The road towards social inclusion
What is the essence of integration?
We use integration in education to help the adaptation process of special needs or underprivileged students or those children who come from a different cultural or language backgrounds into a normal community of kindergarten or school children.
Do you think Hungarian society is open for the inclusion of disabled or underprivileged children?
The rules and regulations governing public education have provided the opportunity for inclusive education for a long time and since parents can now practise their right to choose a school for their children freely, they can make their kids go to whichever institution they want to and in the given institution of the given place, the child must be able to receive the education and services that they need. However, this does not make the school inclusive, because for this, they would need to carry out a full reform: the whole attitude of the faculty and the leadership of the school must be changed and each participant should be given the necessary preparation.
There are a lot of good initiatives, which means that the process has started, but there are still a lot of holes in the system: surplus information and community programmes are missing, which would help society get to know the world of disabled children and would therefore help them feel closer to them.
How does successful integration take place?
There are a lot of factors that must be satisfied for successful integration to take place. The most important is the accepting, empathic and supportive attitude of teachers. For this, they must be provided with the necessary knowledge about special needs students so that they can feel competent when they deal with children who fall into this category. It is important for the teachers to have somewhere to turn for help. The other pre-requisite is sufficient knowledge of the child’s personality, needs and necessities. Integration does not mean that the disabled children are made to catch up with the healthy ones, but to exploit the possibilities of developing the ones with special needs. Besides all this, the empathic and inclusive attitude of the group of children is essential, the creation of which is the task of the parents and the teachers.
What are the pre-requisites for integration?
To summarise it briefly, we differentiate between objective and subjective factors, which all have an influence on the creation of integration.
Objective factors include the examination of the aiding material of the special needs students (hearing aid, glasses, movement aids), making the building obstacle-free (elevators, ramps, loudspeakers, traffic stripes on the ground, etc.), the ideal number of students in the class and the rehabilitation activities that complement the learning process.
However, the key to this lies in the subjective factors: the personality of the special needs student is determinative, as well as the attitude of the parents, the attitude of the group and their unity, its dynamism, its harmony and the quality of the cooperation between the teacher and the parents.
Many experts believe that the key to the children’s success in being able to function in society is integration.
The integration at school is definitely important from the point of view of social integration. On the one hand, because the special needs child learns to bring to light the possibilities hiding inside them, to overcome difficulties and obstacles and will be able to ask for help.
It would be important to make as many schools open towards successful and correct integration as possible and that they are given the necessary help for this from the outside. However, full integration can only happen at the level of society.
Can we talk about an education system in Hungary, whether it may be a kindergarten or a school where integration is existent and successful?
There are institutions where the techniques function successfully and inclusive education works well. We hope that however slow the process might be, it is only a question of time to make other institutions catch up in development with those that are ahead of them in progress.
How does it work in the other member states of the EU?
In the other European Union countries, we can distinguish among three different types of inclusion:
- The institutionalised, special, separate forms of education have practically been abolished. For example, in Sweden, Italy, Span, Greece, they only deal with disabled and special needs children in the frames of integrated schools, but there is the opportunity for individual skills development.
- In the education of Denmark, France, Austria and Poland, there are many options. In these countries, developed and well established support systems are in operation – Hungary belongs to this category. In this way, there are many bases available for the integrative processes.
- Finally, we can talk about the parallel functioning of two separate systems, in which the education of special needs children are taking place exclusively in schools and classrooms. This can be found both in Belgium and in Switzerland.
What kind of international principles are characteristic of the European Union?
It is important to mention that the European Union’s resolution increasingly emphasizes integration on the level of society. They find it indispensable to avoid the unfair discrimination and exclusion of special needs children in society. They view integrated education in public education as the tool to create opportunities and reduce inequality.
Is this unified in every country?
No. These are only guiding principles. The educational systems and within this, the treatment of the issues of the disabled are different in the countries within the European Union. There is no unified interpretation of the concept of disability, the criteria for its definition and that of the special needs are different. However, every EU country gives a certain starting point for the others concerning integration. The most important principle is inclusive education. We hope that this will come true.
Translated by Judit Molnár