Closing date: July 23, 2021
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In Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent Countries, there are estimated 5.1 million children with disabilities, and only 1.5 million are recognized as having a disability. Some 3.6 million children with disabilities remain out of any social registers. There are high levels of discrimination and stigma towards children with disabilities, resulting in mass institutionalization, segregated education provision, and exclusion within home, as children with disabilities are often denied participation in the society have no access to services.
Out of the total 1.5 million children registered with a disability, 219,000 or 14.5 per cent attend special schools, and it is likely that the remaining 1,281,000 children registered with disabilities – as well as the estimated 3.6 million children with disabilities who are not registered, are out of school or at risk of dropping out. Children in residential care are often excluded from education. Enrolment at pre-school and secondary levels is particularly low. In half of the countries in the region, only less than one percent of all children in primary education are children with disabilities, and majority of these children are in special schools. Children with intellectual disabilities and those with disabilities from birth are particularly at risk of being excluded. In North Macedonia, Serbia, Tajikistan, girls with disabilities have lower access to education than boys. In many countries in Central Asia, home schooling is the main education provision for children with disabilities.
Roma children are another marginalised group in the region. In South Eastern Europe, approximately 1.7 million of the Roma population are children. Roma children in these countries are among the poorest and most excluded members of society. They lack access to adequate housing, health care, education and social services. A significant number are not registered at birth, making it harder to access basic services such as health and education.
Negative attitudes and harmful beliefs, norms and behaviours are the most significant barrier faced by children with disabilities, Roma children and children from other marginalized groups (children left behind by migrant parents; children belonging to some ethnic minorities; migrant and refugee children and others), manifested in violation of the rights, including the rights to education. The resistance by society, parents and other children often results in these children being kept at home, or dropping out from schools. At the same time, research shows that the teaching staff themselves have often negative attitudes towards these children and fail to create a supportive environment in the classrooms and educational facilities. This often reflect the situation in the communities they leave, teachers sharing similar attitudes and norms as the rest of the population. The negative attitudes of communities towards children with disabilities, those belonging to specific ethnic minorities put pressure on school not to accept them in mainstream schools, or to include them in segregated classes.
Teachers (and educators) are in a key position to synchronise the obligations towards individual children in respect of their right to education with system change. They are the link between the education system and the children, and are mandated to transmit the values, social norms as incorporated in policies, regulations, the curriculum or teaching materials. Teachers can be barriers to change or change agents, depending on how they interpret their mandate. Many countries in the region are currently implementing reforms to make schools more inclusive and improve learning outcomes for all children. However, as teachers are (among) the ones to engage with children and communities and translate national policies into quality inclusive education processes, they need adequate knowledge, attitudes and competencies for this purpose.
Evidence shows that the factor with highest impact is teacher’s estimates of student achievement, which determine the kinds of activities and materials provided to students and influence questioning strategies, student groupings and teaching strategies. Other factors with lower impact are teacher credibility, teacher clarity, not labelling students and student-teacher relationship.
Another teacher-related factor with the high positive impact on student achievement is the collective teacher efficacy, a sense of being able to make a difference as a school. This evidence highlights the importance of helping teachers to find ways out of their isolation as a “servant of the state” charged with the education of an isolated group of learners. Lack of collective teacher efficacy may result in schools that feel out of control, due to school regulations, community characteristics, lack of respect and adequate working conditions etc. Disempowered schools are not able to provide an adequate learning environment, especially for marginalised children that are perceived hard to teach or hard to reach.
Traditionally, teachers are taught to pay special attention to certain groups that are at risk of marginalisation or exclusion. This group-based thinking was introduced to ensure the rights of vulnerable groups, but it has been a source of discrimination as well. If teachers are to effectively teach all students, there is a need for a unifying conceptualisation of difference that is not (exclusively) based on pre-defined groups and can accommodate the phenomenon of intersectionality of various dimensions of difference.
In general, teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education are more positive if they feel well prepared to manage diversity. Lack of knowledge and personal experience increases avoidance behaviour, leading to less interaction and effort and subsequently to more anxiety (Shannon 2009). A low sense of self-efficacy is associated with negative attitudes. Providing relevant knowledge and information as well as opportunities to reflect on attitudes, mindsets and subjective theories can make a difference for teachers’ sense of preparedness and therefore self-efficacy beliefs related to inclusive education (Vaz et al. 2015).
