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The Possibilities to Including Children with Special and Exceptional Needs in Comprehensive Schools in Latvia: a Historical Perspective Dita Nīmante, PhD.

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Presentation on theme: "The Possibilities to Including Children with Special and Exceptional Needs in Comprehensive Schools in Latvia: a Historical Perspective Dita Nīmante, PhD."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Possibilities to Including Children with Special and Exceptional Needs in Comprehensive Schools in Latvia: a Historical Perspective Dita Nīmante, PhD student, the University of Latvia Leipzig January 11-12, 2008

2 The Researche question What were the possibilities of including the children with special and exceptional needs in comprehensive schools in Latvia historically? What were the determining factors?

3 Research approach Culture historical approach (Ķestere, 2005) The way pedagogical concepts, ideas supporting the inclusion of children with special and exceptional needs in comprehensive school are implemented in practice, in action. Sources and literature used Special education in Latvia has not been extensively researched. Even if there are studies of the history of the institution of education (special school), the history of the pedagogical ideas within special pedagogy has not been broadly identified.

4 Quest The history of special education - To establish the history of the possibilities for including children with special and exceptional needs, the historical experience related to the development of formal institutes of education for children with special needs. To understand the present-day process in education with regard to children with special and exceptional needs. Schalik: „The studies of history researching the issues linked with children and disability will provide a better understanding of the way these individuals were treated from ancient times and today”. (Schalick, 2001, p. 91)

5 The Quest The history of “Difference” reflects the way people, society throughout centuries have understood and interpreted and treated “difference”. It is the history of “childhood and youth”.

6 The history of “Difference” In Egypt, Roman Empire and Ancient Greek - a medical interest, utilitarian use of the difference, for example, the “cripples” were trained to become beggars. Early Christianity and Middle Ages – the different as the reflection of their parents’ sins, the approach based upon religious stereotypes, isolation. Renaissance ideas, ideas of humanism saw the human being as the highest value. It is possible to educate a child with special needs (Gironimo Cardano (1501 – 1576)) The ideas of John Lock ( ) about the child as a blank sheet of paper that can be filled in – new hopes for children with special needs. The ideas of French Enlighteners– to understand and to develop the child’s needs.

7 Even though the history of ideas is important and needs to be assessed, the decisive factor in the development of pedagogy is the practice of education. Not always an idea or a theoretical concept can be regarded as the starting point of real action. They may serve as facilitators, can be accumulated in society, but frequently it takes decades or even hundreds of years before they are implemented in school practice. „ Pedagogical ideas, theories and ideals have the same fate as all other ideals and promises, they all have to undergo the test of practical life in collision with the reality of life, in the grey, petty work of every day life.” (Dauge, 1928, p. 47)

8 The Possibilities for Formal and Informal Education for Children with Special Needs Up to the 1700s the society in general did not offer to children with special needs the possibilities of formal education (Armstrong, 2002). Care and protection of people with special needs in Europe appeared only in the 18th century. (Kravalis, 1996) The first formal attempt to educated “deaf children” in Spain, in 1578, at San Salvador Benedictine monastery (Winzer, 1993) French pedagogues: Rodrigue Pereire(1715 – 1780) was the first to start working with deaf children in 1745 in France Charles Michel de l’Epee (1712 – 1789) in 1760 established his alternative “deaf” school Valentin Hauy ( ) was the first to start working with blind children in 1784 in France Doctor Philippe Pinel ( ) in 1793 started working with people with mental retardation. The followers of Pinnel – doctor G.M.A. Ferrus in 1826 in Bicêtre opened the first private school for chidlren with mental retardation. Also his other followers - Edouard Seguin ( ) and Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol ( ) in 1830 opened a private school for children with mental retardation.

