Inclusive Teacher Education in Samoa
What were the main aims of the initiative?
At the National University of Samoa, trainee teachers are able to complete a two-year Diploma of Education, majoring in Special Needs Education (SNE). It is a very challenging program as inclusive education is a new area of development in education for Samoa. People’s negative attitudes towards children with disabilities due to certain cultural beliefs have made it difficult to promote the interest of teacher trainees in this area. However throughout the years we have been able to increase our numbers in the program and raise public awareness through educational workshops with the Ministry of Education and community involvement.
What were the main aims of the initiative?
Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.
Samoa is an independent island country in the South Pacific with a population of not more than 200,000 people. According to the latest survey for people with disabilities conducted in 2009–2010, there are close to 5,000 people with disabilities in the country and 46% of these are children. Samoa ratified the Salamanca Statement in 1994, together with many other countries in the world, which supports the education of all children with disabilities alongside their peers in mainstream classrooms. Therefore, our government through the Ministry of Education have strongly supported programs moving towards the inclusion of children with disabilities in schools. At the moment, the Samoan government sponsors all trainees who wish to take up teaching as a career. The Faculty of Education therefore offers three programs for these trainees to specialise in: 1. General Education, 2. Special Needs Education, 3. Early Childhood Education. This is to ensure equal opportunities are provided for all children to access a balanced education system, taught by well-qualified teachers.
This training was a key initiative by the government and the Ministry of Education as they see that there are more and more children with disabilities in schools today in Samoa who require more teachers who have undertaken awareness-raising programs and training. With Samoa’s involvement in UNESCO activities and international conventions, it has given itself a platform for action to push for these developments in education, hence the need to develop this program within the university. Not only that, but research has shown that there is always a need for teachers to be trained in the area of inclusive education so this particular course has been made compulsory for all teacher trainees in both primary and secondary programs.
What issues/challenges does the example address?
The main issues and challenges are trying to change people’s attitudes and beliefs not only children in schools but educators, parents and even the community as a whole.
Other challenges include a lack of expertise in the area as a lot of volunteers who started the program were from overseas and often go back at the end of their contracts. It is also difficult to market this area of specialty to teacher trainees as some have negative attitudes towards children with disabilities.
How was the Initiative implemented?
Lecturers at the Faculty of Education at the National University of Samoa and the Ministry of Education, Samoa worked on and sustained the initiative.
Support was given from the government through sponsorship of student fees.
The initiative took place back in February 1997, when the National University of Samoa was brought to the new campus at Le Papaigalagala, Vaivase. This was when the Teachers’ Training College amalgamated with the university. Back then, training and awareness workshops took place around the country to inform educators and community about the importance of inclusive education.
In February 2000, the Inclusive Education course was made compulsory for all teacher trainees. At the end of that same year, the first 6 trainees graduated from the Faculty of Education, majoring in Special Needs Education.
What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?
Courses are evaluated at the university and there has been positive feedback. Teachers’ performance is also monitored by school inspectors and most are coping well and accommodating the various needs of children in the community. Research is still to be completed to consolidate further ideas for the development of the program and further evaluation will be done between the Ministry of Education and the university.
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?
Plans are in the pipeline for a Bachelor’s Program for teachers of learners with special needs;
Short training courses are planned for teacher aides/assistants through the organisation ‘Senese’ and the Samoa Inclusive Education Design Project;
Advocacy work will continue and more courses/more resources planned for schools to help teachers with inclusive education.
Are there further information about supporting materials?
Figure 1: Photos of the students at the hospital library (1)
Figure 2: Photos of the students at the hospital library (2)
Reference Link: www.inclusive-education-in-action.org/047EN