Should special needs children be educated in mainstream schools
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Should children with special needs be educated in mainstream schools? Special needs children (SEN) have been the subject of debate within an educational setting for a long time. More recently educators and analysts have questioned whether children with SEN should be allowed to be educated in mainstream schools to maximise their learning experiences. The special educational needs and disability act 2001 states that children with SEN ordinarily should be included in mainstream schools. However, if major adaptations to the facilities or curriculum have to be made, or, other children's studies are affected by a child with SEN then a mainstream school may not be the best option for the child. There are differing factors for inclusion especially for those with different types of SEN. For those who have physical disabilities, having improved access within school may enhance learning. New technology can also help improve curriculum and help those pupils with communication difficulties. However those with severe and complex needs may struggle adapting to and learning within mainstream schools and segregation may be required to provide the best possible education and support for them.
Furthermore, those students with SEN will develop self confidence, new skills and greater independence for life after school. By increasing the range of abilities in the classroom through inclusion, Tornillo (1994) argues that the amount of time and energy that teachers direct to regular students will decline due to the attention directed to those with special needs, thus having a negative effect on how and what is learned. This is a main concern for parents as they are concerned that, with the shift of primary responsibility for the education of children from regular teachers to special education teachers and vice versa, there will be a loss of support for disabled and/or regular children as teachers will find it difficult to accommodate for all. In order for inclusion to be properly implemented, the people who will monitor and evaluate as well as those who will implement changes, should be correctly designated and recognised. The teaching should be based on the different needs of the students. Teachers should be able to cope with the lack of resources and handle behaviour of both children with and without disabilities.
Although it can be said that inclusion is beneficial to both students and teachers in developing skills and competencies alike, implementing an inclusion programme will most likely put considerable pressure on teachers due to restructuring. Every student learns differently and it may not be in the children's best interest for all students to be integrated in hope that the teacher will be able to accommodate individual needs. The decision of whether or not special needs children are included in mainstream schools must be made after careful consideration by all necessary participants; these include parents, educators and society as a whole. If focus is emphasised on children's' disabilities or shortfall's, then it is more likely to "lose sight of what is most important for learning and development during the early childhood years - that is, opportunities to engage successfully in a variety of playful interactions with people and objects in one's environment" (Wilson, 1998 p.1). The education process should be given to all children with disabilities not only to help improve their learning, but also to enable them to be part of society. While inclusion can help achieve this, including those children with special needs in mainstream schools requires greater attention.
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