Black on or off? A dangerous dispute over the education of children with disabilities
Should children with disabilities go to mainstream schools? In PiS, they lost themselves in this matter. On the one hand, they want EU billions for the so-called inclusive education, on the other hand, they are afraid of their radical voters, who call it “ideology”. Czarnek announces the creation of a separate fund for special schools.
Would it be so terrible if my son went to school with your children and had classes with his teacher there? Sometimes he would paint something with your children in art, run in PE. And sometimes he invited your children for sandwiches that he made during his classes. Would it be so scary that your children would recognize him and say “hello” when they meet him in the store or on the playground? Would it be so terrible if it was their schoolmate and not some weirdo that their parents drive somewhere far away to a special facility? Why do you say that isolating him from the local community is for his good, because in a normal school he would be the target of bullying? What harassment? From your children?
These words were posted on social media by the mother of a disabled child. She addressed parents who are afraid that a student with difficulties will adversely affect the education of their able-bodied children. She was prompted to these questions by the subsequent statements of right-wing politicians and activists in recent weeks, who began to scare parents with a new monster after “gender ideology” – inclusive education.
Under the guise of concern for the well-being of children with disabilities (because they are allegedly persecuted by non-disabled children) and the quality of education (because in their opinion it is a race to the bottom and everyone loses on such learning), people such as Barbara Nowak, the education superintendent of Małopolska, oppose the official government policy. This one assumes “inclusion”, i.e. giving children with disabilities a chance to learn in a public school.
– Inclusive education has been implemented in the Polish education system since the 1990s. There are various problems with its implementation and quality, but it has existed for a long time – said Elżbieta Neroj, director of the department of upbringing and inclusive education at the Ministry of Education.
A moment earlier, her deputy head, Marzena Machałek, said firmly: – Inclusive education is not an ideology.
Both performed at the end of March at a conference co-organized by MEiN and UNICEF. And Machałek’s words, although in line with scientific facts and official government policy, may have come as a surprise to some right-wing circles.
Certainly for the School Protection Movement, which on the same day picketed and organized its press conference in front of the building of the University of Warsaw, where the conference was held. This is an organization that considers the greatest threats to education: “inclusive education, distance learning, sexualization under the guise of education and ‘LGBT + ideology'”.
ROS representatives had a large banner with a slogan completely opposite to that of Machałek: “Inclusive ideology destroys education! Stop!”.
ROS is a group of – as they introduce themselves – teachers and parents who have been fighting against inclusive education for months. At the end of 2022, they even gained the support of Barbara Nowak, curator from Lesser Poland, who even gave her honorary patronage to the conference entitled “The ideology of inclusion in school reality”. She herself called inclusive education a “leftist utopia”.
Initially, both ROS and Nowak were in a quiet minority on inclusive education. But in recent weeks, their theses have begun to break through more and more loudly in the right-wing media, including Radio Maryja and “Nasz Dziennik”. Their publications in these titles, as well as the interviews they give them, contradict the official position of the government.
The Ministry of Education, headed by Przemysław Czarnek, defines inclusive education as “an approach in the process of education and upbringing, the aim of which is to increase educational opportunities for all learners by providing them with conditions to develop their individual potential, so as to enable them to fully develop their personal opportunities and full inclusion in society.
Today in Poland, 35 percent. students receive psychological and pedagogical help at some stage of their education. 4.3% of the population is covered by special education. 70% of all students of them are now enrolled in public schools. In addition, we have over 170,000 students in educational institutions. students from Ukraine. Because inclusive education applies not only to children with disabilities, but to all children with special educational needs that are somehow extraordinary.
Although we have a demographic decline and there are fewer and fewer children in schools, the number of students with special education certificates is growing. Within 15 years, it has increased by approx. 50,000, i.e. approx. 30 percent.
Our children “didn’t break down” – just, as experts emphasize, awareness has increased and diagnostics have improved. In addition, more and more disabilities do not preclude a long life. Not all of them are visible at first glance – but they can affect the emotional or relational sphere of children. Today, a student who a dozen or so years ago would be called “naughty”, “difficult” or in the worst cases labeled “stupid”, has a chance to get the right diagnosis, and with it tips on how to work with him so that his potential deficits were the least obstacle to education. And socialization, because the latter – although it is easy to forget – is also the task of the school.
Students whose educational needs are more demanding include socially maladjusted, blind, autistic and multiple disabilities. The type of disability and related difficulties does not matter. Inclusive education means that the person concerned is educated in a mainstream school. And there he gets adequate support.
So why is inclusive education, which is supposed to support children with disabilities, so hard for some right-wing activists? And will it not become an important topic in the election campaign?
The government is one thing, curator Nowak is another
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