Special needs students won’t be allowed to fall behind in the online classroom, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw vowed Friday.
She told a forum on online education that efforts are being made to ramp up the focus on teachers being able to identify children who need special support and what they should do to intervene in order for these students to be better accommodated in the general education system.
Speaking during a Let’s Talk webinar on Online School and the Future of Education in Barbados, organized by the Ministry of Education and Barbados National Council of Parent Teachers Associations Inc, Bradshaw said teachers have to be trained to understand the challenges children have, not just for the benefit of the virtual learning environment, but generally.
Bradshaw said: “There is nothing worse than a child leaving school, feeling as though there is no purpose for them and that they have no place in the world because they didn’t understand half of what was being taught while they were in school.
“And we all know that many of the successful people across the world are persons who have suffered with dyslexia and some of the most brilliant minds in the world were people who were different or challenged.”
She said the Ministry of Education has been reviewing the qualifications of teachers for the last two years to find those who are qualified to teach children with special needs and to move them around if needed to ensure that all schools have this level of support.
Director of Education Reform Dr Idamay Denny told the webinar that children with special education needs have a special place in the reform agenda, as authorities recognize that they will need specific tools and resources in order to help with their learning process.
Dr Denny expressed surprise that a dyslexic child would be having extreme difficulties in the online environment because of the graphic way the information is provided for students on the online platform.
But she said while there are teachers who are unfamiliar with how to cater to students with special needs, there are trained educators who have planned specific activities to assist these children, including in the virtual learning environment.
Dr Denny said: “They have already begun the development of their programming, they have presented it to the officers in the ministry and a lot of what they have planned has been approved and I believe it is being rolled out this term as they try to put things in place to specifically help children with special educational needs. And this is children who are not only dyslexic, but autistic and who have other disabilities as well. So, they have not been left out.”
The ministry official also said that as part of the education reform process, the ministry is continuing to develop a profiling system that includes all of a student’s pertinent information that will be shared with teachers to help them to properly engage and meet the specific needs of their children.
Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw added that there is a community of practice where educators share resources and ideas regarding plans to address deficiencies that students with disabilities have.