Education Students Disabilities
2.1 The role played by teacher’s attitudes towards education of students with disabilities in the development of inclusive education.
It is a well known fact that attitude of teachers affect the atmosphere of learning and influence whether students with limited abilities receive equal educational chances. This can be shown by looking at situations in different parts of the world.
In Ghana for instance, the idea of education that is inclusive is aligned with the policy of increasing access, participation and retention of all students of school going age in education. Challenges exist in areas of access, quality education and retention especially for students with disabilities.
This is attributed to lack of professional activities of development for teachers, limited resources and ineffective monitoring system provided to schools. Negative attitude and prejudice is the most critical of all barriers to free universal education especially for disabled students. Interestingly, some teachers still name the curses from gods as the cause of disabilities. (Agbenyega 2005)
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Beliefs about ethnicity, disability, concerns, ethnicity and attitude of teachers influence practice of all inclusive education, educational materials’ quality and instructions received by students. Many regular education teachers feel unprepared and scared to work with disabled learners and display anger, frustration and negative attitude towards education. They also believe it lowers academic standards. (Education Act, 1996)
Teachers’ beliefs about inclusion suggest that they do not like teaching disabled students especially those who have sensory impairments as in regular classes. They prefer them being educated in special schools. Their defense is that with usual students too much time is not wasted in support and guidance. They are yet come to terms with the belief that mute and deaf students can receive education in regular schools.
Teachers also believe that including disabled results in incompletion of syllabuses as they limit the amount of work that can be done in a term. They further believe that including disabled in regular classes affects the performance of their fellow students without disabilities. On this they claim that there must be consideration on placement of students with disabilities into regular schools as their placement disturbs academic performance and emotions and of other students who are not disabled. (Smith and Luckasson 1995)
Teachers overwhelmingly believe that inclusive education is impossible unless their needs for specialist resources are addressed. Overall belief is that without sufficient support and resources, inclusive education is not possible and is doomed. The beliefs, negative attitude and concerns expressed by teachers may be explained due to lack of professional preparedness, available resources, sufficient orientation and specialist assistance. Initial professional knowledge and further training, human and material resources enhance teachers’ attitudes positively and affect their willingness make inclusion work (UNESCO 1994)
2.2 Teachers’ attitudes towards education of students with disabilities. A historical review.
Estimates of global populations indicate that more children with disabilities live in developing third world countries than in industrialized countries. It has been suggested that integration in developing countries can be facilitated much more easily and successfully than in North America and Western European countries because there disabled students are already in the mainstream unlike in countries with a dual system of regular and special education.
Recognizing that schools in developing countries have untrained teachers, large class sizes, transportation problems, lack of resources and facilities, the policy makers should consider the regular classroom as the mainstream model in facilitating inclusive education in poor countries.(UNESCO 1997, 1999)
Educational researchers have historically taken varied positions which are varied regarding integration or inclusion. Those who support the programmatic model point to the academic and social gains of the students with disability as well as acceptance of diversity among fellow students and community members as benefits of inclusion. Opponents note concerns about lack of training, personnel and administrative support and the uncertainty of academic and social gains through adopting such models (Gartner, 1995; Whitaker, 2004).
Research that has been carried out in most regions of the world on teachers mirrors the political agenda of these countries in focusing attention on the exclusion of children from educational opportunities (UNESCO 1994).
Some countries have enacted legislation pertaining to integration of disabled students while some are just beginning the process of implementing these programs and policies. In overall, research seems to support the notion of a general culture of teaching in that teachers’ attitudes towards students with disabilities are consistent and similar irrespective of the different national cultures in which teaching takes place. A cross cultural study conducted on teachers’ attitudes in Haiti and the USA revealed that teachers had similar attitudes towards inclusion. (Thematic Group 9, 1996).