Acknowledgment of and managing student diversity requires “open-mindedness”: tolerance for ambiguity, conflicting perspectives of different stakeholders (e.g. about source of problems) and seemingly irreconcilable directives (e.g. treat all children the same vs. treat them differently) (Sapon-Shevin & Zollers 1999, Elik 2010, Bautista 2018), which is associated with democratic values (e.g. when resolving conflicts) and the ability to manage uncertainty.
Different perspectives of parents and teachers related to students’ needs or problems easily create barriers that need to be addressed without the use of institutional power. Procedures to manage collaborative problem-solving processes provide important guidance in managing uncertainties related to diverse classrooms. Conflict-resolution skills and managing stressful situations may therefore contribute substantially to the realisation of inclusive education.
To address school exclusion of children with disabilities, Roma children and children from other marginalized groups, UNICEF is supporting the governments in the region to develop inclusive education policies and services. Currently, inclusive education is implemented in 20 countries in the region. A set of materials to support capacity development of teachers have been developed, including Training of Trainers modules on inclusive education (see: http://www.inclusive-education.org/sites/default/files/uploads/ToT_Module%201.pdf). These training modules aim to equip teachers with adequate knowledge and competencies to translate inclusive education policies into their classrooms.
In 2019, UNICEF developed a regional training module and a manual on inclusive education to address teaching staff self-efficacy, attitudes, beliefs and norms to promote and support inclusion of every child, regardless of their social and ethnic backgrounds (“Changing perceptions – empowering teachers”). The module complements the inclusive education training package and aims to address teachers’ bias, their negative attitudes and beliefs and build actionable knowledge, rather than knowledge about theories and concepts. The training module has a rights-based approach, and aims to build teachers feeling of self-efficacy to support and promote inclusive education, addressing teaching staff negative attitudes, beliefs and norms around children with disabilities, children belonging to ethnic minorities and children from other vulnerable groups, empowering teachers to promote and support diversity in the classroom and in their interaction with parents and other community members.
How can you make a difference?
UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia is looking for an expert on social and behaviour change (SBC), to revise/update, test, adapt and finalize the training module on interpersonal communication for inclusive education, which address teaching staff self-efficacy, attitudes, beliefs and norms to promote and support inclusion of every child, regardless of their social and ethnic backgrounds. The finalized training module and manual will be used in education programmes supported by UNICEF and addressed to teachers in all countries in the region.
The SBC consultant will:
- Develop a concept note / roadmap to describe the process: to revise/update the module based on existing evidence and good practices; test it in 3 countries in the region – Armenia, Bulgaria and Montenegro – (objectives, content and proposed teaching approaches and activities, assessment tools etc.) with both pre-school teachers and primary/secondary education teachers, during a 5-days workshop; adapt it and finalize it based on observations, feedback and recommendations from participants and lessons learned. The in-country workshops will aim to test the module and to build national capacities to deliver similar activities at country level.
- Compile a report on feedback, observations and lessons learned from participants, staff and consultant that will influence the adaptation of the module.
- Finalize the current training module to incorporate recommendations resulting from testing. The module will have a comprehensive section on adaptation (for pre-school educators, teachers in primary and secondary education; for different countries context) and potential use by countries and will contain a list of relevant resources, including identified during the engagement with countries.
- Develop, plan and facilitate online sessions and coaching with trained teachers in 3 countries, in collaboration with UNICEF Regional Office and Country Offices, to help them adapt, explore entry points for training module use and mainstreaming.
The SBC consultant will work jointly with a consultant on Inclusive education on this assignment. The SBC consultant will act as team lead, consulting and integrating the inputs from the Inclusive Education consultant. The consultant is expected to implement all activities from August 2021 to March 2022, in close consultation with UNICEF Regional Office and County Offices. The consultants will consult each draft of the deliverables with the UNICEF ECARO and will reflect all comments and recommendations in the next versions of the deliverables.
To apply for this job please visit jobs.unicef.org.