9 Latvian Context (the 19th cent.) Pedagogical ideas were travelling and were discussed, the whole of Europe became acquainted with them. (Jonsen, 2001) The pedagogical ideas reached also pedagogues present in the territory of Latvia, who were educated in Germany or were simply “ordered” from Germany. (Kravalis, 1996) The first special school - for “deaf-and-mute” children. These started off as homeschools, later turning into small private schools (in 1809 and 1832). In 1839 the first public school for deaf-and-mute children was established, which was headed by the graduate of Weissenfels Seminar – August Arnoldy from Germany, who was specially trained to teach deaf-and-mute children (Kravalis, 1996). In 1854 the first institution of education for children with mental development disorders in Russian was opened, “an institution for idiots”, which was headed by Friedrich Plaz. The first public school for blind children was opened in 1872 in Riga, ophthalmologist K. Waldhauer was its director. (Kravalis, 1996)

10 Futhure development The education opportunities for children with special needs broadened with the development of diverse branches of science and the adoption of the Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas into the pedagogical activities. However, the typical general trend – to offer education in a separated or the so-called segregative environment, separately from the children of comprehensive schools, has remained from the 18th century to the present day. Society has an important role to play in ensuring opportunities 1.Separate pedagogical initiatives without public financial support are doomed to failure Pestalozzi school that enrolled all children, Dr. Johann Graeser’s successful attempts to integrate “deaf boys” in the environment of local comprehensive class in 1821 in Germany, Beyrenth. 2. The positive impact of compulsory education upon the development of special education (Winzer, 1993, Замский, 1995)

11 The educational opportunities for children with special and particular needs Philosophical, theoretical justification Pedagogues, adapt the ideas for practice Legislation Compulsory education Funding Society

12 What determined and maintained the idea of a separate, separated and segregative education? The theories that developed and became popular were taken over from Europe and America. Riddell (Riddell, 2007) mentions two theories of this kind: 1.The functional theory of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, which stipulated that the aim of a healthy society was to include as many people as possible, but to neutralize those who were marginalised. 2.The development of eugenics in the USA and Western Europe that envisaged that children with special needs, especially children with mental retardation, psychiatric diseases, combined disorders should be separated and in some cases even destroyed with the aim of protecting the rest of society, to prevent continuity of the negative impact of heredity.

13 Latvian context (the end of the 19th century – the beginning of the 20th century, the period of independent Republic of Latvia up to 1941) The beginning of the development of special pedagogy as a branch of pedagogy - books about children with special needs. For example, A. Ķeniņs, “The deaf-and-mute, his upbringing and elementary education” 1897, J. Stūrītis „Special school”(1932), M.Štāls „Our life’s outcasts, their upbringing and teaching” (1936) The inclusion of some topics linked to children with special needs in the teacher training programs. (Ķestere, Nīmante, 2007) Discussions about placing - where “the forgotten children” should learn, about which is the best place - the “normal” or the special school - for the children, who at the time were called “less talented”, “lagging behind and defective”, “with little abilities”, “anomalous” children. Basic information on special education issues for regular teachers - chapters in the books. ( Dēķens, 1919, Štāls, 1935)

14 Latvian context (the end of the 19th century – the beginning of the 20th century, the period of independent Republic of Latvia up to 1941) The authors of the time were against joint education in a “normal” school because of pedagogical and social reasons. It was believed that separation or segregation was necessary, since the “normal” school could not satisfy the educational needs of the “different” children. In the “normal” school these children were not offered an adequate learning process, since the teachers were unable to offer it in a “normal” class. And if these children fail to learn anything, then they will not be successful, and they will start feeling bad as personalities – like outcasts.

