Obstacles – from a Danish point of view

To describe obstacles for more inclusive non-formal education for adults with disability we will base it on an inquiry we made in 2013.

We sent out a questionnaire to principals and their teachers in 20 schools with non-formal education with a focus on 5 subjects:

  • Pedagogical obstacles – do the teacher have the necessary academic skills – or do they need some further training?
  • Attitude (both principals, teachers and non-disabled learners towards inclusive education?
  • Are there incentive obstacles for inclusive education for the principals, the teachers and/or the learners?
  • Are there legislation obstacles?
  • Are there accessibility obstacles?

We also interviewed principals, teachers and learners on 2 courses with inclusive education:

  1. A care and health course in the antenatal period announced as a “normal course”, where a pregnant woman, who was blind, made a registration.
  2. A choir for persons with Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease – but also with some non-disabled learners. This course was announced as a choir for persons with Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease.

These are examples on inclusive education – but established in 2 quite different ways.

In the first case the teacher and the other learners expected a course, where the teacher didn’t need to make special arrangements for learners with disability.

In the second case the teacher and the learners knew from the beginning, that this course was planned for persons with Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. So their needs were already in focus.

The survey showed that there was generally a positive attitude to disabled learners regardless of their disability. This applies to both principals and teachers.

But in the first case some of the learners found, that it was a problem with a blind person, because the teacher had to spend more time on this person, with the result that they got less value for their money.

Looking at the special attention fields of the study (pedagogical, attitude, incentive terms, legislation and accessibility aspects), the study reveals a number of factors, confirming that something works well, and something must be improved with the aim of increasing inclusive education.

Pedagogical: In the pedagogical field many teachers call for more training. They say that it is more difficult to teach disabled learners than non-disabled learners, and that they prefer to teach the disabled learners together on special teams. How to practise inclusive education is therefore almost unknown. Principals report that they provide information in the course texts about pedagogical principles, and leave additional pedagogical questions to their teachers.

Attitudes: Principals and teachers are relatively positive about having learners with disabilities on their team, but they are unsure of the non-disabled learners attitude.

Incentive terms: Both principals and teachers prefer disabled learners on special teams. The teachers mention pedagogical reasons. It is easier to teach a homogeneous group. It is easier to teach in smaller groups.

The principals may have an incentive to start small teams with disabled participants to increase the municipal grants.

Learners may also be interested in small groups where there is more time for the individual.

Accessibility: There are barriers in terms of availability and we need better plans for how disabled learners get help e.g. a personal attendance. This to ensure that they will be included and not be a practical burden for the teacher.

Legislation: The main barriers are the lack of opportunities for subsidies for transport for persons unable to transport themselves, for sign language and for other expenses regarding disability. Besides this principals and teachers do not experience barriers.

In the study we conclude:

  • The trend in Danish adult non-formal education goes towards more education in special teams instead of more inclusive education.
  • Despite this, our survey shows that at the attitudinal level, both principals, teachers and learners was generally positive in terms of increased inclusion in adult education.

Our study indicates primarily the following barriers for increased inclusion:

  • The high charge for the learners
  • Accessibility problems
  • Need for a free personal attendance
  • The teachers lack of sufficient knowledge about the pedagogical challenges of inclusive education
  • Act description of the target group of specially organized training and funding rules.

Positively shows our study, that on the attitudinal level there is good background to increase inclusion in adult non-formal education, but it requires initiatives that can break down and/or reduce the above barriers.