Teach Middle East Magazine Jan-Feb 2018 Issue 3 Volume 5 - Page 17

Sharing Good Practice SPECIAL EDUCATION NEEDS IN THE MIDDLE EAST BY DEBBIE HAMILTON BOGUES F or teachers invited to teach in the Middle East, we would have learnt very quickly that our experiences from our home countries of SEN do not continue and synchronise as straightforwardly as we would have expected. The perceptions and realities of SEN in the region are not quite the same. We might be accustomed to a standardised system: identification, diagnosis, statement and IEP, managed centrally within your state or borough and with the protocol of information being disseminated to all schools, however, this is not the case here. SEN provisions are piecemeal, and will vary widely between public and private schools and also between private schools within the region. As a result, we will have to reshape our thinking, become more creative and work efficiently with what we have. Nevertheless, in the Middle East, the education departments are fully onboard with the fact that having special educational needs should not be an obstacle to being admitted into any educational institution, whether private or public. The history of SEN in the Middle East, varies widely from country to country and each has created its own unique version which best suits its specific needs. In the UAE, SEN was initially for students below grade 9, and only for some disabilities, however, this has drastically changed. The country has now embraced the concept of inclusion, and more categories of SEN have been included and education now goes beyond grade 9, which includes students who are gifted and talented. In addition, the Middle East region has adopted the UNESCO framework for the right of the child and inclusive education, which is: “The right to inclusive education means transforming culture, policy and practice in all formal and informal educational environments to ensure education is for all learners. Inclusive education is important not only for persons with disabilities but the societies they live in, as it helps to combat discrimination, and to promote diversity and participation.” The main categories of SEN in the Middle East include: Intellectual disabilities (ID)/ mental retardation (MR), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), specific learning disabilities difficulties (SLD), emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD), speech and language (SL) and physical and health related disabilities. A few of the goals for the Ministry of Education, in Special Education Department (UAE) are listed below • Provide equal opportunities for education to