AS paediatricians, therapists and non-governmental organisations working with children, we wish to see an inclusive education system that welcomes diversity in society. We want every learner to be given equal chances and all children provided with support to help them achieve their potential.
For this reason, we regard the directive from Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin that pupils in government schools not be placed in classes according to their academic abilities as a welcome and farsighted step towards building a more caring and inclusive society.
Many parents and educators may be worried that abolishing streaming will mean leaving fast learners behind. However, the recent review of a research entitled “A summary of the Evidence on Inclusive Education” (Dr Thomas Hehir, et al, Professor of Practice in Learning Differences at Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2017) has concluded that “there is clear and consistent evidence that inclusive educational settings can confer substantial short- and long-term benefits for students with and without disabilities”.
The report is especially valuable as it identifies the benefits of inclusive education for students without disabilities, as evidence of benefits for students with disabilities is widely known. This is because improving teaching pedagogy in order to support students with disabilities will inadvertently benefit all students.
In addition, when being educated alongside students with disabilities, the non-disabled students, in an inclusive classroom, will hold less prejudicial views and are more accepting of people who are different. They will be the more accepting citizens in future.
Peer tutoring or peer group teaching encouraged under this new ruling will give the students another learning opportunity as “teaching is the best teacher” (Farivar and Webb, 1994).
This directive will remove competitiveness among schools to get higher academic achievements. Instead, they can compete on “inclusiveness” or “caring” as their key performance index and teachers can concentrate on teaching.
With this new directive, teachers will need support in making this inclusion real. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has recognised the need and has a Teacher Education Resource pack available.
The National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) has a memorandum on inclusive education, where there are suggestions on how this can be implemented, as well as the transitional steps.
An inclusive education
module has been developed by NECIC with teaching strategies to be shared with teachers.
When the Education for All movement talks about “all children”, this means being cognisant of the needs of all children in the classroom, where each child feels that he or she belongs and can engage in meaningful learning opportunities. Let’s make this real for our children.
Dr Wong Woan Yiing, President, NECIC, and consultant paediatrician
Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS, Adviser, NECIC, and consultant paediatrician ,/i>
Dr Toh Teck Hock, Vice-president, NECIC, and consultant paediatrician ,/i>