Siti is the 10th and final participating teacher in the #TeacherTuesday campaign. She works in a school supported by Save the Children in Indonesia, teaching a class with many children with disabilities. This week’s focus on disability and education echoes the theme of 2014 Global Action Week, organized by the Global Campaign for Education.
Siti works in a school of 672 students, of whom 44 have disabilities. She teaches 4th, 5th and 6th grades.
“I didn’t want to be a teacher at the start, but one day in 2001 I met with street children who had disabilities – they had hearing barriers – which made me really eager to learn about disabilities so I took the master’s at university about special needs education,” Siti said. “I became a teacher in 2005 and have been teaching ever since”.
“Mostly I teach in one classroom, with all children together, but sometimes, when some children need to be taught separately, we break out into stimulation groups, which can be used for children with special conditions. Some need remedial lessons, for example. Some have tantrums.”
Teaching children with disabilities can be hard. “There’s an imbalance between the students and teachers in the school so the burden on the teachers is huge. The number of children with very challenging disabilities in the school is very high.”
To meet the needs of these children, Siti uses a few key teaching methods. “I design the class in the shape of U and I stand in the middle in order to give all students attention in the classroom.”
“In second grade there are Down’s syndrome students who have good achievements in dancing and singing. I always try to increase their self-confidence so that the other students can see them as part of their group.”
The 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all, showed that classroom assessments can help teachers identify students who are struggling to learn, diagnose their learning difficulties and choose strategies to support them.
“This is my most useful teaching aid,” Siti said. “I have a tool for students so that I can monitor their progress from the beginning until the end of the semester. We look at each of the names of the children and what they have achieved. We then decide what each student will achieve in each subject in a year, so that each is reviewed at the end of each semester.”
Siti learned these teaching methods during her master’s degree in special education needs. She also receives ongoing training which is “independently organized by the school. It is training given by friends who have experience, a sort of network of other teachers. It’s very informal.”
While there is some training supported by the government, Siti explains, there is no systematic training in how to teach children with disabilities at the district level. As in many countries around the world, the result is that many teachers have no training at all in how to ensure children with disabilities are receiving the support they need.
Teachers urgently need training if they are to be able to help children break down the barriers caused by disadvantages such as disabilities. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, for example, provides specialized training in teaching children with disabilities, and now has a network of 539 schools where children with disabilities are taught alongside their peers in an inclusive environment.
Governments should also hire more teachers with disabilities, who can better understand the needs of the children in their classroom. Mozambique, for instance, has been running training for visually impaired primary school teachers for more than 10 years. Communities have become familiar with their children being taught by visually impaired teachers, resulting in a positive change of attitude and helping create a more welcoming environment for teachers and students with disabilities.
“Things are improving in some areas – such as West Java,” Siti said, “but in general a very small proportion of children with disabilities are going to school.” The 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report shows this is the case in many countries. In 14 of 15 low and middle income countries, people of working age with disabilities were about one-third less likely to have completed primary school.
“In my school there is no drop-out,” Siti said, “but in general there is no accurate data on how many children are dropping out and how many cannot access school because of their disability.”
Concrete data on the true scale and range of disabilities is lacking worldwide. As a result, the scale of disabilities is often underreported, and the needs of children affected by impairments are left unaddressed in many education plans.
“I hope that in the future all schools will be inclusive,” Siri told us.