Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Breaking the Silence of Mainstream Teachers' Attitude towards Inclusive Education in the Bahamas: High School Teachers' Perceptions

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Breaking the Silence of Mainstream Teachers' Attitude towards Inclusive Education in the Bahamas: High School Teachers' Perceptions

Article excerpt

Inclusive education is a critical component in the development of the whole child. Inclusion promotes quality and equity education for all, without any type of barrier or exclusion, including those who may be potentially marginalized due to disability, gender, emotional/ behavioral problems, family background, ethnicity, giftedness, migrants, poverty, hearing or visual impairment, language delay, among others. (UNESCO, 1994, p. 6)

Within recent years, there has been a paradigm shift regarding global legislation to incorporate the objectives of the Salamanca Statement (1994) with the view of accommodating inclusive education principles. One such legislation occurred in The United States, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which was subsequently revised as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 1990 and later reviewed again in 1997. This act was established to promote a whole school approach to inclusion (Evans & Lunt, 2002). Similarly, all European Union countries have included legislation to promote or require inclusion (European Convention on Human Rights). Within the Caribbean, The Task Force on Education Reform Jamaica (2004) has stipulated that Jamaica will "uphold the fulfillment of human rights, dignity for all persons, and builds continual social progress based on shared values and principles of partnerships." Moreover, Smith (2007) stated "despite challenges in the Bahamas, measures are continuously being implemented to ensure that special education is embraced to meet the needs of all students" (p. 8). Contrary to the adaption of inclusive education legislation globally, Andrews and Frankel (2010), report that Guyana has yet to implement inclusive education policies, laws and practices for students with special needs despite maintaining a National Policy on the Rights of People with disabilities. The inclusive education movement has been endorsed internationally by The United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) and reflects the United Nation's global strategy of Education for All (Farrell & Ainscow, 2002). Despite this widely accepted approach to inclusive education, Eleweke and Rodda (2000), found that 80% of the world's population of people with disabilities live in developing countries with an estimated 150 million of them being children with 2% receiving any form of special needs service.

Within the educational system, teachers are expected to be the most significant stakeholders of its nation's youth. However, there are still determinants that inhibit teachers from advocating the vision of inclusive education. Andrews and Frankel (2010) recognized major concerns participants expressed about the implementation of inclusive education including inadequate training, lack of skills to teach students with special needs, lack of appropriate infrastructure, and the nonexistence of adapted curricula in the classroom. Each of these factors affected the experiences of the teacher in the inclusive classroom and their attitude towards inclusive education.

On this premise, this study was conducted with the view of exploring high school teachers' attitudes of inclusive education and to determine what factors influence these attitudes. As inclusive education is an issue of great importance within the Bahamas, it is anticipated that the findings from this study would be useful in mitigating negative attitudes of high school teacher regarding inclusion. Further, the study would provide a foundational platform for policy makers, administrators, and teachers with the view of exploring varied instructional methods, and investigating approaches to integrate, diversify, differentiate, train, and support teachers who work in the inclusive classroom setting while addressing the gap in the literature regarding inclusive education in a Bahamian context. Finally, the study aims to sensitize readers about inclusive education and to address the gap in current literature related to the attitudes of teachers toward inclusive education at the high school level. …

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