Going All Out To Integrate Children With Special Needs In Flexible Schools

By Saiful Bahri Kamaruddin
Pix Ikhwan Hashim

BANGI, Jan 27, 2016 – Children with Disabilities or Special Needs should be integrated with other children in flexible mainstream schools and universities, say educationists from Malaysia and Indonesia.

They agreed that there are many challenges in implementing flexible schools  although children with special needs are guaranteed under law to receive education as with other pupils in schools.

The consensus was reached in a forum at the 2016 6th series of the International Seminar on Special Education For South-East Asia  at the National University of Malaysia (UKM) on Jan 23 which was officiated by the Dean of the Faculty of Education Prof Dr Norazah Mohd Nordin.

Prof Norazah, in her opening speech, said facilities for children with special needs can be implemented in stages.

“We must give the same opportunity to special children and this seminar is  timely at the beginning of the year in which the Ministry of Higher Education stressed on a more flexible education for schools and universities.

“To this end, online applications for a personalised learning environment is relevant in this context. I hope all parties will focus on inclusive education with a  flexible educational approach, as the younger generation are always connected through various social media available online.

“This is in line with the Salamanca declaration  of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which expresses the right to education of every individual with special needs,” said Prof Norazah.

She added that there partnerships through seminars like this one are very much appreciated.

A UKM alumni who spoke at the forum Prof Datuk Dr Zalizan Mohd Jelas said existing schools need to do some upgrading in order to be inclusive.

“We cannot guarantee inclusive education. Special education teachers need training for inclusive education. It does not mean we mix all the pupils. It is not merely about location. Classroom teachers need support, special student need  support. Other students also need inclusive education.

“Most of the schools principals are willing to work in inclusive schools, but they  do so through trial and error. The majority cannot. Special education teachers need to engage in sheltered workshop activities organised by government agencies,” he explained.

Prof Zalizan said it is not only schools which have to provide education to children with special needs, but also the local community. .

“The business community and Sheltered Employment  are sources of vital support services, not in schools but outside for children with special needs. Without their part, the children will feel alienated upon leaving school,” he stressed.

Sheltered employment refers to segregated programmes designed to help individuals with disabilities who are not able to work in a competitive employment setting.

Dr Djadja from Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, said the Indonesian constitution guarantees all children to educational services without exception.

“All candidates, candidate teachers learn about inclusive education. We have institutes dor the study of inclusive education, and there are specialized university courses of inclusive education,” he said.

Prof Dr Muhamad Efendi from Universitas Negeri Malang told the seminar that Indonesia considers inclusive education as very important because the number of people born with disabilities is on the rise.

“Schools that implement inclusive education usually receive incentives from the government. More and more schools want to organise the integration of education for children with disabilities as they are human resources who can contribute to the country, “he explained.

This annual seminar aims to create a platform to all intellectuals, educators and academics in the field of Special Education to exchange ideas and views on improving inclusive education and special education.

Some 240 participants from three countries, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei took part in this one-day seminarukmnewsportal-eg