Special Education - The Inclusion Debate
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Special Education: The Inclusion Debate - Youth in Adult Education Programs Research indicates that there is an increasing trend of youth below 18 years of age entering education programs that have been designed for adults. (Smith 2002, p. 1). This trend has given rise to the question on whether it is healthy phenomena to include youth in these adult programs and if this will lead to positive inclusive learning. However, this trend is visible in federally funded programs for basic and literacy adult education and therefore it is putting tremendous pressures on these programs as they had been initially designed primarily to serve an adult population (Hayes 2000). In this essay, we will review some of these trends and analyse the factors that are responsible for this increase in the youth enrolment, and thus review how such programs are responding to this new challenge. The recent trends Most of the evidence showing youth under 18 years of age enrolling in education programs funded by federal government is subjective in nature. It is difficult to document this trend because of the haphazard way in which statistics relating to the age of participants have been collected under different state policies. (Hayes 2000). However research indicates that the year 2000 was the first most recent year to record the number of enrolled students between 16-18 years of age in a separate category, as compiled in the state statistics of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy in the U.S.
The reason is that very often high school dropouts are not ambitious and may not have any motivation for a positive future (MAAL 2001) and therefore may require extra attention. This may case neglect of the adult students (O'Neil 2000). Moreover, its is perceived that even though mixed groups can prove to be richer and more dynamic, they can hinder the learning process if there are any age-based cultural clashes (O'Neil 2000, p. 22). Young students may reflect their social and cultural upbringing and may not realize that some of their actions/behaviour may be considered as disrespectful or rude (Dirkx 2002). One of the studies of the role of youth in adult literacy programs conducted by Hayes (2000) shows that many programs used mix of different strategies to address the debate between integration and separation. In some cases the disruption caused by the younger crowd had led the programs to conduct separate classes. However most programs studied were in favour of integrating the two age groups in their classes by using strategies like keeping a low proportion of youth and separating them from their friends in classroom seating. Moreover, certain programs even developed some written attendance and behavior policies the young students had to accept before getting admission to classes (ibid.; Smith 2002). Then there is also some concern over the appropriateness of teaching methods and instructional materials. The concerning question is whether the same materials and methods can be used for both youth and adults?
For example, one of the programs reported a very positive increase in the retention rate of young adult learners - from 39% to 95% enrolled in a teen-only group, besides showing a three times increase in the GED pass rate. One more program showed an increase in retention rate from 40% to 75% after adopting YCC principles. MAAL advocates the use of YCC principles in many ways - like training and professional development, giving support grants to programs implementing YCC principles, continuous technical assistance from YDRF and frequent program site visits by the YDRF staff (MAAL 2002). Conclusion This paper has summarised the trend of increasing youth enrolling for adult education programs and the various factors leading to this trend. Thereafter it has analysed whether such a trend is healthy for the learning process in these programs or whether these impact negatively on all students. It is evident that some adult education programs have responded rationally to cater to the needs of younger students by adapting their strategies. However, at the policy level, there are certain questions that need addressing, for example, if the federally funded education programs should indeed be serving young teenagers (ibid.; Smith 2002) and if adult education programs even now continue to serve as a safety net for those young students who have not fared well in traditional modes of high school learning (Beckwith 2002; Hayes 2000). Thus these adult educators can in future help address these questions by working hand-in-hand with policymakers so that viable alternatives are created that can positively impact the learning process of young students in adult education programs.
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