Thursday, August 30, 2012

Special Schooling

In the past centuries, school was not available for everybody. School was a luxury only few could afford, not necessarily because it was expensive but because it was selective. Minorities were not aloud to go to school, nor did women in some places, or peasants in others and in some places not even people belonging to a certain race, such as the Afro-American people. School was only for royal descendants or for the high class.

The contrary is what happens today. Almost everyone willing can go to school and moreover, there are also special schools, such as schools for blind people, schools for minorities, schools for girls or schools for boys. Is this way of specializing schools efficient? It may be for some categories, but it surely isn't for other.

In the first place, schools for moderate special needs children have proven their inefficiency. They seem not to stimulate enough the cognitive resources of the children and in addition they don't contribute to the socio-emotional development of these children. Being in a special school puts a permanent stigma on them and they also fail to integrate those children in the community later on. Of course, such schools are needed for severely affected children who represent a menace to other children or who are too impaired to be solely under the supervision of non-psychiatric or physical specialists. But in these schools one can find also children which have less serious impairments or problems. These are those who have physical disabilities, learning disabilities, ADHD, the Asperger syndrome or other mental impairments which the psychologists consider to be light and under control.

Nowadays, some countries work on integrating these children in normal schools. They do it because in normal schools these children have the opportunity to have a healthy emotional and social development, and also they are stimulated to develop they intellectual potential. Specialized persons, such as psychologists, are focused on informing the parents, the teachers and also the "normal" students about these mental issues, about their characteristics, trying in the same time to demolish the stigma laid upon these children. There are courses meant to prepare and train the teachers to deal with such children in order to offer them the biggest chance for cognitive, emotional and social development. In some schools, the governments hired specialized people to work together with the teachers for the optimization of their activity. Research has shown this is a more effective procedure than the one offered by special schools.

Secondly, schools which gather only the genius have also proven to be less efficient than schools who maintain a balance. The first category may lead to the development of a more than sufficient competitive spirit, but also the lack of diversity of friends, the lack of choices. The solution, of course, is not treating the prodigious children as "normal" children, because by doing that they may not come to develop their full intellectual potential, and they may quit school because they can become bored of the simplicity of the things they are taught. The solution is to socially integrate them in the classroom and then offer them harder and more complex exercises that the others are offered, and double the speed by which they are supposed to finish their tasks. By this, they will remain interested; they will develop their cognitive resources and also will have the social variety encountered in everyday life.

The distinction will eventually come, when they will choose their high schools and later on, when they will apply for university. By that time they would have had time to make their own decisions regarding both their professional and social life.

Thirdly, special schools are not efficient for minorities. Separating minorities from the citizens of the country they live in, only deepens the stereotypical way of thinking and the conflicts. By integrating minorities in a normal school, the conflicts may be resolved and the stereotyped demolished. Living with them, the children learn that they are not different, or abnormal, that they could be friends and they could help each other. They teachers and the parents are the key. They have to be taught to guide their children into understanding and accepting ethnic differences. The parents and the teachers themselves have to learn to accept and understand these differences in the first place.

In conclusion, special schooling may be efficient in some cases but seriously damaging in others.
By Claudia Miclaus