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Special Education in the United States has a long history that reflects many changes in attitudes towards disabled people. Special education was a established in the United States in the 1800’s with students who had demonstrated disabilities such as deafness, blindness, crippling conditions as well as idiotic and feeble-mindedness being taught in institutions. Many diverse groups have attributed this change to including parents, psychologists, educators, physicians, clergy, researchers and the disabled. (Smith and Luckkason, 1995)
2.2.1. Shaping the development curve: mainstreaming-integration and inclusion
The right of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment is solidly rooted in the provisions of the United States constitution. Particularly, the guarantee of equal protection under the law granted to all citizens P.L.94-142 clearly required states to ensure that children with disabilities be educated with children who were not disabled and that other educational placements be considered only when the nature of the disability was such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services could not be achieved satisfactorily. (.http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/1994/inclusion.htm)
Disabled students are being included at every level of the education system as a result of efforts by all of those concerned about them, parents, advocates, teachers and administrators. The effect of inclusive education is being increasingly being evaluated by including children with disabilities in assessments of school performance. (Barlett and McLeod 1998)
Much has been learned about the strategies that make inclusion work from the experience of others. School staff that focus on changes in the school as a whole-curricular, instructional strategies, instructional strategies and use of resources have been successful when given time for training, collaborative planning and opportunities to celebrate their achievements. (.http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/1994/inclusion.htm)
Disabled students require extra supports facilitated through personal assistance, class assistive technologies and related services in order to receive an appropriate education. Planning for studies should include the scheduling of supports at appropriate times in order for supports to be able to complement activities in classroom. Students who need assistance later in life benefit greatly from learning management support services early in life. (Marches 1998)
The fact that students with disabilities are included in some schools is all the more remarkable given the vast numbers of barriers that exist from the federal government going down. In addition to the barriers faced by most students with disabilities minority students with disabilities face even greater barriers to inclusion. Of all the barriers to inclusion, the single greatest factor seems to be the system of financing special education. (.http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/1994/inclusion.htm)
The basic concept of inclusion and integration states that principles of equity, discrimination, social justice and human rights make it compulsory that students with special needs and disabilities should enjoy the same privileges as all other students in a regular school environment and to a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum (Knight 1999).
It is believed that integration in the mainstream enables students with disabilities to benefit from the stimulation of mixing with relatively more able students and having the opportunity to observe higher models of social and academic behavior (Elkins 1998).
The move towards integration began tentatively in a few countries as long ago as the late 1960s and early 1970s, but the trend became much more vigorous on an international scale in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. A major factor influencing the rapid worldwide movement towards inclusion was the promulgation of the Salamanca statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. This statement recommends among others, that all students with special needs should have full access to regular schools and be taught in schools using predominantly adaptable and child centered pedagogy. (UNESCO, 1994)
For integration and inclusion to be successful, one clear condition is that teaching methods and curricula will need to change in order to accommodate the diversity of students to be included in the average classroom. The reforms proposed by most education commissions certainly suggest that all students would benefit from more student centered approaches in teaching and much greater flexibility in curriculum planning. This will certainly make it more feasible for students with special needs to receive an education geared to their abilities. (Ainscow, 1997)
2.2.2. Attitudes of regular school teachers’ vis-à-vis of special school teachers.
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Inclusion of students with disabilities in the regular classroom has been met with a lot of resistance from regular education teachers who would be responsible for educating special needs students. This is because they lack in-service training to increase their skills. In-service presentations are most effective in improving attitudes. Regular classroom teachers are usually stereotypic and negative. (Befring, 1997)
Regular school teachers believe that students with disabilities require special needs which cannot be provided in inclusive based regular classroom. They also believe that their professional knowledge and skills are inadequate to effectively teach students with disabilities in regular schools. (Sharma, 1999)
Special school teachers usually have a positive attitude towards students with disabilities. This is because they are usually trained before service on how to handle students with disabilities. Their positive attitude about including and teaching students with disabilities in general education classroom is related to the levels of special education training and experience in working with students with disabilities. (Forlin and Hattie, 1996)
2.3 Teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education of students with disabilities at different school levels.
2.3.1. Pre school teachers’ attitudes and primary teachers’ attitude.
Pre School teachers’ have negative attitudes towards children with disabilities. A lot of children who are emotionally disturbed possess deficient long-standing patterns of disruptive and deficient behavior. These children are particularly upsetting to teachers because they challenge the teachers’ role and threaten the order and composure of the classroom. Some of these children exhibit the feelings needed to get what they want that is manipulate others. These children are often able to identify weaknesses in the teacher and exploit them. (Carey, 1997)
Majority of primary school teachers both female and male have negative attitudes towards the inclusion of students with abilities in regular classes. Children taught by teachers who show highly positive attitudes have significantly higher levels of classroom satisfaction and marginally lower levels of classroom friction than children taught by teachers with less positive attitudes.
Primary school teachers are usually worried about the well being of students with special needs in the general education. It is usually hard for them to ensure that special children do not lose out in both academics and related skills as compared to other children in the class. (Carey, 1997)
2.3.2 Education administrators
Demographic factors, training and experience does not have a statistically significant effect on administration attitudes towards inclusion. Administration programs that are good prepare administrators with stronger, more positive attitudes toward including students with disabilities. School counselors can take the lead in assessing school climate in relation to students with disabilities initiating interventions or advocating for change when appropriate. (Wilczenski, 1992)
Some school administrators might possess slightly negative attitudes toward students with disabilities. The attitudes of school counselors are similar to if not more positive than those of other school personnel. Principals who have completed more training both (pre-service and in service) related to inclusion and special education have positive attitudes towards students with disabilities.
