15% of our children have special needs with the majority of them having learning disorders. It is important to enable inclusive education at all levels as this benefits all children, not just the disabled. Inclusion is not about success but about acceptance. It is important that we work together to achieve the National Education Blueprint targets of 75% inclusion for all children with disability by 2025.
1. True Inclusion
It is important that we have accurate data on inclusion. MOE currently quotes ~ 40% inclusion, but professionals and parents are aware that many of these children are not fully included and only partially included in mainstream education. The estimated real, full inclusion rate is much, much lower and has yet to meet the National Education Blueprint targets.
2. Support for Children and Teachers in Mainstream to Make Inclusion Happen
It is vital to grow our inclusion capacity in schools, especially by supporting teachers and children in mainstream. The Key Measures that work include:
a. Shadow Aide Programme – we require a national programme to support children as they enter and adjust to inclusive education. Parents can assist MOE to offer some of this support.
b. Individual Education Plan (IEP) as a tool to enable inclusion – we need to use the IEP as a tool to share with parents, doctors and therapists to enable inclusion to be established.
Currently very few teachers share the IEP or revise it periodically to meet the child’s needs. The IEP should not be an academic exercise but a real and recurrent dialogue with parents to set targets/goals with baseline and on-going assessments and reviews to see if objectives have been met.
c. Special Education Teachers should come to mainstream classes to support the children and teachers – The long term aim should be to markedly reduce special integration classes (pendididkan khas) and use the expertise of special education teachers to enable inclusion by working in mainstream classes and with mainstream teachers on a full-time basis.
3. Identify Children Early and Support them in the Pre-School Period
It is important the MOE work in the preschool area to screen for learning problems and intervene early (age 4-5 years). MOE, together with NGOs and MPA, should also support early inclusion into kindergartens and MOE pre-school classes.
4. Training of Doctors
The Ministry of Higher Education and MOH should push for standardised and mandatory training on childhood disability in all medical schools. Currently doctors that graduate are poor in their ability to do assessments for learning disorders.
5. Training of Teachers
There should be standardised and mandatory training on special education for all under-graduate teachers. A module on special education should also be incorporated into the routine in-service training for qualified teachers.
6. Accessibility in All Schools
All schools should have accessibility for children with physical disabilities. This is expensive and while we work to put in basic infrastructure, there should be selected schools in all cities/towns where enhanced accessibility is offered (e.g. lifts). In addition we should seriously adopt a Universal Design that incorporates accessibility in all new schools being built.
7. Revising the MOE KPIs to Support Inclusive Education
The current process appears to victimise rather than support children with learning disabilities as literacy KPIs exclude these children from normal class and put undue pressure on teachers and HMs. It is important to make inclusion one of the KPIs for schools – schools that practice inclusion should be given extra points in their overall performance. We should also reward and promote schools and teachers that implement innovative measures in their inclusive practices.
8. Teachers for schools-in-hospitals.
An additional request is for the MOE to look at sending qualified teachers to schools-in-hospitals for children admitted with chronic illnesses. These children should be able to continue at the same education trajectory despite being in hospital so they can cope when discharged.
9. Education for indigenous populations.
Some children of the indigenous people of Malaysia (in particular the Penan in Sarawak and Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia) require an education curriculum that is adapted to their way of life in the interiors of Malaysia.
Every effort should be made to train educators from amongst them to return to educate these communities in the interior. These educators can act as role models for the children to excel academically but at the same time maintain their highly specialised survival skills in the interiors of Malaysia. We also implore the Ministry to take note of safety of these children during their journeys to and from the schools.
10. Education for migrant & refugee children
There are 25,000 refugee children under 18 years but only 30% have access to community learning centres. Would the MOE consider allowing their premises to be used for the schooling of these children eg. afternoon sessions if the school is morning only sessions? Providing free/low cost text books and exercise books, ensuring they are taught the national syllabus by qualified teachers, allowing them to sit for certified public exams. Thus giving them a glimpse of a brighter future.