What is the Inclusive Education Policy?
The Inclusive Education Policy is an educational practice that gives all learners and stakeholders the opportunity to participate in the education system. It is a practice that implements equal educational opportunities and strives to achieve success for all learners. This policy is in most South African educational policies, one of which is the White Paper 6 (DoE 2001). This policy emphasises to provide and assist all learners in acquiring a quality education regardless of their characteristics or background. It is important to identify factors which may threaten or inhibit the learner early on in the child. With inclusive education, all learners should receive support, teachers should be sufficiently trained, and the learner should not be prejudiced owing to disability. Inclusive Education is founded on a strong belief that all learners are different and should be nurtured and developed fully. The teachers should see all learners as unique and special, without preference to any student or discredit to another learner without or with a disability, respectively.
Unfortunately, many teachers are not adequately trained in inclusive education. Learners from disadvantaged communities face difficulties such as limited access to early educational facilities, and support is limited. There may also be a lack of involvement from some teachers and/or parents, as well as a lack of coordination between the practices of support staff appointed into the educational system.
Owing to the extensive research on early child development advising that cognitive and physical development is rapid for the first seven or so years of life, it is of utmost importance that any barriers to learning are recognised early in the child’s development before any problems become lasting.
South Africa has an inclusive education policy. Pre-schools are largely independent and should still adhere to the inclusive policy as set out by the department of education. In order for pre-schools to offer inclusive education, much training needs to be undertaken for teaching staff to cater for the diverse needs of the children.
Some aspects that need teachers/caregivers should be aware of:
Gross Motor Skills:
Learners may experience problems in motor and perceptual areas of learning. Learners that present with gross motor challenges are usually clumsy during gross motor activities; such as kicking, running and jumping. These difficulties can be observed during music and movement activities and games, as well in the classroom and outside playtime.
Fine Motor Skills:
Children with fine motor coordination problems have difficulty with art and creative activities such as drawing, cutting, making a collage, and turning the pages of a book. The learner may also have problems with practical activities such as fastening buttons, threading of beads and pegboard activities.
Visual perceptual skills involve the leaner’s inability to interpret what they see correctly. This does not mean the learner is unable to see well. Some children may perceive an object in its entirety, but will miss the details; others will be the opposite and perceive the details but are unable to conceptualise the whole. This is called perception of whole and part.
Visual figure-ground problems may also be present. These are divided into three types.
- The figure and the ground compete.
- The figure should be the ground and the ground should be the figure.
- The figure and ground create an optical illusion
In such instances, children may be unable to notice or find things that are easily spotted by someone else.
Visual discrimination is the ability to see differences in objects; for example, selecting an animal with one ear, while the others have two. Children with this problem may have trouble with differentiating letters “ab” and “ad” when reading.
Visual closure is the ability to recognise the object even when part of the object is obscured from the visual field. For example, if a chair is partly hidden by a table, one should still be able to recognise the chair and its complete form and space allocation in the environment.
Auditory perceptual problems arise in children who may hear well, but are unable to process the heard information correctly.
In auditory figure-ground association problems, children present an inability to focus in a noisy room.
Auditory discrimination problems present themselves in children who have difficulty in perceiving auditory similarities and differences between words. For example, perceiving rhyming words could be problematic.
A child who may not blend letters together to make a word may have auditory blending problems.
Learners could present with form perception problems where they are unable to see change in size, shape and colour.
Perception of position in space: A learner will not be able to perceive the relationship between an object and his/her own body.
Perception of spatial relationships: The learner finds it difficult to perceive the position of more than one object in relation to themselves. They may find it difficult to reproduce a pattern on a pegboard.
We can recognise problems in cognitive functioning
- The inability to recognise cause and effect. If a child is unable to link that playing with a sharp knife has resulted in a cut hand.
- The inability to move from concrete to abstract concepts.
- Lack of internal organisation. They are unable to categorise information.
- The inability to integrate new information with existing information and to synergise new and old knowledge.
- The inability to organise their work.
- They find it difficult to work alone.
- The inability to follow instructions.
Language difficulties have an harmful impact on a child’s social and cognitive functioning. It is very difficult for a child to be taught unless they understand language. Signs of language problems are as follows:
- Reduced vocabulary
- Poor understanding of language
- A child may find themselves having difficulty expressing themselves.
- Challenging to recite rhymes and learn new words.
Social Emotional Signs:
Behaviour may be disruptive to the social organisation of both a classroom and a family at home. The child may experience learning difficulties. They are unable to share the attention of the teacher; are overly dependent on the mother/primary caregiver and find separation difficult. They often have a lack of confidence and self-esteem and find it difficult to make simple decisions. Other signs include: being withdrawn, hypersensitivity, hyperactivity, preservation, catastrophic reactions and impulsivity.
(c) Anne Baron & Philip Baron. 2014
Landsberg, E. I. (2013) Programme in Grade-R teaching. Young learners who experience
barriers to learning and development. Centre for Community training and development. UNISA.