Is Inclusion More than a Buzz Word at Your School?

specialneeds14563127In August of 2013, ISR published an Article titled, How Supportive of Special Needs Students is Your School? In this Article we included a list that names The Next Frontier Inclusion Foundation‘s 50 charter-member schools. Next Frontier Inclusion, in their own words, is a “non-profit organization that supports international schools in becoming more inclusive of students with special educational needs and exceptional talents.” Since 2013, The Next Frontier Inclusion has attracted scores more member-schools and been instrumental in helping schools world-wide in the area of inclusion.

Yesterday, new comments appeared on the Blog accompanying the above mentioned article.  The comments were written by a parent seeking advice on an inclusive placement for his 10-year old child. Included in his remarks the parent tells how the American International School Jeddah (a charter member of Next Frontier Inclusion) rejected his child’s enrollment application due to “‘mild motor’ issues that require the aid of a nanny as a safety factor in the restroom.”  We don’t know the entire story, but these comments troubled us and gave pause for thought.

Here is a copy of the parent’s comments: 

Dear Sir, I am in Jeddah. My child is 10 years old…he has mild motor difficulty that makes him need little assistance at the toilet for safety…he is mentally fine…he passed his grade 3 in Massarat school…a very good school for inclusion, very helpful and understanding…but unfortunately they haven’t boy section (for older students)…so I looked for international school…all schools with boy section rejected my child for his toilet-issue…needs a nanny for support at the toilet, only for his safety…so I looked for international mixed boys and girls to accept the attendance of a female nanny…

This school was the American International school in Jeddah…they unfortunately rejected us as well saying that he should be totally independent…how this could be said from a school with inclusion???

I wrote to you, hopefully you can help me…because we couldn’t find a decent school for my near normal child…hasn’t he the right to be in a decent place?? To study, to play, to mingle and to be accepted????

Thanks for your time…but I think the American International school in Jeddah doesn’t deserve to be in that list of schools with inclusion…”

(Name withheld)

In 2013, comments posted to this very same ISR Blog reflect a similar reality expressed in the parent’s comments posted in 2016 (above). Here’s a few examples of 2013 comments:

“I have yet to see an international school with an appropriate and acceptable Special Needs program.”

“I’ve worked at 7 international schools and none of them had the least bit of services for special needs. In fact, the school did not identify these kids to us and left us on our own to figure out who was who.”

“New director seems bent on filling seats regardless of student needs and school’s ability to provide appropriate (or any) service.”

“I worked at a school in Khao Yai, Thailand and was asked to work there as a Special Educator. It was interesting, once I started identifying students in the program as possible Sped Kids, I was told my contract would not be renewed…Oh yes this was after they got their certification first…”

With no intention of belittling the work of the The Next Frontier Inclusion Foundation or pointing a finger at American International School Jeddah, our question is: Are some International Schools simply masquerading as being “Inclusive” as a means to adding a more humanistic, caring mask to an otherwise purely profit-motivated operation? ISR School Reviews relate many incidences of International Schools flaunting the PYP, MYP, AP, IB, Best Practices, etc. as a means of attracting clients, but without completely subscribing to or meeting the requirements of the programs. Could the same be true of Inclusion?

13 thoughts on “Is Inclusion More than a Buzz Word at Your School?

  1. Hate to be the splash of cold water on this conversation, but I am now working in the States & even here I rarely see an effective special ed program that can effectively deal with children who have special needs. I seriously question having some of these students who throw tantrums, cannot focus for longer than 5 minutes at a time, etc. in the same class as regular students. I have come to see that disability rights has some severe consequences for other students and the teacher in the class, the amount of time, resources, and energy needed to care for these kids with lots of issues. Perhaps better diagnoses would be better, requiring a school psychologist or such, so that students who do not know the meaning or have never heard the word “no” can be separated out from those who have a disability but still can function in the classroom. To me, some of the ideas on integrating special needs students into regular classrooms defies logic and realistic expectations, as much as these ideas are compassionate in their intent….


