AFTER all the fuss about inclusion, with a leading tabloid spewing one disparaging article daily, you may be surprised to learn that inclusion was not introduced to the Czech schools in September 2016.1 The share of students with disabilities learning at special schools has been decreasing gradually for a long time (see graf). 50,000 students with disabilities attended ordinary schools already before last September.
Pavel Svoboda, a headmaster at Special schools in Hradec Králové, looks at the outflow of pupils with dislike. He says he wants to enable the pupils to “experience success”. Mr Svoboda believes that educating some of the students with disabilities who are by now learning in regular classes defies “the limits of their potential”. Experienced teachers like him often style themselves into experienced practitioners who are in a fight with humanistic bureaucrats.2 This is unproductive: there is an array of erudite professionals who would like to see even more students with disabilities learning at ordinary schools.
In Norway, 14 special schools have been transformed into resource centres, an aid Czech teachers do not have.
The trouble may be elsewhere. While in the last decade, the share of students with special needs at common schools has grown larger, the institutions supporting special education have become weaker. More students with disabilities attend common schools but not all the schools have changed their methods accordingly. In Norway, 14 special schools have been transformed into resource centres as part of the inclusive reform. Teachers who tutor students with special needs can easily get an advice from the psychologists and special pedagogues at the centres. In the Czech Republic, on the other hand, the Ministry of Education and some non-governmental agencies let the special educators to believe that their schools will be abolished.
The Association of Special Educators is one group critical of inclusive education that has grown out of this fear. Many of its members are convinced to this day that pupils who attend the same class must all the time do the same activity, reach the same goals and be graded within the same framework.3 By a more resolute recognition of the expertise present at special schools and a clear vision for its use, the Ministry could reduce the uncertanty that leads to unfortunate practices both in education at large and in education of the Roma in particular (see article).
For teachers who have the yen to comprehend the new methods, support is available at the information portal that was developed under the leadership of the University of Palacký in Olomouc. To date, many teachers have no idea about its existence. The law that came into force in September 2016 itself in essence only introduced norms for the standing practice. It brought a change in the funding of support measures for students with special needs. Until then, the employees of the schools at which the parents were interested in inclusive education, had to fundraise to cover teaching assistants, sign language interpreters and other support measures by themselves. Contributions from the local governments differed manifold. Today, the whole amount is funded by the state on the basis of a recommendation by a psychological counselling centre.
An array of studies shows that inclusive education is beneficial to students (see article). A condition for it not to render good results only at some schools, however, is that teachers must believe in it.4 Yet in 2014, professional beliefs of Czech teachers about inclusion were divided.5 Many of those who have in between changed their view from sceptical to cautiously sympathetic did so on the basis of experience in renowned schools. Roman Stružínský, a headmaster at Special schools in Děčín, is one who made up his views just like this: he visited a dozen of outstanding schools in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
With a lack of support generally and salaries at the bottom of OECD (see graph a little bellow par), it is unrealistic to expect that Czech teachers would start making such trips in droves.