A New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal June 16, 2012 editorial, reprinted in its' entirety below, has called for a flexible model of inclusion for New Brunswick public education. The editorial references education policy analyst Paul Bennett who gave a presentation Thursday at the Atlantic Human Rights Centre conference on inclusive education.
BE INCLUSIVE AND FLEXIBLE
It is imperative that public education be accessible to all students. While the Alward government’s $62 million investment in new resources to support inclusion should help, critics say the province’s vision of inclusion itself needs to change.
One of those constructive critics is education policy analyst Paul Bennett. Mr. Bennett gives New Brunswick high praise for its commitment, but he does not believe equal access can be met within the walls of a single classroom. We’re inclined to agree.
The one-classroom model of inclusion cannot meet the needs of all students, as countless parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and severe dyslexia can attest. Why not acknowledge that hundreds of families are not being well-served, and open the door to private schools or transition programs, funded by provincial vouchers, as Nova Scotia has done?
This would give parents greater choice in their children’s education. It would also serve as a better incubator of innovative and effective education practices than public schools can provide, while still being accessible to all.
The education department seems determined to train more teachers who are interested in special needs instruction. Given the low performance of New Brunswick schools generally, though, we’re not hopeful that New Brunswick can train its way out of this problem.
The average quality of schooling in New Brunswick is among the poorest in Canada. It is unlikely that the turnover in teachers who are better trained will occur fast enough to meet the needs of average students, let alone those who require specialized instruction.
Wouldn’t student needs be served better by permitting the creation of new schools and programs specifically for students with special needs, staffed by professionals who specialize in this area of education?
These schools would not replace classroom inclusion, but augment it by providing alternatives for those students whose needs are greatest.
In Nova Scotia, parents already have access to private, independent special education schools. Since 2004, when the Nova Scotia Tuition Support Program was created, the provincial government has even provided short-term funding for students to attend designated special education private schools, with the goal of transitioning back into public schools at a later date.
We are proud to live in a province which has affirmed that all students have an equal right to education. Surely it is not a big step to admit that to achieve this equality of opportunity, some special needs students will require resources outside the standard classroom.