    1. You r talking about sector of disability concerning the behaviour which needs highly qualified staff to handle…what the parent in the article is discussing,is just physical disability which needs some assistance,this needs more persons to help which she offered to provide at her cost…


    2. If you will look above, there is actually the narrative about the student with the physical disability followed by other commentary from 2013 about special needs students in general, which can be behavioral or academic in nature. This latter is what I was referring to. Also, while physical disability can be separate from other categories of disabilities, the diagnosis and individualized planning/accommodation needed for all of these can be substantial, necessitating teachers providing such accommodations, following this plan, modifying this plan & various procedures over time, etc. My frustration comes from much of this support falling on the teacher, “let them deal with it” sort of mentalities. More thought and consideration needs be put on the teacher, what is expected of teachers, etc. That is the gist of my point…


  2. I never really realized it but in during the ten years I taught overseas I can’t remember having one student in these schools that required any special support. I just realized the schools did not accept these kids. A rater startling realization for me. I am so happy to hear that there are international schools that do provide support.


  3. I have worked in an International school, in many ways a very good one, however there was no infractstructure to deal with anything other than ESL assistance and support. I remember a student being enrolled, and she clearly had serious issues. She was terrified and sat under the desk, so this is how I taught her, simply because I had come from a system that was ‘inclusive’. I work in a high school in Australia now, with a Special Ed unit attached. These students, where possible are in enrolled in mainstream school, usaully with a support person, dependent on their needs. There are huge costs re this, but it is an acknowledged system. I can quote some great success re post school regarding achievement, Google artist Tim Sharpe. I think the word ‘inclusive’ seems to have a myriad of definitions in many international school stories. Money and data results impede this.


  4. I am in ksa child was in a school not included in these inclusion schools,yet they received my child with great pleasure..they accepted a nanny assistance from our side…..their teachers are very cooperative..but the only problem that they have no boys section after 3rd grade…
    It is not a matter of buildings ,it is still humanity and persons issue…


  5. Our school has a psychologist, counsellors in every division, a speech and language therapist and learning support departments. We try to be inclusive and do accept and support students with moderate disabilities (eg dyslexia/ aspbergers/ ADHD) as we have effective programs to help them but we cannot cater for profound disabilities. Our support students often achieve well above the national average and make significant progress. We had to cater for students with special needs as they were often teacher’s children and could not be denied entry or simply dumped in the back of the room.
    We also have staff with disabilities and this can be inspirational for students too


    1. Very rare! Where is your school. I’ve found one school but I have to foot the Sen bill which is extortionate.


  6. I taught at a small international school in China. We had one severely mentally handicapped child from Korea. Very sweet kid, but with so many problems. The only way we could accept him was if he parents hired a one-to-one aide for him and she had to be with him all day. By the time I got him, he was in 4th grade, but working at a 1st grade level, had communication problems, and really couldn’t handle social issues with the older kids. Lots of tantrums and hitting. It was incredibly challenging. It was finally decided at the end of the year at a meeting with me, the parents, and the principal that we couldn’t give him everything he needed anymore. He really needed to be in a special education class. They ended up having to return to Korea to find a class. There was nothing in China.


    1. Ah, hit the return button accidentally. Anyway, we wanted to be an inclusive school, but was too small and just didn’t have the money or staffing for it. Wish we did.


  7. My experience in Mexico, and in Kuwait was eye-opening to say the least. In Kuwait, the special needs kids were never accepted at private schools but referred to state-run schools that had absolutely no interest or idea about special education.
    In Mexico, these kids were accepted in private schools but simply ignored once there. It was the same with ESL kids who could barely put two English words together BUT were put in advanced or IB courses because their parents wanted this!
    In Mexico, I was told by a parent with a child suffering from MS but intellectually very capable (like Stephen Hawking) that schools refused to accept him out of fear that other students would catch his disease or that parents didn’t want their kids to be near a handicapped person!
    From what I can infer, public schools in North america are far more advanced and open for special needs kids than schools in other countries.


  8. I am not sure if this situation falls into the same category. Still, at one school at which I taught in China, one student appeared to have trouble hearing. He insisted that he was fine, and apparently his parents did the same. I don’t know if his hearing was ever tested. He did poorly all through the two years I was there, with no supplemental support from the school. [There were rumors that he was accepted after his parents paid extra fees; if true, they were pocketed, and not used to help him.] He was one of only three students not accepted by any foreign college or university. Finally, he went to a public American community college, where I would expect him to have finally received some of the support he did not receive in the private international high school.###


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