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Inclusive learning and adult education
It is stated in the National Curriculum that inclusion is a matter which needs to be taken seriously by teachers, since it is their major obligation to ensure that every person in a school or college is given equal opportunities and equal rights as others to learn. Each school has the responsibility to provide a curriculum which meets the specific needs of individuals and groups of students (Mittler, 1999). Brownlee and Carrington (2000) state that the schools need to provide a curriculum which is challenging to every student. Some teachers may fall into the fallacy that adult learners do not differentiate much from one another, but inclusion asks that each person is treated as an individual and help as best as possible to achieve his goals.
Today’s modern societies are ethnically and racially diverse and people need to be prepared to face these cultural differences. Students need help so as to achieve development in the social, moral and cultural fields but the fact that all students come from a different background makes the teachers’ role to achieve this rather hard. This is the main reason which sets inclusion as a major curriculum scope, because if inclusion and diversity are not addressed in a school curriculum, the teachers will be unable to deal with all their students’ needs.
In addition to that, the school must make sure that it satisfies each adult’s educational and personal needs as well. As was stated above, students tend to have educational differences for various reasons such as their ethnic background or financial status but their personal needs differ as well. Teachers should never forget that students with physical or mental disabilities need to be treated with care and assisted as best as possible so as to develop themselves mentally and socially. Usually, students with such disabilities become secluded and it is the teachers’ duty to help these students interact with other children and feel at ease in the school environment. What is more, the school has to ensure that special facilities are provided for these students, so that their physical or mental disabilities do not hinder their actions whilst being at school. Moreover, adult learners usually differ in their needs because of employment. The inclusion educational policy needs to take this factor into account because it sets important differences between the needs of each learner.
Quite often, the teachers will have to deal with cases of discrimination or racist attacks in the school environment. The teachers should be ready to deal with such situations but the inclusion policy also ensures that the teachers are acting in such a manner so as to prevent the occurrence of such episodes. The schools are provided with material which can be used during teaching so as to indicate to the students the negative effects or racism and discrimination and teach them how to accept and live in harmony with one another. The students acquire a lot of knowledge in school but perhaps one of the primary things they need to learn is how to get along with other people no matter how different they are from them (Hurst, 1993).
The national agenda and the reasons behind the changes of the inclusion policy
One of the main reasons directing changes for the inclusion policy was the social changes that the U.K. has been going through over the past two decades. The rise of the immigration flow has changed the British society and culture and the schools should be ready to face this change. Race Relation (Amendment) Act in 2002 sets guidelines for every school so as to have a policy which values diversity and challenges racism. What is more, the national curriculum regarding the taught information given to students needed to be changed in order to promote inclusion.
Another factor which brought changes to the agenda regarding inclusive learning was the demand for lifelong learning (Shapiro and Rich, 1999). When the Green Paper was composed in 1998 by David Blunkett it put emphasis on lifelong learning and it had requested from the educational system to broaden the learning age. The policy of inclusion had to be changed once again so that for the educational system to consider adults as people who were willing to learn and as people who were actually in need of further education. The fact that adults were broadly entering the educational system has also brought changes to the national agenda and to the national curriculum. Because of increasing social competitiveness and subsequently the need for employment the inclusion policy and the national curriculum were changed so as to provide to adult learners, job related learning opportunities. In this manner, the taught subjects were changed so as to include the ” newcomers ” and their needs (Shapiro and Rich, 1999).
Finally, it should be noted that the national agenda cannot remain static (Halliday, 1998). Changes need to be made so as to address the needs of different students in a better manner. School curricula need to be responsive to social changes and should be ready to adapt to the differences which the several groups of students bring into the school environment (Halliday, 1998).
The Kennedy Report
” Learning Works ” was a report prepared by the Committee on Widening Participation which was chaired by Baroness Kennedy and was established by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) in 1994 (Coates, 1998). The report of the Committee was delivered to the Council in 1997 by Baroness Kennedy (Coates, 1998). The report sets out a radical vision to draw back into learning adults who have little educational qualifications or even none at all.
The Kennedy report, along with the Fryer report, opened the path for adult education and established further education in colleges. The report stated that colleges needed to be seeking for groups with low participation in education and people who have not achieved their full potential as of yet. In particular, it encourages colleges to embrace adults in their educational system and urges the government to spend more funds for adult education. As the study states, further education is necessary for certain adult groups because unless these groups are sufficiently educated, their financial and social status will be deteriorating continuously. According to the report, 62 percent of the adult British population did not have a level 3 education (at the period of the study) although Baroness Kennedy states that level 3 should be considered as the minimum educational level for every British citizen. An even more tragic figure is the fact that 40 percent of the adult population of working age do not even have a level 2 education. Finally, the report demanded from the government to accredit citizens with academic qualifications by recognising their life experiences and work knowledge as educational benefits.
