truly inclusive environment in mainstream schools for their children's educational opportunities. A mother of a child with disability is supportive and concerned about her son. He is now 10 years of age and he became physically disabled after a serious illness at the age of three. He went to school up to grade five. He is very interested in repairing electric equipment. She wants to help him with this vocational skill. She plans to buy a wheelchair for him to support his mobility. She expected that
"Sending him in a regular school is the best for him to be educated. It can help to learn his interest when he becomes an adult. He is now attending secondary school. His teachers and other non-disabled students help him to be included in class activities."
Her last comments indicate that he does not feel excluded in his own community. His family members do not neglect him so that he has self confidence and he likes to go out of the house.
Some parents experience considerable isolation and feel unable to take their children with intellectual disability out of the house. A father of a mentally retarded child indicates his comment about educational opportunities. He wants to take his son out to allow him to take part in social activities because some experience of school has not been a positive one. He wants his son to go to school because the child can learn to read and write as an accessible education. His son wants to play and have fun since he likes to be with other non-disabled children. He hopes for all teachers to be adequately trained to meet the needs of disabled children in their classrooms. He expects transports to be made available for disabled children. This is a major barrier to access education for them. They face a lot of difficulty to get to school every day. He expresses his son's condition that
"At first my son went to the formal school but it was not flexible for him so I sent him to the special school. Now, he is attending at grade four of special schools. He was having a lot of behavioral problems due to the negative attitudes of teachers and the other students from the formal school. They discriminate and did not pay attention on his impairment. But now there was no problem in the special school."
One parent of a deaf child shares her experience about the enrollment in the formal schools in the rural area. The teachers welcome her until she mentions that her child is deaf. The school principal chases her away because the school has no teacher who can use sign language, and the child and her parents did not know about it. So she went to the local authority and told him that the school was refusing to accept children with disabilities. Deaf and blind learners face virtually total exclusion. There are no facilities, such as Braille or independent training, for students with visual disabilities, and no sign language interpreters for deaf students.
Above all, overprotection from their families and community attitudes are a problem for the PWDs. Mostly in rural areas, community members are still considering the PWDs as helpless persons and they often believe that the PWDs have no capacity to develop themselves in terms of physical, intellectual and spiritual capacities. In addition, most parents believe that the best way to treat their children with disabilities is to be protective of them and keep them at home. In this way, they attempt to provide whatever the best services they can for the children on their own.
4.3 The Effect of the Policy Environment
From the study of in-deep interview and focus group discussion, the respondents were also presented with an array of laws and bills of rights and indicated their opinion. They are knowledgeable about the promotion of accessibility to education for the CWDs. By the laws and regulations that were presented including the current constitution of 2008, the government's EFA-NAP and the Myanmar Child law 1993, the general trend of responses is the majority of teachers and key respondents. They were aware that all the above instruments promoted inclusive education for the CWDs, yet the majority of parents/caregivers were not aware. Exceptions to this trend are only observed in the analysis of responses to the UNCRPD and CRC. This indicated that there is generally a lack of the knowledge of existing laws, policies on the CWDs in Myanmar.
Furthermore, the researcher found that people at the grass-root level have little knowledge about the policy, as there is no regular involvement in it. On the other hand, for the teachers and the key respondents, there are guidelines for such policies in the implementation activities of IE. They also have, to some degree, participated in the formulation of laws, policies either directly or indirectly. However, some of the responses are absolutely irrelevant by the comment of the key respondents about the EFA-NAP. Therefore, the researcher can conclude that there is a general lack of knowledge on the existing legal and international human rights framework. This is probably a result of limited participation of all stakeholders in policy formulation, and a weakness on the part of government to disseminate as well as to raise awareness of the existing laws.
Moreover, according to initial disability survey findings about the awareness of social services for the PWDs, only 27% of the PWDs are aware of existing social services; only 24.1% of them have knowledge about the existence of government social welfare services; and only a third of those who knows about the services ever contacted the government agency. In terms of awareness of I/LNGOs who provide services for the PWDs, 14.7% know of their presence but just over 1.7% of those who knows actually contacted the I/LNG0s. Only one-fifth or 20.2% of the PWDs have knowledge about special institutions, and the less than 1.7% of them ever had contact with those special institutions.
4.4 Opportunities for PWDs in Myanmar
Myanmar attaches importance to the rehabilitation of the PWDs and has been carrying out CBR work as a nationwide project that highlights equal rights and active participation of the PWDs in the society. DSW has called for the development of the CBR that realized as
"Disability issue is concerned with the entire society with the concept of social development and building of barrier-free facilities for PWDs to actively take part in the nation-building tasks."
At present, CWDs are only supported by social rehabilitation centers and not by child and family support centers in some regions.
