The Media Center held a discussion on how effectively the system of inclusive education operates in Armenia. The speakers included Susanna Tadevosyan, Head of the Bridge of Hope NGO; Arevik Anapiosyan, Executive Director of Institute of Public Policy; Anahit Muradyan, Senior specialist at Special Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Science; Larisa Movsesyan, Deputy Headmaster at John Kirakosyan N 20 School; and Astghik Galstyan, Social Care Teacher at N 2 School, Martuni, Gegharkunik joined the discussion via a video call.
“In 2005 the Parliament adopted the Law on Education of Persons in Need of Special Education Conditions which fixes the principles of inclusive education. In the modern world inclusion is a way of living - way of living, working and studying with people. A child must feel comfortable and important at school and the Government must care for every child regardless of whether the child has special needs or not,” said Anahit Muradyan. The Parliament adopted the amendments to the Law on General Education in 2014, Muradyan added.
In Armenia, Susanna Tadevosyan believes, a major challenge remains the attitude toward a child’s abilities and skills, especially toward those of a child with disabilities.
“This is an obstacle we can see in families, society, schools. NGOs have much to do in this regard. Teachers should develop a different attitude through trainings, experience exchange and constant media coverage of the issue. Another challenge is the attitude and professional skills teachers acquire at the Pedagogical University. Besides, families often expect little of their child,” Tadevosyan said.
Larisa Movsesyan recalled the launch of the inclusive education project in their school back in 2006 and the numerous challenges they had to address.
“It is most important to create an inclusive society at school which will develop into an inclusive society in the country. There used to be some people who did not want to work in such conditions but it is crucial to create that team of people who will be professional, trained and stay true to the essence of inclusive education. We first chose the path from emotions to high level professionalism while now it is a path from professionalism to stable inclusion. The problem is not in children’s heads. The problem is the stereotypes adults, parents and teachers have,” Movsesyan said.
Arevik Anapiosyan shared the results of the recent study on inclusive education in Armenia their organization has conducted and pointed out five main challenges.
“The first challenge is the ideology of inclusive education with its formulations. The second concerns the integrity of the system. The third relates to the quality. Now the reforms propose including everyone at schools, but we must achieve it maintaining the high standards. The fourth challenge is the vocational training for teachers and multidisciplinary team. Finally, the fifth problem relates to the funding mechanisms,” Anapiosyan said.
The issue of professional training is a major concern in regions as well, Astghik Galstyan said.
“In 2012 when our school became inclusive, 12 children with special needs attended it and now we have 40 students. The teachers have been trained at the National Institute of Education but we are still waiting for the Medical-Psychological-Pedagogical Assessment Center to train us. In our region there is a bunch of stereotypes. Some parents believe it is a shame to take their children out. What will people think when they see their child in a wheelchair? Our teachers, however, are working to change the attitudes. Our only problem is that we don’t cooperate with any NGO or other organization,” Galstyan said.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
Please follow the link to watch the full video of the discussion.
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