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Inclusive Education in Ukraine:Together Step by Step

21 March 2018

Робота художника Нікіти Тітова

Inclusive education is a component of the humanitarian policy of every modern state, which proves to what extent the society protects inalienable human rights, that is now gradually entering in the educational process in Ukraine. First and foremost, inclusive education is about the formation of the public attention and respect for the diversity and uniqueness of each student, which, in its turn, provides for better quality education for all children. This is the vision of the value and objectives of the inclusive education practice implementation by the International Renaissance Foundation and the entire Open Society Foundations networks, which includes our Foundation.

In a truly inclusive environment every child, including children with special educational needs, feels safe and has a sense of belonging to the team. Students and their parents participate in the process of defining educational objectives, as well as in decision making relating to them, whereas school employees, in their turn, shall have the relevant qualifications, as well as a due level of support, flexibility and resources to educate, encourage and respond to the needs of all students, without exceptions.

Last year the Law of Ukraine “On Education” was adopted. This Law is truly innovative and opens up a wide field for the implementation of the inclusive approach in the education system. In October 2017 the International Renaissance Foundation and the Poroshenko Charity Foundation signed the Memorandum of Cooperation within the framework of the Inclusive Education Initiative in Ukraine. This cooperation with the Poroshenko Charity Foundation is another important step in the Foundation’s work to promote the educational reform. Such cooperation helps to unite efforts of charitable organizations with the educational and material resources of state institutions, as well as helps to create completely new possibilities to build a truly working inclusive educational system based on respect for human rights and the establishment of conditions for equal opportunities.

One of the key directions of the joint initiative is the expert support for the development and implementation of the effective state policy in the field of the inclusive education in Ukraine. For the first time in Ukraine, significant state funding has been allocated to create a level playing field for children with special educational needs – UAH 509 million in 2018. This is the amount of the subvention allocated for inclusive education in the state budget. In simple terms, this means that the funds are transferred from the state budget to the local budgets to pay for additional educational services, correctional developmental activities and the purchase of correctional equipment determined in accordance with the individual program of the child development.

Another important step initiated by the Ministry of Education and its partners is the creation of the inclusive resource centers. Fundamentally new institutions will be created that are designed to determine the special educational needs of children not based on the international classification of diseases, as before, but based on the international classification of functions of children with special needs. This is a much more modern and less discriminatory approach. In addition to it, these centers will be territorially more accessible, as they are created based on the calculation one center per no more than seven thousand children residing in the territory of the amalgamated territorial community (district) and no more than 12 thousand children residing in the city (city district).

Last year, the Ministry of Education developed and approved the Concept of the “New Ukrainian School”, a strategy for reforming secondary education by 2029. The Concept aims at a high goal: teachers shall acquire new competences that shall transform the school so that it becomes a friendly place for students, where their opinion matters, where they are taught to develop critical thinking, without fear of expressing their own opinion, as well as where they are educated to become responsible citizens. The Concept is based on the pedagogy of partnership: cooperation between the teacher, student and parents, who should become equal participants in the educational process.

In the new Ukrainian school, every teacher will be able to work with children with special educational needs. The task “to develop and introduce a compulsory course for all pedagogical staff regarding the specificity of work with children with special educational needs within the framework of inclusive education” has been included in the Action Plan for 2017-2029 to introduce “the New Ukrainian School” and has already been approved by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers.

The International Renaissance Foundation has supported the initiative of the Poroshenko Charity Foundation to develop and introduce a new course on inclusive education for students of pedagogical universities. As part of the joint initiative, it is planned that the course will be adapted for re-training and improving the skills of teachers.

For the International Renaissance Foundation, the important element in the introduction of inclusive education is not only the change of legislation and the improvement of the infrastructure, but also the change of values of education. That is why the next step is the educational hackathon “Inclusion. How to make school friendly for all?”, which will be held in Kyiv on April 5-6, 2018. The aim of the hackathon is to develop practices that will help all children, regardless of their ethnicity and religious belief, health and other differences, feel comfortable at school, find new friends and receive high quality education. The teams will include educators, students, parents, community activists and anyone interested in the development of education, anyone who has the ideas and is ready to work to implement them. During two days of the hackathon ten participating teams with the help of experts will delve into the subject of inclusive education and generate solutions to existing challenges.

All teams with receive mentorship during two days of the hackathon and two months following the hackathon, thus, they will be able to implement the developed projects with funding raised through the GoF platform. Five winning teams are guaranteed to start their projects on GoF and will receive support from the hackathon partner. The developed practices will be transferred to EduHub, an online library of educational solutions and will be available for implementation in other schools.

Such measures are aimed at reinforcing the idea and practices of inclusive education, which, it its turn, will facilitate the formation and development of the community of activist educators who disseminate the inclusive understanding of the educational process and the right of all to equal education, which are already, step by step, entering the practice of educational life in Ukraine.

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