Child welfare reforms still not systemic in reaching CWDs
Ensuring that social support is integrated with other services and not parallel
Recognizing that IE cannot work without adequate support for parents in the home, adequate transport, accessible leisure activities and vice versa
Access to contemporary technical aids for enablement
Ongoing need to change attitudes among professionals and wider society.
This requires meeting the complex needs of the child and his/her parents and siblings will describe different strategies for enhancing social inclusion of CWDs. Recognizing that CWDs require a multi-disciplinary response to effectively remain with their families and actively participate in their communities.
In most developing countries, people with intellectual and other disabilities could be fully included in the universal design by using the twin-track approach such as regular education for the CWDs, and arranging special educational supports for them. This two-track approach is also taken into account for most developing countries with low GDP, like Myanmar. In Myanmar, the vast majority of the CWDs are not able to attend in both formal and special schools. Moreover, the special education that is legitimated as a social welfare issue does not take part under the administration of MOE. In most developing countries, governments and I/LNGOs have mostly delivered special education in separate schools as a charity approach.
The first track is IE that is investing to make education reform for improving accessibility and quality of education, but sometimes the CWDs are left behind of these services. The other track is establishing special schools through a special education system separately. Special schools have been running under the DSW as an insufficient number of schools for all CWDs. In this second track, there has been some transitioning from special schools to IE. However, the Myanmar education system for the CWDs still remains confined to the second track investment strategy.
The transformation of the first track does not reveal many benefits, however. One argument for that twin-track approach is that it is not possible to meet the needs of all CWDs in the current education system of Myanmar. In fact, trying to include the CWDs in regular classrooms is less costly than establishing special schools. IE for the CWDs is more cost-effective than other education designs in terms of short term financing costs for separated facilities, administration, teacher training, and so on, to get long-term outcomes.
This study found that Myanmar had not implemented rights-based educational approach that can identify the educational needs and strategies for students with disabilities by means of accessible school environment, well-trained teachers, financial supports, and other effective monitoring strategies. Also, most parents of the CWDs do not have an opportunity to get information and educational supports that are related to their children's disabilities. Moreover, some CWDs are often left at home unsafely when their parents are at work because there is no pre-school that accept the CWDs and they are denied the opportunity to play with other children. One parent of a student with disabilities said that all teachers love her daughter but there are some difficulties to be included in classroom activities and to interact with her classmates. That caused a wide gap between policies and legislation and the reality for the CWDs to be truly included in their communities, schools and classrooms.
Every parent is willing to see their children who can live independently, and realize their full and best potential for their useful human being power. The researcher believes that this willingness is similar to that of the other parents of non-disabled children. However, some CWDs are often excluded from the mainstream community and do not gain respect and rights of disabled people.
One of the leaders from DPOs', Mr. Nay Lin Soe, also a leader of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programs of Association for Aid & Relief-Japan and Eden Center for Disabled Children, said that the current IE policy and its functions are still a far-reaching goal at a national level. Mainly, these CBR programs support poor CWDs to go to mainstream schools, advocate parents and teachers for disability inclusive education, and renovate the schools to be accessible for students with disabilities in collaboration with the Department of basic education, Department of social welfare, local PWDs' Self-help Organizations and other relevant stakeholders. In his opinion, all GOs, I/LNGOs, DPOs and PWDs need to continue the IE journey next 90% to achieve the goal for the entire nation. The program implements the IE policy for the PWDs by following kinds of strategies;
Awareness raising and advocacy for disability inclusive education policy
Capacity building of educational officers and staffs, and parents as well
Support CWDs for their schooling
Change the schools as accessible friendly places for students with disabilities
Strengthen the collaboration among government and non-government sectors of relevant stakeholders to ensure the educational right of disabled children
To sum up, the concept of inclusive schooling for all CWDs requires within the confines of the school principals in formal schools as far as possible by addressing the issues of equity and quality simultaneously. That concept initiated with the special needs of education for CWDs that goes beyond special schools, particularly in developing countries. It takes into its fold of risk for CWDs. Accessibility is not just only a physical availability of space in schools, but it is also services of teachers and their friends. Many schools, including special schools, follow the IE policy by giving an admission to these children. However, their absence of a vision and orientation such as isolation and segregation of separated units or even though in the same class makes them feel excluded. Also, the other the disability related services in Myanmar in terms of health and community support are not yet accessible for the PWDs as most service providers and community leaders are not aware of disability as a human rights-based issue and a crosscutting development issue.
4.4.1 Religious influence
The new testament of Jesus 42 performs multitudes of healing of the crippled. For instance, it is an indicator to the Christian Community that all the people whether normal or disabled are still a reflection of God's image; thus, it should be treated the same. In the Islamic religion, disability is the God's plan to prevent that person from doing something wrong. This quotes that disability is a labeled of thread as the uncleanliness and inherited sin.
