Supporting Global Inclusive Practice through Online Study – The worldwide agenda for inclusive education was set in 1994 by the Salamanca Statement, which called for education to take account of a wide diversity of needs and for these to be met through a child-centred pedagogy (UNESCO, 1994). In order to achieve this, the Salamanca Statement lists the training of pre- and in-service teachers as a key priority.
While it is difficult to argue with the importance of training as a critical tool for realising the aspirations of global inclusion, access to good quality resources and training materials can prove problematic. Digital platforms for learning offer many advantages in terms of accessibility, flexibility and the exploration of broad international perspectives.
Vivienne Fleming is a Special Educational Needs Outreach Teacher from Bolton in the UK, who is currently studying for an online Postgraduate Diploma in Special and Additional Learning Needs with University of East London and ICEP Europe. She describes her experience of online learning in the following way:
“I am an experienced practitioner within special education. However, this programme has furnished me with the sound theory to back up my practice, as well as increased confidence in carrying out my role. My studies have made me a more reflective practitioner and enhanced my knowledge and skill set, so I have more to offer in my advisory role to schools.
Distance learning has allowed me to fit my studies around my very busy schedule of work and family life. Learning alongside students from around the world has given me an international perspective regarding special and additional learning needs; enabling comparisons with other countries, which not only supports recognition of progress made, but also highlights areas for further development and potential ways forward.”
Sinead Larkin, a Primary School teacher from Waterford in Ireland is studying for an MA in Special and Additional Learning Needs. She highlights how this programme has allowed her to build upon existing skills and enhance the quality of education for children with additional learning needs in her school.
“From the beginning of my studies, I have become much more in tune with how inclusion issues are being addressed in my school, helping to make me a better teacher. I have gained a greater understanding of student assessment and how best to cater to children who have learning difficulties and disabilities who require additional support.”
One key advantage of an online course such as the MA in Special and Additional Learning Needs is the ability to connect with practitioners from around the globe, encouraging exploration of key issues and the development of inclusive pedagogy. Fatima Ghiwala, an MA in Special and Additional Learning Needs student in Kuwait says:
“This course has given me an insight into Inclusive Education and the knowledge gained has helped me to be reflective both in my children’s education and the education offered in Middle East. The benefit of studying online is that is has exposed me to other students from across the world and I have had the opportunity to share their educational experiences.”
The experiences of these students show us the benefits of accessing current research-based training and linking with a range of students from around the world. It is through such collaborative learning that we can truly move forward with the aims of global inclusion.
For further information about the Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters in Special and Additional Learning Needs, please visit www.icepe.eu or contact the programme leader, Dr. Deirdre MacIntyre ([email protected]) at 01 651 0618.