A public consultation on the “Policy on Inclusive Education in Schools: Route to Quality Inclusion. A National Inclusive Education Framework” was launched by Minister for Education Evarist Bartolo.
The paper was launched and it was explained to be an “invitation for schools to embark on a journey towards the development of high-quality inclusion”, with the ultimate goal being the providing of “high quality education for all learners to embrace social equity and achieve an inclusive society”.
Speaking at the press conference, Bartolo explained that while inclusion is neither easy nor natural, it is “a form of civility that we wish to accomplish with a lot of effort and persistence”.
“We must understand the big challenges that our educators have in their everyday life, because in a small community like a classroom you have so much diversity that it is not easy.”
He insisted that the biggest challenge in the 21st century, apart from sustainability, is living together, going on to quote the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost which says that “good fences make good neighbors” and adding that that would also make “terrible humans”.
“One-size-fits-all fits nobody. The average student exists only in statistics.”
Adding onto Bartolo’s speech, Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri maintained that “inclusion is not exclusively tied with children in need of some form of physical need, but is tied to quality and equitable education.”
“There remains a lot to be done, but today we can appreciate that Malta is one of the countries where we are challenging the one-size-fits-all system.”
Offering different educational programs, he insisted, does not mean education will be of lower quality.
Themes and Benchmarks
The paper sets itself ten overarching themes as a route for the implementation of four benchmarks.
The first benchmark, through the themes “Inclusive and Strategic Leadership” and “Whole School Development Planning”, would be that all learners have access to opportunities for participation in educational systems and structures.
Next, the themes “Whole School Inclusive Environment” and “Collaboration with Parents and Community Engagement” are the next steps to reach the second benchmark where all educators employ effective teaching approaches that are more representative of and responsive to diversity that foster a Universal Design for Learning environment.
The third benchmark is the hope that all schools are supported through well organised support structures that embrace shared cultures and ethos of diversity. The overarching themes in the route to this benchmark being “Individual Education Planning” and “Teaching and Learning”.
Finally, “Positive Behaviour Management” and “Support Structure and Services” will lead to the final benchmark where all educators will have access to flexible education training that supports their work in delivering quality Inclusive Education.
Five main principles are outlined for the framework.
The first being “ownership by all stakeholders”, which the framework does by inviting the whole-school community on a “reflective journey to promote communal understanding on inclusion for the diverse cohort of all learners and an engagement towards its development.
“Respecting diversity” is also one of the principles highlighted by the framework, along with “respecting school autonomy through flexibility” – meaning that schools are encouraged to determine how best to use this framework, how to interpret the outcome and set their own priorities.
The final two principles are the “complementing of school development planning and continuous professional development”, and the fact that the framework is “evidence and practice based”.
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