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lakshman 1

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Can you tell us how did you join the special education unit? After I got an appointment as a graduate teacher, I had the opportunity to follow a diploma course in special education. After following this course, I chose teaching children with intellectual impairments as my profession. That is how I entered the field of special education. How long have you been in the position of the head of special education unit? What are your function as head of unit. It's been 10 years since I became the director of special education section. My work include identifying children with special needs in Sri Lanka, providing facilities for them, recruiting and deploying teachers, coordinating between provinces. What was the third function you said? Identifying the children, providing facilities they need, recruiting and deploying teachers, providing facilities. How do you identify children with special needs? Is there a system for it...? How do you identify the needs of these children? Most of the children with special needs come to us according to doctor's recommendation. If they come without it, they come to school. At school, there is the special education teacher. That teacher identifies the child and gives the support the child needs. However, we have proposed that these children should be assesed by a special committee when admitting to the school. The committee means, the director of the specific zone, the teacher instructor, special education teacher and a representative of the school. And if possible, a doctor. They have to do the assesment. Even if this isn't done most of the time, the director and teacher instructor asses the child, identify and send him/her to the relevant place, or school. What are the instructions given to these teachers in identifying children? Special education teachers get their basic training in identifying children during their teacher training and college of education diploma. They are given a complete knowledge end experience needed in identifying children with special needs. In addition to that, National Institute of Education, the provincial department and the Ministry of Education give training to teachers, Instructions on identifying are given at these trainings too. Mostly we have in our country, children with intellectual difficulties, children with hearing impairments, visual impairments and autism children. What are the training programmes in special education that teachers can follow? There are three major courses offered by National Colleges of Educations in Hapitigama, Jaffna and Addalaichenai. There courses are three-year programmes. In addition to that, the National Institute of Education conducts short-term courses. In addition to all of it, the National Institute of Education, the Ministry of Education and provincial departments of education conduct training courses and training sessions for teachers who already work in schools. What are the things that can be done in order to improve the quality of teacher trainings? Presently teacher training includes subjects such as educational psychology. We have to expand the training in sign language and Braille. The resource persons are scarce in these fields. And the time allocated is not sufficient. We have already proposed that this needs to be expanded. What about children with special needs, er, teacher training? How does it further...? [incomplete] For children with intellectual impairments, we presently use the technology available in this country. We need recently developed technology. If that is available, if we can train our teachers and officials to use this technology, then we can achieve better results. Do you think that the funds allocated for special education is sufficient, if you are to introduce new technology and develop this field further? No. We have to increase funding. We need equipment, buildings, technological equipment. We have to improve these aspects. We see that schools do not get enough facilities and and they lack vision. Therefore, if special education units are conducted for those children who cannot be admitted to regular classes... buildings, technology and other facilities must be expanded accordingly. We are still lagging behind. In schools in Sri Lanka, what kind of programmes, what kind of vision do you have for special education? At present the attitudes are better than the attitudes we had about two decades ago. It is accepted that children should be educated. They take children to schools. Parents are aware that these children have this condition and they have to have education. So they they seek teachers, seek schools. There is an interest. Even if I say so, there are places where children are not sent to schools. But it is better than the past. There is an interest in giving them an education. Schools are aware of it. But not all schools. Some schools don't like to admit these children. What do you think of enrolling children who need special education into mainstream schools? That is what the world accepts today, that children with special needs should be educated with regular children. I accept this very highly. There are special schools, and there are special units. I think even if they are educated in special schools for a certain period, they should be transferred to regular schools. Whenever possible, they should be given the opportunity to learn along with regular children. Then you can develop them rapidly. What are the problems you have in Sri Lanka when [inaudible] such a an attitude..? It is a challenge indeed. Most people still lack knowledge. There is a lack of knowledge in society, among the regular teachers, among the officers, among politicians. As a result their knowledge has to be developed. The moment you say 'this is a special child', there is a section of people that would still say 'they should either be sent to a special school, or kept at home.' Therefore, the awareness and knowledge has to be expanded through media and other means. The message should be conveyed to people that these children need the freedom of education. What kind of erroneous attitudes you see among people regarding this? The society still thinks that these children do not need to go to regular schools, that they should be sent to a special school. There is a group that says these children cannot pass exams. There is a group that says, these children cannot learn. Not everyone. So this is our challenge. Not everyone. There are people with positive attitudes. But there is still a group that thinks these children should be taught separately. So we have that particular challenge. That is the main issue we have. Unifying these people. What are the things we can do to change such attitudes? We presently create awareness through provinces, zones, divisions and schools. We educate the community. I think it is good if we can use mass media. It requires funding. If we could implement a programme with dramas and discussions through which it is possible to change the prevailing attitudes. Special education.. [not clear] research... what kind of research is done? Generally, the ministry doesn't conduct much research. But the National Institute of Education has conducted research on .. various topics such as Inclusive Education, education of blind children, education of deaf children, education of autism children, on how teachers participate in inclusive education and so forth. They conduct research on various topics such as inclusive education, Braille, sign language, and on teacher training. And small-scale research is conducted under some of the courses they offer. Is there any collaborative project implemented by the ministry of education, ministry of health and the ministry of social welfare? Yes, there is a national council for disabled persons. It is in the ministry of social services. Its membership include the ministries of health, social services and education, and several other government institutions. The meetings are generally held monthly or bi-monthly. Education is among the topics discussed there. Identifying children with special need, enrolling them into schools, giving them education, sending them for exams, providing facilities, vocational training, providing jobs ... ... all these topics are discussed in the council. In teacher training, we seek contributions from the ministry of health - Doctors. We did a training like that last week too. We seek contributions from the specialists in each field. We recently had a special discussion with the ministry of social services on how to operate in collaboration to provide a better service.

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Posted by: nelum on Jun 29, 2016

lakshman 1

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