An inclusive society is one in which every person takes part without a difference and with the motto – it is normal to be different. In the beginning, the word ‘inclusion’ was used to describe efforts to allow children with special learning needs – such as children who are hard of hearing, in a wheelchair or with mental handicaps, but also children with different mother tongues or culture – to be educated in regular schools. Inclusion also has a wider meaning, which is based on the concept of ‘belonging’. Inclusion is not an end goal, but a process during which a society learns that every person has a right to participate fully in communal life and culture. An inclusive school and an inclusive society open themselves up to everyone by:
Varianty Educational Programme works on creating inclusive schools, which are open to all children. Together with school principals and guarantors, we help establish necessary conditions for their schools to offer an education that is equally accessible to all students. We also focus on the topic of difference, which for some people can mean an impediment. We see it as an opportunity for mutual enrichment.
We work together with all the actors involved in education – representatives of the Education Ministry, education departments at universities, regional authorities, school guarantors and principals, teachers, teaching assistants and parents – on developing innovative methodological and conceptual materials and integrating them into coursework.
We come up with proposals on how to improve the Czech education system and change the legislature so that it focuses on the real educational needs of every child. We also want there to be less labelling of children (e.g. the use of concepts such as “socially disadvantaged” or “physically disabled”). We try to lobby to get support for children whose needs may change throughout the course of their education.
We create opportunities for dialogue between teachers, students, school principals and parents. We support the education and professional training of teaching staff, including teacher’s assistants, by providing practical courses, e-learning and educational programmes.
Every one of us is born with unique characteristics, which are constantly changing. The need for special approaches and support for students similarly changes with time. We do not work exclusively with handicapped children or those from different cultural backgrounds, but with the whole student body or classroom, so that students with a different mother tongue or those growing up in less stimulating environments can fully develop their potential. We also support a productive cooperation between the teacher and the teaching assistant, promoting instruction in mixed groups, which uses verbal and non-verbal communication and positive feedback. We use methods of critical thinking, social and emotional education or the Persona Dolls method in our work.
We perceive inclusion as an opportunity to enrich the life of all actors involved – students, teachers, parents and the whole society. We rely on the social model of diversity, according to which the reason for special needs of a child is not based on his or her disability or handicap, but on the fact that the society (or system) he or she encounters is not ready to meet his or her needs. Based on this definition, schools should provide not only the technical and physical access to education, but also the social conditions for full participation. Such access can be developed through the Inclusion Index, the use of the Compilation of Supportive Measures or by providing methodological support to teachers and offering them further education, all of which is provided by the Varianty Educational Programme.
According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children with special educational needs have the right to enjoy a full and decent life and to be actively involved in the community. The convention also guarantees access for these children to education and professional preparation. The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities enumerates these rights in greater detail. According to this Convention, children with special educational needs have the right to receive an education together with their peers, as well as a the right to be taught according to the same curriculum used in regular schools. The convention also specifies the necessity to respect the right of these children to retain their own identity. Drawing on these two conventions, UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement (1994) called on all member states to support inclusive education with practical measures and a declaration that all children should be educated together, regardless of any impairments or differences they may have. These declarations and conventions have also influenced the Czech policies in education, resulting in the creation of the Education Strategy 2020. A plan of action for inclusive education is also being prepared, partly based on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in the case of DH and others v Czech Republic.
Inclusive education is for everyone, no matter the language they speak at home, the conditions they grow up in, the handicap with which they live, or the obstacles they need to overcome. For inclusive education to work, the idea of inclusion has to take root not only in a single classroom, but in a whole school, and then the community which is home to us and our children.
The Varianty Educational Program of People in Need
120 00 Prague 2 Czech Republic
IČ: 25 75 52 77
DIČ: CZ 25 75 52 77
Tel: +420 226 200 467
Tel: +420 777 782 061