WHAT is quality education and what is special education then? Let me briefly define and explain what special education is because quality education is in special education.
Special education is a body of knowledge that is specifically modified to meet the needs of individual child.
This modified body of knowledge, skills and attitudes are not only for students with disabilities (as many think), but it is for all.
Slightly different to normal teaching and leaching practices (normal education), in special education, individual student needs are identified and adaptations (teaching strategies, materials and the environment) are made in order to meet their learning needs.
It is very helpful for students with learning difficulties and also gifted students in a class to gain quality education.
Statistics and classroom learning implications have shown that, about 10 in every 30 have learning difficulties and 2-3 in 30 in a class are gifted or brighter students.
For such a group or a class, it is paramount for teachers to implement special education practices so that individual needs are meet.
In doing that, the poorest in class is not neglected and the intelligent of the gifted students are also challenged in the delivery of knowledge and skills.
Implementing special education practices would never leave some students unproductive, because every student is learning at their own phase (learning level) and when education system rejects some (we call failures), they still have the knowledge and skills to earn a living in their societies.
Having defined and explained what special education is; it should be very clear that the answer for quality education is in special education.
If we want our children to be equipped with quality education, class teachers must consider implementing some of the special education strategies that they have learnt at teachers colleges to meet the individual needs of students. Teaching all across same phase of learning as a group/class would cultivate quality education. It is like throwing feed into chicks and special education is opposite; is feeding them individually according to their needs.
In special education, a student is assessed and learning needs are identified and periodised in action plans (lesson plans).
Teaching strategies are modified and adaptations are made so that while in the process of teaching the body of the content, individual needs are met. That does not sound that it’s an easy task but very challenging and real teachers can shoulder that burden.
Another significant aspect of special education is promoting `full inclusive education’ in mainstream learning institutions.
Special education has special strategies designed to meet the learning needs of students with disabilities together with normal students learning the same curriculum.
In recent years and even today, through the special education, students with hearing, vision and intellectual impairment as well as physical disabilities are educated from mainstream settings and are now either
employed in public and private sectors.
There should not be any reason of any teacher’s ignorance to educate children with special needs in the class.
If done, it’s against our education policy and the Constitution. However due to reform and recent free education policy, a teacher cannot fully implement what I’m highlighting here but a real teacher can create learning environment and modify curriculum inclusive and conducive for students with special needs.
Though PNG is a developing nation, we are moving closer to some top developed nations in the world in the field of implementing special education practices both in special schools and in mainstream schools.
Not to deny that our inclusive education practices are making momentum than countries like Australia and New Zealand where they practice more segregation because parents want that way.
They do not want their disabled child to be educated in inclusive setting because of discrimination, bullying and other levelling and fear that children may not get quality education.
Special education in PNG is spearheaded by Callan Special Education Resourse Centres in all provinces except central, Gulf and Northern.
In these centres we have specially trained teachers who teach students according to their individual needs and help mainstream teachers to fully implement inclusive education.
In accordance with government’s Vision 2050, Callan Studies National Institute is also taking the lead in training more pre-service teachers on special education (inclusive education) so that our students are given equal and full quality education.
All teachers colleges in the country will soon have a uniform special education curriculum (developed with help of VSO with Callan Studies National Institute) and inclusive education lecturers of each colleges.
Having being highlighted all, special education is not only for children with disabilities but it meets the needs of normal students who are below average and very bright ones.
If special education can balance the gap between bellow average and gifted students in an inclusive learning environment, then I belief that quality education is in special education.
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