Do you think secondary schools in Malta understand ‘inclusion’?

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Introduction

Inclusion is part of much larger picture than just make part of class in school. It is being included in life and plays a part using one's abilities in day to day activities as an indispensable element of the community as anyone else. Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is, being received and embraced as a member who belongs.

In the last years, the idea of inclusive education has featured in priorities regarding the education of many countries. The issue of inclusive education is dominating many discussions and educational policies. The efforts to promote inclusive education are focused on school activities and the way how they could become more inclusive.

But in his book, Developing Inclusive Teacher Education, Tony Booth and others, pose the question, whether universities are responding to inclusive education by training future teachers in their initial education, since this stage have a serious role to play in the development of inclusive practices in schools they will eventually work in. [1] 

Inclusion in secondary schools in Malta

About fifteen years ago the idea of inclusive education in Malta, particularly placing children with disability in mainstream schools, was a cradle. But in July 1995 development takes place, which led around 600 children with different types of disability or less potentiality to school to attend mainstream schools. [2] 

In September of 2002, the Ministry of Education issued a document called, 'Creating Inclusive Education' where it gives guidelines for the implementation of the National Curriculum Policy on Inclusive Education. The document gives clear guidelines how to engage in inclusive education process and the characteristics which makes school more inclusive. [3] 

But due to this document can we say that our secondary school understand 'inclusion'? On one hand we can say that today schools offer many facilities and opportunities for everyone especially for children with disability. Children who have some type of disability find our school more accessible and more easily to take part in and participate in every activity in every part of the school.

There is also the work of many Learning Support Assistants who helping students to feel that security in order to find it more easy to integrate and participate both in school activities and class.

On the other hand there are some progress that need to be taken into consideration. Today our society is becoming more conscious of the presence of many foreigners in our country. This in fact is reflected in our school with the presence of students who have an international background. In my teaching practice experience I have noticed negative attitude to foreign students especially those with different colour skin. Our schools need to create more inclusive culture in our school, in order to educate our children to accept and include everyone. Many times the students' behaviour reflects the attitude of many people in the street.

Apart from foreign students, today we are facing students with different backgrounds. It is vital today more than before that we view every student as a unique individual. In order to do that teachers must spend some oif their time, especially during school breaks to build a good relation with the children in order to know their needs and what they expect.

The Relevance of Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is something which brings many benefits to the school and the wider community. This is not simply done by doing nothing but it requires hard work and a procedure in order to attain the goals of this inclusive culture.

First of all, by inclusive education, many students display positive attitudes towards children who were vulnerable to marginalization, i.e. foreign students, children with disabilities, children categorized as having special needs, children coming from poor families. High school students in research made abroad report that their relationships with students with disabilities resulted in more positive attitudes, increased their response to the needs of others, and increased appreciation for diversity. [4] For example, students help international students who find difficulty in communicating through the country's language, students who give help for other students with some type of disability, especially when the LSA is absent. [5] 

Research studies have express positive results with respect to acceptance of students with disabilities in regular education environment. For example students with disabilities show more social gains than those in separated settings. [6] 

Inclusive education stimulates every student to participate in classroom activities. Teachers can help by creating activities according to the abilities of each child in order for all, even those who experienced difficulties in learning, to be able to participate. With participation one can include collaboration between students. From research dealing with inclusive methods by student teachers was observed that students take initiatives towards developing collaborations on the basis of the principles of inclusive education. Students seem to collaborate with school heads, teachers, other students, parents etc. In each case the collaborations aimed at increasing participation, decreasing marginalization and providing equal opportunities teaching and learning to all students. [7] 

All parents want that their children be accepted by peers, have their friends, and living regular life as other children. Inclusive setting can make this vision a reality for many children which for a reason or another feel that they are excluded in their environment. This vision helps all children to learn by being together. Children learn at their own pace and style within a nurturing learning environment.

Conclusion

Inclusive education is undoubtedly a challenging, complex and contested concept, and its manifestations in practice are many and varied. It is about contributing to an inclusive society through shaping the process by which the participation of all children and young people in education is enhanced and maximized. A characteristic common too much of the research on inclusion, is the restrictive interpretation of the term in practice. As a term, it has been most closely associated with the assimilation of pupils having special educational needs into mainstream schools. Teacher educators working alongside teachers in schools have the capacity to effect change, to help transform practices and to make a difference to children and young peoples' lives. Such an approach could ensure the sustainability of the seeds which were sown during initial teacher education.