The Fryer Report
The Fryer report is the first report presented by the National Advisory Group for Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning and was authored by Professor R. H. Fryer. The report was completed in November of 1997 and it raised matters similar to those raised by the Kennedy report. The main focus of Professor’s Fryer’s work was to demonstrate the lack of lifelong learning culture which could be observed in the British educational system at that time. As he stated, the UK could not be considered as a learning society at the time and it has neither lifelong learning nor training culture (Halliday, 1999).
As Halliday (1999) mentions, Fryer brought up several issues which needed to be taken seriously into consideration by the government and throughout the years the matters he had brought up were addressed through the national agenda. As Fryer stated, only 14% of all employees take part in job-related training. One third of all employees who took part in the study mentioned that their employer never offered them any kind of training and over 40% of 18 year olds are not currently in any kind of training or education. Fryer emphasised the need for a more highly educated and skilled workforce. He also believed that the gap between the people with high skills and those with low skills was increasing continuously and this would cause dissatisfaction amongst the masses of adults with low skills.
Through the report core principles were stated which were to be followed by the government for the next five years so as to improve the situation for education and inclusion in the U.K. Some of the most important principles were the effort to broaden education and the inclusion policy in order to make adults active members of the educational system. In order for that to be achieved, lifelong learning should constitute an overall educational strategy for the Government and the government needed to start cooperating with other bodies such as employers and local communities because that would ensure better educational opportunities for the adult learners. Finally, the report states that adult learners need to receive theoretical but mainly practical knowledge and skills in order to become a more productive workforce.
The Moser Report
Sir Claus Moser was the chairman of the Basic Skills Agency and was asked in 1998 to deliver a report on how to tackle the ” basic skills ” problem of the U.K (Mittler, 1999). The reason for that was the fact that since 1997 the government was mainly concerned with the use national and literacy strategies in schools but also with adult learning (again focusing on literacy and numeracy). As Mittler (1999) states, ” A fresh start – improving literacy and numeracy ” was the name of the Moser report and it was finally produced in 1999. The report stated that up to 7 million adults in England have difficulties in literacy and numeracy and this placed the U.K. as the third country in Europe with severe adult literacy and numeracy problems (the U.K. was only behind Ireland and Poland).
According to the report, one in five adults were illiterate, meaning that he/she was not able to find the page for plumbers when given the Yellow Pages. The report acknowledged that there could be no quick fix for this situation. A long-term plan was needed and it should be followed at a national level. Sir Moser also stated that the quality of educational provision for adult learners needed to be vastly improved in order to attract more adults to further education (Mittler, 1999). The main goal set by the report was to reduce the number of functionally illiterate adults by half until the year 2010 but approximately £680 million a year needed to be spent by the year of 2005 in order for that to be achieved. One of the suggestions of the report which was considered as highly important was the provision of additional help to adults who had the English language as an additional (second or even third) language.
The Tomlinson Report
The Tomlinson report was a report presented by the Further Education Funding Council Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities Committee chaired by Professor John Tomlinson. The committee was established in March 2003 and the report was handed in, in February 2004 (Bethan, 2005). The report has again focused on further education and the main point presented from the study was that although some colleges have made a stride towards inclusive education, the overall quality of learning for students with disabilities in colleges is poorer than for other students and many disabled adults do not have the opportunity to enjoy further education.
The committee has pointed out several facts which the government needed to pay immediate notice. For instance, the committee noted that legislation governing further education does not explicitly establish rights for disabled students or outlaw discrimination. The main suggestion which was brought up through the report was to provide colleges with the necessary funds so as to include all adult learners to further education and it was pointed out that this needed to be done without any labelling of these students. The needs of this group of learners would be met if new content was introduced to the learning practice (Bethan, 2005).
The present study examined the national agenda in order to address the inclusive learning policy. The importance of inclusive learning was stated and the different stages, which the agenda went through, and the changes which took place so as to improve inclusive learning were mentioned. In particular, the study took a closer look to four governmental reports. Those were the Fryer, Kennedy, Moser and Tomlinson reports. These four reports showed particular concern for adult education and they all suggested measures so as to improve adult education in the country. Adult education and further education in general were poorly established in the U.K. before 1997 but these four studies have helped the government to take measures in order to improve this aspect of education.
The studies showed that the adult British population was suffering from literacy and numeracy problems and they have aided the government so as to establish a policy to resolve these issues. Hopefully, the situation for further education will continue to improve because this benefits people who were deprived from the opportunity to get educated at an earlier stage of their lives but it also benefits the country as a whole.
Bethan, M. (2005). The Tomlinson Report. Critical Quarterly, 20 (3), 379 – 389.
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