Adjusting secondary teacher training programmes in Botswana to ensure effective support within inclusive education
Mbengwa, Elizabeth Badirwang
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Educational support to learners has for many decades followed the traditional modernist approach predominant in special education: learners were classified and categorized according to the medical model of need. The advent of inclusive education towards the end of the twentieth century, with a totally different approach to need and support, created a mammoth challenge to teachers in inclusive classrooms and staff within education support services, especially in developing countries. A leap had to be made from the medical model to a social and ecosystemic model of need, where the focus shifted to a holistic view of support needs, whether it is located in the learner, the family, the peer group, the school or the broader society – or the interaction amongst these systems that should be addressed. It is evident therefore that there is a need for teacher training programmes to undergo transformation that will enable ordinary or general education teachers or educators to function effectively within the inclusive education system. This study investigated whether secondary special or inclusive education teacher training in Botswana has taken the leap towards producing “diplomates” who can effectively support learners in their inclusive classrooms. Furthermore, the study endeavoured to propose a future model for secondary special/inclusive education teacher training. Participants in the empirical investigation included teachers from the two secondary colleges of education (Molepolole – MCE, and Tonota – TCE), teacher trainers, school heads as well as knowledgeable persons in the area of inclusive education and support. Questionnaires and interviews were used for collecting data. International developments on inclusive education teacher training and support were considered while conducting the empirical investigation. Examples of those include: international developments on the model of special or inclusive education teacher training; teacher competencies, knowledge and skills relevant for inclusive education and support; challenges to inclusive teacher training in institutions and factors to facilitate effective teacher performance in the field. Subsequent to studying international perspectives on special or inclusive education teacher training and investigating the status of special or inclusive education teacher training in Botswana secondary colleges, the researcher reached the conclusion that the current teacher training programme has to a large extent not taken the leap towards inclusive education teacher training. The programme would therefore not enable teachers to function effectively within the inclusive system of education. The findings included amongst others that the programme is predominantly focused on the traditional modernist approach – teachers are trained along the medical model. It was also established that there are other factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness of the programme, for example, unavailability and inadequacy of human and material resources and a lack of policy and guidelines on inclusive education and support at institutional and currently at national level (the national policy still being in progress). On the other hand, it has to be acknowledged that the programme has some positive areas that match international developments on special or inclusive education teacher training. These areas are that the programme is studied by all trainees and it is also broad-based. Moreover, there are programme components that are of importance to successful implementation of inclusive education support, such as the Individualised Education Programmes/Plans (IEPs). This study may be used as a basis for evaluating the current special or inclusive education teacher training programmes at the Botswana secondary colleges of education, namely MCE and TCE. It is also envisaged that the proposed teacher training model will be of great assistance during the reviewing and restructuring of these (and other international) programmes.