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2009 Armenia: Evaluation of Inclusive Education Policies and Programmes in Armenia



Author: Paula Frederica Hunt

Executive summary

 

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Background:

This document contains the results of the Evaluation of Inclusive Education Policies and Programmes in the Republic of Armenia conducted between 8 November and 24 November 2009 at the request of UNICEF Armenia.

This Evaluation was conducted according to a qualitative methodology which included 22 semi-structured interviews and 14 site visits, in an attempt to answer UNICEFs main objective: “to review the Armenian government policy on provision of education for children with special needs, identify strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the ongoing inclusive education programmes and come up with recommendations on well coordinated interventions at national, local and community level that will ensure qualifies and targeted programmes for children with special needs”.

Armenia is a fairly young democracy, with a long tradition of quality education and intellectual capacity. In the past 15 years the government of Armenia has overcome great obstacles, among which, the planning and implementation of an ambitious education reform, unique in the region. The findings presented in this evaluation are a testament to all that has been accomplished in the last decade, particularly regarding the countries’ commitment to Inclusive Education. Therefore, the findings will be discussed according to four main parameters: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the governmental policy with regards to the education of children with special educational needs, in both restrictive and inclusive environments.

This document presents the findings according to four categories of data pertaining to Policy, Education Administration Practices, Inclusive Programmes and Special Schools, and Support Programmes. The data was analyzed taking into account the Local, Regional, and National contexts and the recommendations offered reflect not only national concerns but also global trends.

Purpose/ Objectives:

The main purpose of this evaluation is to review Armenian governmental policy regarding the provision of education for children with special needs, identify strengths, weaknesses and challenges in the ongoing inclusive education programs and provide recommendations for coordinated efforts and national, regional and local levels, in order to address the already identified weaknesses highlighted above. It is expected that this evaluation will result in a set of assessments and recommendations that will inform UNICEF Armenia, various governmental branches, implementing partners, bilateral agencies, and other stakeholders.
Relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the government policy and provision of services to students with special educational needs constitute the main focus of this evaluation, both with regards to students with disabilities in special schools and students in general education placements. The scope of the evaluation takes into account internal developments to date, and the possible comparisons to global trends, both regional and global, with regards to the overall impact on individuals, communities and institutions.

Furthermore, this evaluation includes a situation analysis of Special (Boarding) Schools, with a view on how to utilize existing expertise while supporting inclusive practices and the de-institutionalization of children with disabilities.

Methodology:

This evaluation gathered data according to a qualitative methodology, which “typically include an emic (insider to phenomenon) in contrast to quantitative studies’ etic (outsider) perspective” (Brantlinger, Jimenez, Klinger & Richardson, 2005, p.199). Because this evaluation relied mostly on opinions, perceptions, and the evaluator’s reflections of policies and implementation, it was important to utilize a methodology that lends itself to their witnessing and recording. Qualitative research does not make causational predictions about people or events. However, the observations and interpretations from qualitative research do inform policy and practices, and provide descriptions that are not only useful but difficult to gather with quantitative analysis.

While Armenia maintains a strong tradition of data gathering, this data is not compiled or accessible in a comprehensible data system. Therefore, any mentions to the number of students, teachers, classrooms, etc., should be regarded as an estimate provided by various stakeholders, and not statistically relevant data.

Findings:

The findings being reported were gathered through the above described methodology, as well as through careful reading and analysis of various policy reports and documents provided by the UNICEF office. An analytical reading of the gathered data was conducted, and a situation analysis is provided with regards to policy in the context of current global trends and programmes, and the observed impact of said policy on institutions, communities, and individuals.

Recommendations:

The recommended interventions are being offered according to levels of perceived need and the parameters of this evaluation, and include short, medium, and long term interventions. While many of the recommendations are categorized headings or descriptors, they should not be seen as free-standing or exclusive to each. On the contrary, these recommendations should be seen as starting at the national level but infusing all layers or governance, at the marz, regional, community, local, and school levels. Furthermore, and unless otherwise specified, the recommendations below should not be read in rank order, as many should be carried out concurrently.



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