Supporting Children with Special Education Needs in Several Schools in the Palestinian Territories

Project location: PALESTINE, Bethelehem, East Jerusalem and North Hebron
Project start date: September 2014 - Project end date: September 2015
Project number: 2014-026
Beneficiary: FundaciĆ³n PromociĆ³n Social de la Cultura (FPSC)

 

The field of special educational needs related to learning difficulties is completely unexplored in the Palestinian Territories. Educators do not have any academic training in this regard, there is no publication or study on the status of this issue, and both the Ministry of Education and teachers have expressed their inability to address this problem due to the lack of resources and tools.
During the needs assessment prepared by the University of Bethlehem along with the FPSC under the Education Agreement 10-CO1-107 funded by the AECID (The Spanish Cooperation Agency) "Improving Primary and secondary Palestinian Territories", the teachers interviewed from the areas of Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and north of Hebron, said that students around 20% -22% of the classroom population, usually aged between 6 and 9 years, were not able to follow the classes and showed signs of learning difficulty.
Those teachers admitted that due to a lack of knowledge and academic preparation they were unable to diagnose the problem and thus help students. In many cases, they said, early detection and tutoring could prevent these children to become part of the high dropout rates.
The percentage of children with learning difficulties in Palestine is the highest of the Middle Eastern region. One of the reason is the difficult context they live: the permanent occupation, the uncertainty, the bad economic and social situation; all this affects children who are the most vulnerable elements of society. The Israeli occupation in the Palestinian Territories, especially after the construction of the Separation Wall in 2002 and the big number of checkpoints and inside borders along the West Bank, have contributed to the development of an atmosphere of stress and fear that affects daily lives.
The problem that this project addresses is therefore the lack of training among active teachers in Palestine so as to contribute to the Ministry of Education's effort of promoting an inclusive education model in the OPT. Training teachers on new learning methodologies and providing them with appropriate tools to manage students with learning difficulty means to guarantee the permanence of those children in the school system.
The project is also in line with Nando Peretti Foundation's priorities as it supports:
- Children and their right to education;
- Disadvantaged community (Palestinians who live in a permanent occupied territory);
- The promotion of human and civil rights of the Palestinian Community.

The activities proposed by this project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, are the following:
1. A total of 400 hours of School based training will be conducted in a number of schools in Bethlehem area, East Jerusalem and North Hebron.
Specialists from Bethlehem University will supervise at least 30 teachers in their regular classrooms. This individual follow up initiative was very successful in the past and that encouraged many teachers to apply for. In a regular basis, the supervisor will attend the normal classes, (Math, Arabic, English or Science) observe the teacher and then have a number of meetings with the teacher in order to go over the teaching methods, advice on how to improve the lesson, and in general develop new tools and skills so that he/she is able to help those of his students with special education needs. The results of the School Based Training will be reflected in the creation of 10 learning packages where the experience will be developed by a pedagogical approach to serve more teachers in the future to cope with the reality of students with special needs in their classrooms.

2. At least 15 support teachers will develop "Support Plan" tools for students with special needs at their schools with the supervision of the Bethlehem University staff.
The idea is to develop the "Support Plan" tool that has been put into practise in already a number of schools of the area with great results: teachers have been trained during the last past three years to be able to tackle the issue of early detection of learning difficulties. Now, once the teacher is able to identify and evaluate the degree of learning difficulty of the child, he can develop an individual "Support Plan" according to his specific needs and implement it at his/her classroom with the help and supervision of the Bethlehem University staff.
3. At least 10 Learning Packages on Special Education will be produced by the teachers participating in the school based training with the supervision of the BU staff anddistributed among the participant schools. Those packages (including materials, tutorials, sample lessons, practical classroom management tools, diagnostic and planning resources, etc,) will be the result of the joint work of BU experts and the school teachers themselves, as developed during the school based training. The packages will be distributed among the participant schools and will become an effective tool on the dissemination of the project's achievements.
All activities will be implemented in a joint effort by both Bethlehem University and FPSC. The faculty of Education of Bethlehem University has been working closely with FPSC for the past 6 years in similar projects, and it has developed an operational structure with an implementation team that coordinates the activities.

This project wishes to achieve the following goals:

1. At least 50% of children with special education needs of the participating schools have better and more qualified attention.
Through the school based training activities and personal supervision, at least 30 teachers and 15 support teachers will be adequately trained to help students with learning difficulties. They will develop new methodologies and techniques that will help diagnose and trace an individual "Support Plan" to help each of the students that present some kind of special education need.
After the need assessment study conducted by BU and FPSC on more than 50 schools in Palestine, about the situation of special education needs, we can establish that between a 20-22% of the students in each classroom have some symptoms of suffering learning difficulties. The study, that was concluded a few months ago, will be published shortly and will allow the creation of real and measurable indicators that will be able to assess the impact of the intervention.
2. The model of inclusive education is promoted in at least 10 schools of Bethlehem area, East Jerusalem and North Hebron.
Through the daily work with teachers and administrations, and with the full support of the Ministry of Education, the model of inclusive education will be promoted among the participant schools. This means that we are aiming at a school system in which children with special education needs are not marginalized like they are in the current situation, but integrated in the daily life of the schools with adequate programs to cope with their special needs.
The inclusive education model has already been promoted and established in most of the western countries but not in the Middle Eastern region. The project will then contribute to spread the model starting from the Palestinian community.
Teachers involved in the activities will be able to perform an early diagnosis of children with learning difficulties and will be able to assure the most appropriate attention; that will contribute to reduce the high dropout rates linked to such a kind of problems.
Moreover, Principals and supervisors (belonging to 10 different schools) will be part of the direct beneficiaries: they are the ones in charge of adopting the necessary measures and taking the needed decisions to allow teachers to be trained and be able to implement their new skills in their classroom.
Finally, acquiring skills, teachers will be themselves the multiplier agents of the results achieved.


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