15 Latvian context (the end of the 19th century – the beginning of the 20th century, the period of independent Republic of Latvia up to 1941) Allocating children to schools of various levels – striving for individualisation. Dauge in his work “The Ideals and the Reality of Education” (1928), referring to the Dalton Plan (Helen Parkhurst, ), voices the opinion that the pupils can and should be divided into several levels that are represented by schools of various levels: schools for retarded and defective children, schools for less talented, schools for those of average talents, schools for the talented. This, in fact, would ensure individualisation. „Dividing of class into two or three different units, which any pupil can join according to his own free choice, is the path towards increased individualisation of pupils.” (Dauge, 1928, p. 8) The opinions expressed by Dauge reflected a broader discussion among the Western pedagogues from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. The core of the discussion was based in the attempts to reveal “ the contradiction, typical of the present, between the mass education and the individual mastery of knowledge.” (Maslo, 1995, p.60)

16 Latvian Context ( ) Special education - a part of the Soviet Union system of special education, the basic character of which was determined by the Soviet understanding of the science of defectology (a defect – from Latin – imperfection, logos – from Greek – teaching) In the Soviet Union defectology (the studies of defects) was focused upon disorders (biological or others ), inadequacies or other development problems, calling them defects. The children with special needs were segregated into separate – special schools, as well as into special classes within comprehensive schools, thus implementing both segregative and integrative approaches. The objective of the special schools was to correct the disorders and to prepare the child for the working life. (Замский, 1995)

17 The Ambiguity of Defectology Zamsky recognises that the attitude of the Soviet power towards defective children was, first of all, determined by the objective – education for all children, and, secondly, the principle that all children were the future of the state and therefore childhood needed protection. (Замский, 1995) However, the principle “childhood needs protection” should be viewed in connection with the understanding of defective children held by the science of the time. Zamsky states that Russian researchers in the period from 1919 to 1923 took over “uncritically” the theory of “eternal virtue and moral truth” coming from the West, which stipulated that the majority of children had moral senses similar to vision, hearing, smell or other senses. However, some children because of bad heredity or as the result of degradation are born without these senses. These people are unable to distinguish between the evil, bad and the good. Therefore they are “moral cripples”, and the cause is a biological problem.

18 The Ambiguity of Defectology The activities of Lev Vigotsky in the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s and the opinions he expressed, his public addresses in several All Russia conferences was a completely novel approach to the declaration of defectology. Among other views that he expressed was the idea that the special education should be totally reorganised, that it should as far as possible come closer to and not distance itself from the normal childhood pedagogy. To find a system that would allow “organic” merging of both. (Замский, 1995). Lev Vigotsky was a part of broader group of researchers who were in favor of social perspective of child development.

19 The Ambiguity of Defectology 1936 was the turning point - the new ideas and the experimental activities were stopped. Thus the Soviet defectology “fell back” to its previous stage of development - the special children were still massed into the special schools, separated from the comprehensive school, to “protect” the society from them, the disorder (the defect) of the child was in the main focus of attention, and it was basically viewed from the biological perspective.

20 Latvian Context (after 1991) Tendencies Democratization of society, increased level of public responsibility and awareness towards its citizens. Continuous impact of defectology (OECD, 2000) Integration policy and practice The entry of the ideas of human pedagogy and reform pedagogy into Latvian pedagogy (Step by step programme, Pestalozzi ideas) Gradual appearance of the social model – from the concept “Special education, predominantly linked to a location” to the concept “A service that the child can receive – as a support rendered in the place, where it is most acceptable for the child and his/ her parents” (Support centre in regular schools) Teacher training (Special education as obligatory course in teacher training programmes, inclusive education as topic in the teacher in - service training programmes)

21 In Conclusion The opportunities for including children with special and particular needs in comprehensive school from the historical perspective are formed by the attitude towards children with special and particular needs dictated by each period of history and by the understanding of the children with special and exceptional needs. This understanding is deeply rooted in diverse aspects, including religious, ethical, medical, political, economic and other aspects, as well as the society’s attitude towards what is “the norm”. The understanding and the actions – the isolation, segregation, integration or inclusion of children with special and particular needs – have also been determined by the theoretical assumptions that in each specific period of time have gained the largest public support, which have conformed with the totality of the public opinions and the development level of awareness. Thus the idea of including children with special and particular needs in comprehensive school needs several preconditions – the philosophical concept, pedagogical activities, society’s attitude, which is represented by the provided funding and the compulsory norms included in the legislation.


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