Education in the Commonwealth

2310-1806 (online)
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Throughout the world, education is being reconsidered, restructured and replanned in an effort to increase the effectiveness, quality and relevance of educational systems. This series draws together material on selected topics of wide educational interest in order to promote the interchange of ideas and information among individuals, institutions and countries.

Special Education in the Developing Countries of the Commonwealth

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Commonwealth Secretariat
01 Jan 1972
9780850920482 (PDF)

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This study brings together information about all the major types of physical and mental handicaps affecting children in the developing countries of the Commonwealth. It maintains that increased efficiency in existing provisions through greater cooperation of effort, more effective staffing, and the concentration of effort in a limited range of projects with sufficient resources will benefit both children with special needs and the education process as a whole.

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  • Foreword

    The study covers the independent developing countries of the Commonwealth and a number of dependencies.

  • Introduction

    The handicapped exert little political influence. In the developing countries, particularly, governments beset by political, social, financial and economic problems on a formidable scale, have been unable to allocate high priority to the education, training and rehabilitation of their handicapped citizens. In the three declarations cited above, most members of the United Nations acknowledge implicitly and explicitly that the care and development of the handicapped are essentially governmental responsibilities, yet the allocation of funds for those handicapped physically or mentally through birth, disease or accident, lags all too far behind expressions of official goodwill.

  • Visual Handicap

    The 750,000 blind children in the developing countries of the Commonwealth (1) have little hope of leading a full and active life, but at least they usually suffer less ostracism and active rejection than the epileptic or the leper. Very many of them, however, die from neglect in early childhood, more drift (or are urged) into the life of the professional beggar , a mere 2% at present can find places in the formal educational system (2). Yet of all the common handicaps, blindness tends to arouse the quickest sympathy and the readiest assistance , probably because even the least imaginative sighted citizen can formulate to himself some sort of direct impression of the effects of blindness.

  • Hearing Impairment

    Attitudes towards the deaf range from fear and apprehension to amused tolerance or embarrassment. In the developing countries especially, the profoundly deaf person who has never learned to speak may attract the fearful revulsion afforded to the leper, the mentally ill or the epileptic; the person suffering from a mild degree of impairment in his hearing, on the other hand, may be regarded as a slightly eccentric buffoon. Rarely does imperfect hearing educe the sympathetic response of visual handicap, yet poor hearing is more widespread than poor sight, probably exerts a more deleterious effect on the personality, and calls for particular expertise in education and treatment if the sufferer is to be enabled to play a full role in his community.

  • Other Physical Handicaps

    While blindness attracts both governmental and voluntary provision in a wide range of countries , and deafness is recognised increasingly as worthy of attention, other physical handicaps remain largely neglected. The physically crippled and the mentally handicapped in the developing countries constitute by far the largest numbers in need of special provision, but up to the present have probably the least effort made on their behalf in relation to the need. Even in Western Europe, schools and institutions for the crippled were provided later than those for the blind and deaf (1), and indeed the present situation is readily understandable in terms of the environment and social conditions pertaining in most developing countries .

  • Epilepsy

    “Epilepsy is truly an international, universal disorder. It respects no political boundaries. It is indifferent to language, religion, colour, sex, education and economic class. Although seizures are more frequently manifest in the young, people of all ages are afflicted.

  • Mental Retardation

    “Mental retardation is a purely social problem... In nearly all human fields the mentally retarded are more often like other people than they are different. There are more fields where the mentally retarded act exactly like normal people than where they do not.” (1)

  • Malnutrition

    Almost every child in the developing countries is handicapped by malnutrition. Nor, indeed, is this condition limited to the developing countries, for a recent report estimated that seven pupils out of ten in England are inadequately nourished to the point of being at risk (1). Minority groups in the richer countries are particularly prone to suffer in this way, shown, for example, by the widespread malnutrition among Australian Aborogines and part-Aborigines, beginning often in the immediate post-weaning period and in many cases imposing a permanent handicap on physical and mental development (2).

  • The Provision of Buildings and Equipment

    Despite the admirable efforts of the Unesco Regional Building Centres and some national organisations, the general standard of school building in developing Commonwealth countries remains very low. Much of the research undertaken has been directed primarily at producing more cheaply schools of conventional design. Investigations have concentrated on materials and construction methods rather than are appraisal of needs and the evolution of new types of educational building.

  • Attitudes to Handicap and Public Enlightenment

    The birth of any child has an effect on the family and the community, especially in traditional societies. The birth of a handicapped child, or the development of handicap in an older child also affects both family and community, although the nature of the effect and the reactions evinced vary much from place to place. Whether the child is rejected or considered afflicted of God, whether the mother is de facto head of the house (as frequently happens in the Caribbean) or a chattel of her husband, the presence of a handicapped child alters the life pattern of those about him.

  • The Role of Organisations Other Than National Governments

    The extension of facilities for handicapped children in all developing countries will depend to a considerable extent on the effective supplement to national government provision by other organisations. Most developing countries at present look to agencies other than the national government to supply initiative, personnel and finance for special education. Increasingly, however, governments are displaying their readiness to support these activities, usually by some form of grant in aid, most often related to the salaries of trained teaching staff.

  • The Future of Special Education in the Low-income Countries

    Not more than 2 per cent of recognisably handicapped children in developing Commonwealth countries attend schools at present. Few governments have found it possible to regard special educational provision for the handicapped as more than peripheral to their overall development plans. Superficially this attitude seems to have justification, for resources are limited and claims numerous.

  • Summary of Proposals
  • General Bibliography
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