Enhancing the inclusion of learners with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms
Morena, Malebohang Catherine
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The aim of this study was to enhance inclusion of learners with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms. Inclusion is understood to mean changing the educational system in order to accommodate all learners regardless of their strengths and weaknesses. Learners with special educational needs are defined as those who have difficulties that make it harder for them to learn or access education, meaning that they may need additional assistance different from that given to other learners. Mainstream classrooms are referred to as general classrooms. As a major strategy to respond to Education For All (EFA) Lesotho implemented Free Primary Education (FPE) in the year 2000. As a result of free education, many children were enrolled in schools including those with special educational needs. This has brought challenge to teachers on how the inclusion of learners with special educational needs can be enhanced. Critical pedagogy (CP) which is a conceptual framework was used as a lens of conducting this study. The choice of critical pedagogy was based on the fact that its major goal is to emancipate and educate all learners regardless of their differences. Furthermore, its principles of empowerment, social justice and transformation were regarded important to view critical pedagogy as the best lens. Participatory Action Research (PAR) was used as a methodological approach. PAR involves an inclusive perspective that, to understand a community‘s realities, it is necessary for the researcher to interact with research participants. In PAR co-researchers are actively contributing in all phases of the research process. In conducting this study, involved were fourteen co-researchers including the head teacher, seven teachers, three learners and three parents who participated throughout the study. To analyse data, Fairglough‘s Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was used. . Fairclough‘s framework was chosen to ensure that the focus of the analysis was on the linguistic features of the text; also to focus on circumstances related to the production of text by co-researchers and finally on the broader social practice to which the text produced belonged. The findings of the study revealed that initial teacher tuition does not prepare teachers affectively for inclusive education; the curriculum is restrictive leaving little space for adaptations; teachers still use teacher-centred approaches; inadequate parental involvement; as well as the teaching and learning environment that is not conducive for inclusion. The study recommends that initial teacher tuition institutions prepare all teachers for inclusive education. In-service programmes and workshops are also recommended for teachers to improve their skills and knowledge of inclusive education. For curriculum, the study recommends decentralized curriculum. Learner-centred approaches are recommended and it is also recommended that parents should be seen as active participants in education. The study further recommends the barrier free environment for successful inclusion.