Understanding Inclusive Education In South Africa

Inclusive education is something where all learners are accepted and fully integrated. Inclusive education refers to the support, strengths, inclusion, and needs of all learners regardless of their disabilities, community, and background. South Africa has recognized an inclusive education policy to address barriers to learning in the education system. Inclusive education is the key to “universal human” social connectedness and it can be regarded as including diverse children invaluable education for their own development and that of the community they live in. Inclusive education is by definition “the inclusion of all students”. This means that no matter what the circumstances are, that the children are going through or are apart of, they are allowed to participate like all other students. Inclusive education includes the idea of a flexible curriculum and the development of literacy skills, accessible and applicable to learners with different backgrounds, learning styles and abilities.

The implementation of inclusive education is hampered by many things that happen in the schools and communities’ learners live in. For example, they are hampered by the lack of teacher’s skills and knowledge’s in differentiating the curriculum to address a wide range of learning needs. Many communities in South Africa are faced with oppositions such as unemployment, single parent, or child-headed families, teenage pregnancy, poverty, crime and HIV and aids. All of this highlights the need for a framework that empowers educators with the necessary skills to provide for learners with diverse needs. The “Universal Design for Learning” is one framework that conceptualizes and addresses the need for a more flexible curriculum designed to lower the barriers and enable learners with widely varying needs to be included in the learning process. When implementing through planned curriculum design and the integrated to use of supports, strategies, and tools for teaching and learning, UDL holds great potential to establish a truly accessible learning environment for all learners.

Teachers can influence effective implementation by recognizing bias or stereotypes against certain learners, treating and respecting each learner as an individual, avoiding the use of biased language that undermines certain groups and constantly re-evaluating methods of teaching and assessing learners. Teachers must be able to create opportunities for all learners to participate in the learning process without intimidating or making them feel small or embarrassed. For example, every learner will have a classmate to which they can turn to for help, "buddy-system", thus helping each other understand the work and helping with the reading and writing of work (this will help children that has difficulty seeing clearly).

Implementation of Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is an advantage in South-Africa, because of the diversities in this country and inclusive education focuses on helping and teaching all learners regardless of the diversities in the classroom. Better quality education for all learners regardless of their diversities and backgrounds. The interaction between people with different abilities and cultures will develop social skills and relationships, it will also cultivate respect and understanding among learners. The aims are to eliminate segregation. Inclusive education empowers learners with the knowledge that there is power and unity in diversity.

Challenges of Inclusive Education in South Africa

According to Engelbrecht & Green, there are several challenges to inclusive education in South Africa. These include the need for conceptual and practical integration of the inclusive education agenda with the National Curriculum Statement, Teacher development capacity which makes it clear that teachers lack adequate knowledge, skills, and training. For effective implementation of inclusive education in South Africa and the Roleplayer capacity development for collaboration which is the development of collaboration skills, although neglected, is an essential aspect of preparation for an inclusive education system. Some of the support challenges at school level include poor strategic planning on the part of the school and the district as well as resistance to change and unavailability of district personnel. If school-based support teams are to succeed, they need to be able to access support from the district and from the community.

Other challenges include teacher training and support which is a paradigm shift from an individual to a systems approach that cannot happen by simply changing vocabulary in a particular training session. It requires considerable time because it is a developmental process that goes beyond workshops and other in-service training activities. Teachers need time to create insight and develop confidence and coping strategies and they need to do this in the context of continuous support in the classroom. A physical and psychological environment that entails a large number of schools that have overcrowded classes and they lack physical space for learner’s discussions, equipment to enable learner investigations and materials to make learning interesting, relevant and challenging. These conditions prevent access to schools, create conditions that are not conducive to learning and affect implementation of the various Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). We also have the influence of attitudes. These attitudes which show a person’s perception and attitude that are often related directly to learning experiences provided by the environment and the generalized belief systems of society which also have a direct influence on the way in which one responds to the world. It, therefore, seems that "attitudes" may have a cognitive (learned) component, an emotional (affective) component and a component of observable behavior. Lack of parental or inadequate involvement can be a serious barrier to learning. The lack of information on education policy and lack of empowerment from both teachers and parents can hamper the implementation of inclusive education. When facing the challenges of building an inclusive school current conditions must be considered. Prinsloo (2005) states that because of South Africa’s history of imbalance and bias and the context of recent social changes, most schools do not even have basic resources such as toilets, water, electricity or enough classrooms and moreover experience a serious breakdown in the culture of teaching and learning.

These factors are viewed as part of the challenges of inclusive because if they are not addressed they will act as a major barrier to learning and development which would result in the exclusion of many learners. Any effort at building an inclusive education must include the identification of specific priorities relating to needs within the context of building a culture of teaching and learning.

15 Jun 2020
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