What were the main aims of the initiative?

Trainee teachers at the Teacher Training College learn theories about how to include all children in learning. However, they have no practical experience to help them understand these ideas. The College partnered with a local NGO, Epic Arts, which supports students with physical disabilities, deaf students, and students with learning disabilities. Trainees watched a performance about disability, asked questions of students with disabilities, heard testimonies from students about being excluded, learned some sign language, experienced and learned games that include all students and experienced a simulation of having learning disabilities. Students' understanding of inclusive education was greatly deepened through this contact.

This initiative aimed to:

  • Increase trainees' understanding about students with disabilities
  • Teach trainees games and activities that are inclusive of all students
  • Allow trainees to talk with students with disabilities in order to understand how exclusion impacts on them
  • Provide trainees with some experience of what it is like to be disabled
  • Encourage trainees to feel responsible for preventing bullying of students because of disability or difference


Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.

The Teacher Training College is located on the coast in Kampot, Cambodia. It has 200 trainees in the two-year programme for primary school teachers who will work in rural districts. Epic Arts trains students to be performing artists and does community performances to help people understand disability and inclusion. The partnership between these two organisations supports the goals of having more understanding teachers equipped with methods of including all students in their classrooms.


What issues/challenges does the example address?

Teacher trainees get theoretical training in including all students in their classrooms. However, the actual practices of how to do this are not experienced or taught. In most classrooms in Cambodia, students with disabilities are excluded. The trainees have little or no personal experience of disability and inclusion. The teacher trainers, who also lacked practical experience in including all students in learning, set out to address this issue.

Epic Arts was, at this time, producing a play about disability that was shared with local communities. A VSO volunteer placed at the college talked with Epic Arts about doing a morning of activities about inclusion.



How was the Initiative implemented?

The Deputy Director of the Teacher Training College, the VSO volunteer education advisor placed at the college, and the Epic Arts NGO staff worked on this initiative together.

This year (2010) both the first and second year trainee teachers attended a half day session with Epic Arts to take part in various activities designed to deepen their understanding of disability and inclusive practices. Trainees were able to walk to the Epic Arts Center from the College.

KEY OUTCOMES & Lessons Learned

What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

  • Trainees learned games and activities to include all students
  • Trainees interacted with people with disabilities, some for the first time in their lives
  • Trainees were exposed to students’ perspectives and came to understand more about the issues facing students with disabilities.

This initiative gives trainees real experiences to rely on when making decisions in their classrooms. The trainees all commented that this approach is clearer and provided a better understanding of issues than their reading of text books – it was also fun!

The biggest challenge has been finding time for this activity. Both Epic Arts (NGO) and the College have very busy schedules.


Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

Trainee teachers were given a pre-session questionnaire about their attitudes towards students with disabilities, about their attitudes towards bullying, and about their confidence in including all students in their classrooms. They were also asked to list specific things they could do to include all students. During the activities, a reflection session was lead by the Deputy Director of the College and the VSO education advisor. Trainees completed a second questionnaire and were asked to compare their responses. They all commented that their understanding of students with disabilities had increased. Many commented that the problems faced by students are more social, for example bullying and exclusion, than educational. Many came up with ways to help students with disabilities join their classrooms. They said it was easier to think about these interventions because they had experienced and learned from students with disabilities. Based on this short reflective pre- and post- questionnaire and discussions, it seems that trainees knowledge about inclusive practices had improved. Interacting with students with disabilities and seeing how able they are seems to have a strong impact on trainees’ attitudes and understanding.


Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

Based on the very positive response of trainees and students at Epic Arts, the College and Epic Arts have plans to continue these sessions each year for new first year trainees. The college and Epic Arts will continue this collaboration even when the VSO adviser is no longer in post. In addition, trainees have asked to learn sign language and the College and Epic Arts are in the process of arranging a Sign Language Teacher to teach trainees in the evenings at the college.



Are there further information about supporting materials?


Trainees attending the performance at Epic Arts about inclusion. Trainees are waving their hands in the air to clap in sign language so that all the performers can see how much the performance was enjoyed.

Figure: Trainees attending the performance at Epic Arts about inclusion. Trainees are waving their hands in the air to clap in sign language so that all the performers can see how much the performance was enjoyed.


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Charlene Bredder

Education Advisor, VSO, PO Box 912, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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