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?

How Supportive of Special Needs Students is Your School?

specialneeds14563127Just days ago, ISR received a letter from The Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI). We’re delighted to learn NFI is committed to supporting Special Needs Students in International Schools. This is the first such organization of its kind of which we are aware. A copy of the letter from Gill & Ochan Powell of NFI is posted below.

You’ll notice the letter includes a list of schools already affiliated with NFI & it looks like they’re off to a strong start. Of course, we all know there can be a huge chasm between word & deed, & for International Educators seeking positions at new schools, it may be useful to know to what extent individual schools actually do support Special Needs Students.

Reviews on ISR reveal scenarios in which Special Needs Students are tossed into the mainstream student population & potentially left to sink or swim. Without question, this approach drastically impacts everyone, students, families, teachers, admin & classmates, alike. Surprisingly, some schools consider this sink or swim “method” their full commitment to services for Special Needs Students.

Also to be considered are cultures that  keep Special Needs Students in the background & out of sight as if  they are a source of embarrassment. How Special Needs Programs would function in these societies should be of concern to International Educators, as schools may simply pay lip service to Special Needs Programs as a means to collect exorbitant fees from unsuspecting parents.

Of course, there are many schools earnestly implementing programs to meet the needs of Special Needs Students. But before considering an International school for your child or your International teaching career, everyone should be aware of the extent to which Special Needs Students are supported at that school. Is this a sink or swim school, or a supportive environment in which to grow & develop as a teacher &/or a student?

To help identify schools committed to the unique requirements of Special Needs Students, we invite ISR readers to share their knowledge about the dedication to Special Needs Programs made by schools on the Next Frontier Inclusion list, below. If you have experience with a school not on the list, please also feel free to inform colleagues on that particular school.

Together we can identify & support the schools truly helping Special Needs Students.

Letter from The Next Frontier Inclusion to
AISHnet (Academy of International School Heads), Headnet & ISR

Dear All,
We hope the school year has started well for you. From a reading of the “roll call” on AISHnet and Headnet, it would seem that international schools are flourishing, with many seeing record levels of enrollment and expansion.

The purpose of this news release is to keep you abreast of some of the developments in The Next Frontier Inclusion, Thinking Collaborative, EAF Staff Development Center and some new publications that may be of interest. Please feel free to share this newsletter and any of the attachments.

The Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI) is a non-profit organization that supports international schools in becoming more inclusive of students with special educational needs and exceptional talents. NFI membership is now over fifty international schools and growing. We are a collaborative group that meets periodically to share knowledge and experience with respect to inclusive education. Please visit our web site: Next Frontier Inclusion

The following schools have joined NFI:

American Int’l School of Dhaka
American Int’l School of Jeddah
American Int’l School of Johannesburg
American Int’l School of Rotterdam
American Int’l School of Vienna
American School of Brazzaville
American School of Chennai
American School of Dubai
American School of The Hague
American School of Yaounde
Anglo-American School Moscow
Bangalore Int’l School
Beacon Hill School, Hong Kong
Beijing City Int’l School
Berlin Brandenburg Int’l School
Bonn Int’l School
Casablanca American School
Colegio Gran Bretana
Concordia Int’l School Shanghai
Concordian Int’l School, Bangkok
Copenhagen Int’l School
Ecole Nouvelle Suisse de la Romande
Hong Kong Academy
Int’l Community School Addis Ababa
Int’l Community School, Amman
Int’l Community School, London
Int’l School of Ho Chi Minh City
Int’l School Basel
Int’l School of Bangkok
Int’l School of Beijing
Int’l School of Berne
Int’l School of Brussels
Int’l School of Dhaka
Int’l School of Havana
Int’l School of Kenya
Int’l School of Kuala Lumpur
Int’l School of Manila
Int’l School of Tanganyika
Int’l School of Zurich
Jakarta Int’l School
Kongsberg Int’l School
Metropolitan School of Panama
Nagoya Int’l School
Nanjing Int’l School
Phuket Int’l Academy Day School
Singapore American School
SJI Int’l School, Singapore
UNIS Hanoi
UNIS New York
Yokohama Int’l School

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