However, in the Buddhist way of thoughts, disability is not equivalent to suffering; the human condition, existence of all sentient being for that matter, is considered suffering. No one escapes from suffering regardless of status or ability, "over a series of lives reaching from the beginningless past until now there is not a single form of suffering that we have not experienced in Samsara" (Pabongka Rinpoche, 1990, p. 5). It means that all the people whether normal or disabled should be treated the same as the value of spirituality in everyone's life.
4.5 The other appropriate education designs for CWDs
IE implies that education is about learning to live and learn together and with each other. Regular schools with inclusive orientation are the most effective means of providing materials aids and appliances to facilitate teaching and learning for the CWDs. In order of analyzing priority to increase enrollment and completion rate of the CWDs in basic education level, the government should construct special schools/resource centers/rooms for the CWDs and provide instructional materials like hearing aids, spectacles, elevated shoes, crutches, wheelchairs, and other assisting tools Moreover, the government should train more skillful teachers, and give them some special motivation.
Children with mild physical disability have an access to mainstream primary education whereas persons with intellectual/mental/ vision/hearing disability have a little or no access to the mainstream education. Special private and public schools are available in major cities, while the majority of the population resides in rural areas. The availability of special schools cannot accommodate all the PWDs who require the services. A single mode of delivery of basic education is not adequate. One leader of DPO prefers integrated methods (formal institution based, home based and community based settings).
There seems to be a little improvement on formal and non-formal education included in the CBR programs, especially for children with intellectual/mental/ hearing disability where they become literate. One solution could solve all the problems. While mildly disabled children could go to mainstream schools, there is also a need for special schools to accommodate all types of children with disabilities.
Positive attitudes in community and a sense of belonging and connectedness in schools are very important for promoting the educational status of the CWDs. From the group discussion, the researcher recognizes that social and emotional impacts on learning for students with disabilities give self-awareness and developing the ability by promoting care and handling situational challenges effectively. Moreover, parenting support on education is achieved through developing good relationships between parents and teachers for providing information and promoting the supportive networks.
Moreover, special education is designed to meet the unique needs of children which result from having a disability, so that they may learn the information and skills that other children are learning. But there are a lot of challenges to deal with the CWDs because there is a lack of information channels and media portals in most rural areas. The study found that the networking and cooperation between stakeholders including I/LNGOs, GOs and DPOs in Myanmar is still weak. Additionally, the government does not offer any guidance or encouragement for the growth of networking space for stakeholders to collectively support disability issue. It is also vital that the CWDs are able to access information, education, and services as same as other children. There needs to be an increase in the development of communication methods such as sign language-supported media and television programs, given that the media has a great influence on people in society. It can advertise, promote public awareness and provide methods to share essential information and different perspectives, making it an ideal inclusion tool.
Only a few institutions are available for people with hearing and visual impairments, and physical and intellectual disabilities, and cannot provide trainings of skills and knowledge sharing for the CWDS to meet the needs of their capacities by means of educational integrating. As a result, the parents of the CWDs have a lot of difficulties to access information, services and home-based intervention programs, which causes a lack of awareness of how to assist and deal with disability-related challenges in their families and in the society.
Individualized education is a valuable design of an intervention as it provides protection and empowerment to the CWDs and their families in the society. In order to increase enrollment and completion rate for the CWDs in both formal and special schools, the concept of inclusive education means welcoming all children without discrimination. However, the CWDs who participate in the individualized education programs need to take alternate assessments. That can measure the child's progress toward reaching his/her learning progress. That design specifies the amount of time a child who participates in regular education programs and explains the rationale for the services focusing on instruction and support services. These services need to help the child to be more flexible with the school environment. School accommodations for students with disabilities or special needs refer to strategies that will help the student become successful in their community. For instance, educational rehabilitation of disabled children, such as blind, deaf and intellectually disabled children, primary level education is given with individualized educational design as special programs for over-aged children. And then they need to support for continuing their secondary level education under the EFA system in formal schools.
The individualized education program for the CWDs helps the students to reach their educational goals, depending on the CWDs' learning skills and performance levels that are important for them to learn to progress to the next level. Indeed, it is a focus on creating environments responsive to the differing developmental capacities, needs, and potentials of the CWDs that tries to fit them into normal settings. It is a supplemental support for their disabilities on special needs and promoting the CWDs' overall development in an optimal setting. It is hypothetically known to be more efficient if the mainstream education system could accommodate the person with visual/ hearing/ mild physical disabilities as an inclusive education. In the integrated education system alongside with mainstream, there seems to be a little improvement on non-formal and informal education included in the CBR programs, especially for children with intellectual/mental/hearing disability where they become literate.
However, the inclusive education is an ideal model to provide the consideration of overall inclusion in classroom practices, support for learning and staff development. The inclusive education implies that education is about learning to live and learn together and with each other. All in all, regular schools with inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society, and achieving education for all.