Inclusion - a special focus of PNG's Education in Emergencies Response and Recovery
International Day of People with Disabilities
Children living with disabilities are one of the most excluded groups in Papua New Guinean society and COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequities in educational access. This is why the Australian Government and the Global Partnership for Education have supported the National Department of Education and UNICEF in making inclusion a special focus of the COVID-19 Education in Emergencies Response and Recovery.
Among other assistive devices for mobility and improvement of access to curriculum, sign language is being incorporated into both broadcast television lessons, training videos and free talking books on the Bloom Reader App.
Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE) is an alternative education pathway which can provide a self-paced learning style flexible enough to cater for students with additional needs. With support from GPE and the Australian Government, FODE has additionally supported students with 5,000 Home Learning Packs and 1,200 tablets to support access to learning materials.
The Melanesian Sign Language manual has been revitalised and will be distributed to Inclusive Education Resource Centres (IERCs) and uploaded to the NDoE website. The manual will support in expanding the ability of students and teachers to sign and fingerspell. Both experienced instructors of manual communication and those approaching sign for the first time will find this comprehensive guide a useful reference.
Reach and Match sensory learning kits supporting children to learn equally through inclusive play, will be distributed to 8 IERCs in the EERRP. This kit fosters the development of manual dexterity, motor development, direction and spatial awareness while supporting students to learn braille and early literacy and numeracy skills. Activities using the kit are also focused on building children’s confidence and social skills through play.
Ten teachers from IERCs will be trained on developmental domains, and over 40 activities and games as well as modifications for diverse learning needs. Teachers will also be provided with support with curriculum integration and play station design and student observations.
These interventions, while small steps on a journey to full inclusion of students of differing abilities in Papua New Guinea’s mainstream education system, are important both in their direct positive impact on vulnerable students as well as in their secondary impact in awareness raising from community members to senior decision makers.