Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Case for Embracing Inclusive Education in Nigeria...

Preparing Students with Diverse Needs to be College and Career Ready: Response to Intervention and Universal Design for Learning (by Shari Butler, Ph.D.)

As a special educator in Nigeria, I interact daily with a growing number of school heads, administrators and teachers. My discovery is that students with Autism and related disabilities are very much at a disadvantage in terms of academics. The current situation appears to be very bleak for them because many schools (both public and private) are not willing to go any extra mile to accommodate exceptional students in an inclusive education setting. A number of reasons often put forward include, lack of qualified special education teachers, lack of strong government support in terms of robust policies in favour of special education inclusion, and resistance to change. Unfortunately, many affected parents (who are at the receiving end) are totally confused and unsure about the academic future of their special children.

For some educators or even policy makers in Nigeria who might be interested, here's a piece of information which I consider as very useful in taking steps towards embracing inclusive education in Nigeria (an eye opener -really). I have culled this article from Pearson Education Inc., website and its written by Shari Butler, Ph.D., Director of Special Education, School Achievement Services, Pearson

[In the United States] both Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) recognize the right of all students to a high-quality standards-based education. These laws preclude the development of separate educational agendas for students with disabilities and hold educators accountable for ensuring that these students demonstrate progress according to the same standards. Students with disabilities must be provided with the opportunity to excel within the general curriculum and be prepared for future success, including college and/or careers. Meeting the unique and diverse needs of all of our students can be challenging. In this new generation of high expectations for all, which is a fundamental goal of College and Career Ready Standards, a new school culture must be created.

Response to Intervention (RtI) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are innovative approaches for addressing the needs of a diverse population of students including students with disabilities. Both of these frameworks are critical to ensure that all students can participate and progress in the general education curriculum. Furthermore, schools that are successful in raising the achievement of students with special needs have established a culture in which the achievement of each and every student is considered a shared responsibility. A fundamental reality of implementing College and Career Readiness Standards in a Response to Intervention environment is that it requires a shared responsibility and an integrated teaching approach. Teachers must be knowledgeable of and be able to incorporate instructional supports for learning based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning which foster student engagement by presenting information in multiple ways and allowing for diverse avenues of action and expression.

The UDL approach considers the needs of the greatest number and range of possible students and offers educational methods and materials that eliminate costly, cumbersome and after the fact adaptations. Utilizing a collaborative framework that includes RtI and principles of UDL, teachers will be able to meet the challenge of engaging all learners with diverse needs, abilities and backgrounds.