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Notable Efforts by Education Ministry to Integrate Children with Special Needs into Regular Schools

"We believe that each child has the right to learn and that integrating children with special needs into regular schools is considered as an important step and an urgent need  in order to stimulate those children's mental and physical abilities” Mr. Shawqi Ghanem, coordinator of the process of integrating children with disabilities into schools at the Education Directorate of Lattakia province, said in an interview with the Syriatimes e-newspaper.

He indicated that the issue of integrating children with disabilities into schools is one of the most important and controversial topics in society.

Mr. Shawqi underscored that the process of integrating children with special needs into regular education process aims at confirming the principle of equal opportunities to all in education as well as at empowering those children and help them face their special education needs regardless their disabilities, talents, intelligence or socio-economic level.

"The Ministry of Education has laid the bases for the integration process through establishing the central integration team at the ministry and local integration teams at the education directorates of a number of Syrian provinces” Mr. Shawqi said.

 He made it clear that  before the children with disabilities, aged 6-12, integrate into the primary  public schools in Lattakia, a local committee at the Education Directorate in the province evaluates the children’s condition and age as to help them join learning classes which are suitable for their disabilities to make them adapt to the surrounding environment.

"There are six basic integrated schools in Lattakia city and five other school are being prepared for integration in Lattakia’s countryside," Mr. Shawqi said, adding that the number of integrated children with disabilities reached 130 students".

He pointed out that each of the six integrated schools contains a resource room which has special teaching tools for impaired mobility and hearing difficulties as well as visual and mental impairment.  It aims to help children with disabilities learn individually under the supervision of specialized staff that offers teaching and psychological support to help children successfully integrate into society.

Mr. Shawqi stressed that Lattakia’s education directorate always holds local training courses for the social and psychological guides at the integrated schools. The aim is to raise awareness about how to deal with and teach children with disabilities, he said, indicating that the latest course was on applying the Stanford-Binet intelligence test 5th copy.

The Stanford-Binet test is an examination meant to gauge intelligence through five factors of cognitive ability and it is among the most reliable standardized tests currently used in education. The Stanford-Binet Test traces its roots to the Binet-Simon Scale, French device for identifying levels of intelligence.

"We are working hard on ground to follow up the situations of children with disabilities at the integrated schools to make them benefit from the teaching process goals, including communication, social behavior, knowledge and the academic goal” Mr. Shawqi highlighted.

On her part, Dr. Dalal Ammar, Head of the Research Department at the Education Directorate of Lattakia, told Syriatimes that “the ministry of Education accords special interest in the issue of integrating children with disabilities into state schools aiming at  building their knowledge,  raising their awareness about their surrounding and developing their skills to become active members in society".

She underscored that children with special needs are a category of society that should enjoy all human rights like all normal children, mainly the right to learn.

"Through integrating children with special needs into government schools we seek enabling these children to make use of different kinds of expertise and services offered by public schools. We are also keen on raising the children's families’ awareness about supporting the integration process and changing the society’s view towards these children from sympathy to admiration over their will, skills and defiance of disability,” Dr. Dalal Ammar said.

She called on the Ministry of Education to provide more support to the integration issue and to  implement early integration experience for children with disabilities in the kindergarten age for the benefit of children, their families as well as the specialized teaching staff.

Interviewed by : Rawaa Ghanam