Regional cooperation on inclusive education has also helped to dispel the stereotypical understanding of the “inclusive school” as a school for children with special needs due to their physical disabilities, says Nataša Janevska, State Advisor at the Ministry of Education and Science in “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
The exchange of experience and good practices in the region is an important link in the creation of inclusive education, says Nataša Janevska, State Advisor at the Ministry of Education and Science in “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Ms Janevska is also a member of the Steering Board of the Joint EU/Coe Project “Regional Support for Inclusive Education”. For her, the networking opportunities for the 49 pilot schools from the region, chosen by the project, are an incentive for future cooperation, exchange of good practices, materials and literature, as well as the joint approach and cooperation in other projects regarding inclusive education.
“Members of these schools also had a chance to participate in study visits to other countries and to see for themselves how this process is being implemented there and to learn about new practices that could be implemented in their schools in the future”, she says.
Ms Janevska states that regional cooperation on inclusive education has had many other benefits. It helped, for instance, to dispel the stereotypical understanding of the “inclusive school” as a school for children with physical disabilities.
“Another benefit is the raised awareness for the importance of inclusive education, for the right to quality education for all, because we are all different in some way, yet when we learn we are the same, as when we are socialising and laughing. Also, I strongly believe that the pilot schools who received a grant from this project will benefit tremendously from it: from improvements to the school buildings to the purchase of new equipment, and not forgetting from the training, seminars and activities for improving inclusive practices in the schools undertaken with the help of the grants”, she says.
What according to you is the biggest benefit of regional cooperation in inclusive education?
Regional cooperation has helped through the creation of a network for cooperation of the pilot schools included in the project, as well as for building trust between them, through the many joint meetings.
Which projects’ activity had the greatest impact according to you?
On the one hand, the biggest impact, in my opinion, is the realisation of the school projects from the grant facility. On the other hand, we have witnessed increased self-confidence among the teachers and students involved in the whole process.
Outside this project, how often do you have a chance to collaborate with other ministries from the region?
Working on several projects within the Ministries’ frame, I already had the opportunity to cooperate with other education ministries from the region. However, all new cooperation links established are also a new experience and they always inspire new ideas.
According to you, is there sufficient awareness of the importance of having inclusive education throughout the South East Europe region?
This process exists across the region, and all ministries are implementing this process with the same or with a slightly different approach. Although there are differences between the levels of understanding of the importance of inclusive education in the Beneficiaries in South Eastern Europe, due to the previously undertaken activities, my impression is that all countries need to work a lot more on raising awareness and on capacity building in the schools.
The first association of inclusive education is that the schools should be open to students with mental or physical handicaps, but inclusiveness is much more than just that aspect, it is making the schools open to various educational and social needs of all students.
Is there any personal experience - a somewhat personal impression about the impact of the project and its general value that you can share with us?
I would point out the understanding of the inclusion as a term that refers to everyone - differences and equality, to tolerance and democracy, to stereotypes and prejudices. Inclusion also means cohesion.
If you were given a chance to change something in order for the project to be even more successful, what would it be?
Although the project was well envisaged and included several aspects of inclusive education, besides the grants, I would make some changes and I would include some activities for which I was inspired by the project itself. For instance, connecting the activities for the teachers with their current legislation; increasing the number of workshops for more successful implementation of the pilot projects from a financial point of view; more activities that will directly enable teachers with the skills for working with students facing difficulties of various nature and capacity building of the school staff who are directly in charge of creating inclusive education environments.