It is claimed that the understanding of administrators on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is very limited and they have not taken any measure to ensure compliance to it. Negative attitudes have been indicated to be of the more significant barriers to successful integration of students with disabilities. (Wilczenski, 1992)
2.3.3. Secondary schools teachers’ attitudes
These teachers have more positive attitudes compared to primary school teachers. Teachers’ expectations and beliefs are easier to change than their behaviors and emotions. High school teachers also have positive attitudes towards the use of the software because the software has the potential to improve student learning, increase student engagement, provide important study skills and improve student motivation through the novelty of using computers is social studies instruction. High school teachers cooperate more with each other when it comes to provision of assistance regarding disabled students. (Schumacher et al, 1997)
Some people argue that in primary school inclusion develops well only for serious problems to emerge at the secondary level. These problems could be from the increase in subject specialization which makes it hard for inclusion to sail smoothly. This problem is made worse by the fact that the gap between special students and the rest increase with age.
Secondary schools usually use the streaming model where students are grouped depending on their level of grasping knowledge. It is also difficult to make curriculum adaptations for heterogeneous students because secondary education is characterized by an excessively academic curriculum for a homogenous group of students. (Smith, D. & Luckasson, R. 1995).
2.4 Influential factors of teachers attitudes
2.4.1 Student related factors
One of the most important factors affecting teachers’ attitudes towards integration or inclusion is the type and severity of disabilities. Research revealed that irrespective of teaching experience, severity of disability shows an inverse relationship with positive attitudes such that as the perception of severity increase, teachers positive attitude decrease. (Forlin, et al 1996).
A study done in fourteen nations discovered that teachers favor disabilities of certain types to be included in the regular school setting. Teachers are more disposed to accept students with mild disabilities than students with more severe disabilities particularly students with social maladjustments and emotional disturbance, due to a lack of training and support and large class sizes. (Leyser and Tapperndirf, 2001).
2.4.2 Teacher-related factors
With regards to gender, reports showed that male teachers’ attitudes towards integration are more negative than female teachers. Other studies that examined teachers experience noted that teachers’ acceptance of integration is related to previous experience with children with disabilities. (Giangreco, 1997)
Overall teaches’ contact and interactions with people with disabilities promote positive attitudes towards integration. Teachers’ with a higher education level are also more negative towards integration. The opposite is true in some cases. Teachers’ attitudes also appear to vary based on integration in-service training. The study reported positive teacher attitudes after in service training, while other studies found that staff development failed to improve teachers’ attitudes. (Stoler 1992)
2.4.3 Education environment-related factors
a) Administrative and policy factors
Factors related to administrative support have been linked to teachers’ commitment to integration. Teachers’ consider the presence of organizational support and resources as critical in forming positive attitudes towards integration. An additional component of positive attitude is related to class size. General educators report that reducing class size to 20 students would facilitate their integration effort (Pollard and Rojewski, 1993)
b) Support factors
Top-down educational initiatives can be rendered ineffective if the program is interrupted at the principle level or the teacher level. The attitude of special educators is determined by general educators. Furthermore most principals are critical of policy changes and their support of inclusion is viewed by teachers as being motivated by cost savings opportunities. (Whitaker 2004)
If a country or state has policy friendly to students with disabilities then teachers are likely to have a positive attitude towards inclusive education. For example, the Zimbabwe education Act 1996, the Disabled Person Act 1996 and various Ministry of Education circulars (Education, Secretary’s Policy Circular No P36, 1990) require that all students, regardless of race, religion, gender, creed and disability, have access to basic or primary education. (Education Act, 1996).
c) Other related factors
Factors external to the school that affect the working conditions of teachers such as financial rewards, status in society and professional expectations have also been found to influence the teachers’ motivation and dedication. The grade level taught is such an external factor found that high school teachers displayed more positive attitudes towards integration than elementary school. Their results also showed there were more positive attitudes towards integration in high school teachers than in primary school. (Leyser et al 1994)
Financial rewards; given that teachers spend up to fifty percent of their time providing instruction to individual students, it is imperative that they receive adequate and appropriate financial and professional development to ensure they are able to work effectively with students with special needs.
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