In the beginning of 2012, the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia announced an initiative to shift from inclusive and non-inclusive schools towards inclusion for all. According to this concept, by 2022 all mainstream schools of Armenia should open their doors to children with special educational needs (SEN). The Open Society Foundations – Armenia has continuously supported inclusive education in Armenia since 2009, by working with special schools to transform them into resource centers to assist inclusive schools in provision of better education and inclusion for children with disabilities.
The Foundation commissioned a research project to assess the implementation of inclusive education in Armenia to better understand the extent to which existing inclusive schools provide quality education to children with SEN, as well as to identify existing risks and challenges related to the proposed overall inclusiveness. The research was conducted by the Center for Educational Research and Consulting and had three main points of focus:
- Inclusive education (IE) system in Armenia: legislation, dynamics, perspectives;
- Inclusive schools: current situation, perceptions, challenges, expectations; and
- Effectiveness and efficiency: accountability and sustainability mechanisms.
The geography of research included 34 inclusive schools from 6 regions of Armenia, including Yerevan. Primary data was collected through qualitative and quantitative research methods. A review of secondary data was also conducted. The evaluation tools were designed to ensure the involvement of all stakeholder groups (IE experts, teachers, school principals, parents, and children with and without SEN, decision makers at national and regional levels) in the collection of primary data.
The research was carried out over the course of nine months, from January to September 2013. It concluded that despite many achievements in the implementation of IE in Armenia, there are still a number of problems and issues that require further intervention. More specifically, the fact is that in many cases under the umbrella of inclusive education there is a functioning model of integrated education in Armenia. As such, the system is not targeted towards ensuring quality education for all students; rather it stipulates the joint administration of education for children with and without SEN. The goals, objectives and structure of multiprofessional teams at schools are not clearly defined by decision makers. Tolerance towards IE and its beneficiaries is not fully exercised among teachers and parents.
The main conclusion of the research is that continuous work should be done on policy, resource management; IE funding levels to ensure inclusive education is effectively integrated into mainstream schools. There should be further capacity building in this area among educators and school management. Significant efforts should also be made for breaking stereotyped perceptions among teachers, parents and pupils towards IE and children with SEN. Regarding the goal of overall inclusion, an in-depth quality and efficiency analysis of the system should be conducted, the projected increase in the number of inclusive schools should be defined, and a unified state funding mechanism should be designed.
The public presentation of the report happened on December 17th, 2013Research report is now available here. As a follow up to the research, OSF – Armenia has announced a call for policy research proposals, the goal of which is to support the implementation of independent and highly professional policy research on three sub-topics:
- Professional teaching resources and capacities of inclusive schools;
- IE funding; and
- Stereotyped perceptions of IE and children with SEN.
Two policy research projects will start on February 1st. In September 2014 a series of discussions with different stakeholders will be organized based on produced policy papers. For more information visit the OSF Armenia webpage.
Lilit Nazaryan is the National Education Program coordinator for OSF Armenia.