Scholarly article on topic 'Higher Education for People with Disabilities – Romanian Education Experience'

Higher Education for People with Disabilities – Romanian Education Experience Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Daniel Mara

Abstract Implementation of a project which aimed was having access to a quality higher education to prospective students with disabilities has been a successful complex situations, obstacles, fears, future projections etc. Among the obstacles that hamper their access to higher education are: high costs, almost prohibitive for universities to provide suitable means for assimilation of the curriculum for these people with disabilities, physical barriers (inability to move at the college in order to pursue these courses or to access course materials in print format standard), material and financial matters such as, lack of qualified staff for educational mentoring people with disabilities, lack of guidelines/ proper supervision with mentors help for a smooth learning and motivation processes. The need to implement the project comes from the identification of target groups. Like all others citizens, people with disabilities are entitled to the same rights under the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all human beings are free and equal as dignity and rights. To achieve this goal, we should take into account the diversity of each community, and people with a disability to be sure that they can enjoy all human rights: civil, political, social, economic, cultural, all recognized the national and international institutions. This project is important to understand in what way universities are prepared in terms of cultural, scientific and organizational to receive students with disabilities, in what way the content of university courses take into account the internal reality, made up of people with disabilities or not.

Academic research paper on topic "Higher Education for People with Disabilities – Romanian Education Experience"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 142 (2014) 78 - 82

CIEA 2014

Higher education for people with disabilities - Romanian education

experience

Daniel Maraa*

aUniversity „Lucian Blaga" of Sibiu, 10 Bd. Victoriei, Sibiu 550024, Romania

Abstract

Implementation of a project which aimed was having access to a quality higher education to prospective students with disabilities has been a successful complex situations, obstacles, fears, future projections etc. Among the obstacles that hamper their access to higher education are: high costs, almost prohibitive for universities to provide suitable means for assimilation of the curriculum for these people with disabilities, physical barriers (inability to move at the college in order to pursue these courses or to access course materials in print format standard), material and financial matters such as, lack of qualified staff for educational mentoring people with disabilities, lack of guidelines/ proper supervision with mentors help for a smooth learning and motivation processes. The need to implement the project comes from the identification of target groups. Like all others citizens, people with disabilities are entitled to the same rights under the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all human beings are free and equal as dignity and rights. To achieve this goal, we should take into account the diversity of each community, and people with a disability to be sure that they can enjoy all human rights: civil, political, social, economic, cultural, all recognized the national and international institutions. This project is important to understand in what way universities are prepared in terms of cultural, scientific and organizational to receive students with disabilities, in what way the content of university courses take into account the internal reality, made up of people with disabilities or not.

© 2014 Publishedby ElsevierLtd. This isanopen access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Alexandru loan Cuza University.

Keywords: higher education, project, human rights, people with disabilities.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +40-722-455-513. E-mail address: danielmara11@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Alexandru loan Cuza University.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.07.591

1. The context of the project

The inclusion of disabled people requires a range of measures designed to provide the foundation of human culture and civilization, so that all people benefit from them and develop them further in their own individual manner.

Inclusive education is an ongoing process for improvement of educational institutions with the aim to develop existing resources, especially human resources, in order to support integration in the education of all students in a community (***, 1999).

Moreover, the inclusive education aims at improving the education learning activity. The education and training is intrinsically linked to each person's life and learning context, and hence the need for appropriate partnership between teachers and students, between students themselves, between teachers, but also between the family and the local community. The strategies for teaching and learning at all levels must be adapted in order to meet the diversity and countless styles of learning and development of students.

Pedagogical and social assistance to people with SEN aims at psychological, pedagogical and social interventions for the diagnosis, recovery, education, training, professionalism, adaptation and social integration of persons who have a number of weaknesses, as well as in situations of persons that are found in a delicate position arising from various causes (Ghergut, 2001).

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that to achieve equality for people with disabilities, the right to non -discrimination should be supplemented with the right to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, integration and participation in community's life. Activities in education and training should be constantly supported by socioeconomic complementary measures, and by policies which support the improvement of general living conditions of European citizens, the integration of immigrants and minorities (especially gypsies) and the inclusion of groups with special needs (mainly people disabled and elderly people) at all levels and in all areas of education.

According to statistical studies of the National Authority for Disabled Persons in 2009, there were about 100,000 non-institutionalized disabled people with average age between 18-34 years. In the general population of people with disabilities, approximately 62 % suffer from the range of physical disabilities, somatic, auditory, visual, HIV/ AIDS (Linu, 2010).

The aim of the project sought access to students with disabilities in high quality education. Among the obstacles that hamper their access to higher education are: high cost, almost prohibitive, for universities to provide adequate means of assimilating the curriculum for these people with disabilities, physical barriers (inability to physically go to the faculty in order to participate to these courses or to access course materials in printed format standard), problems regarding finances, lack of qualified staff for educational mentoring of people with disabilities, lack of guidelines/ proper supervision with mentors' help for a smooth learning and motivation processes (Linu, 2010).

In Romania employed people with disabilities are very few in comparison to the other countries (Romania 4%, Bulgaria 13 %, Turkey 22.29 % and the UK 29%). Having no information about the problems faced by people with disabilities and their situation as a group, the policy founders cannot take effective measures to help them integrate into society.

The target groups of the project were composed of 300 students with disabilities, 100 teachers of the three partner universities and 50 private social partners in education. The needs of the target group were identified as a result of the feed -back received from the applicant of the higher education system and as a result of prospecting studies at community/ national level, presented above. The project, through the activities it proposes, has contributed to the following objectives set out in the National Reform Programme: insertion of young people into the labour market, increasing employment and activity rates through skills, education and improved labour market (Linu, 2010).

2. The need for the implementation of the project

The need for the implementation of the project resulted from the identification of target groups. Like all other citizens, people with disabilities are entitled to have the same rights as stated in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Also, in the Declaration of Salamanca, Spain (1994) the following principles are listed: " the design of educational systems and the implementation of educational programs must take into account the diversity of needs and characteristics of children enrolled in education; people with special needs should have access to regular schools (public schools), and these schools must adapt to a child -centred pedagogy capable to meet the needs of each child."

To achieve these goals, we should take into account the diversity of each community, and people with disabilities should have the guarantee that they can enjoy all human rights: civil, political, social, economic, cultural, and all recognized by the national and international institutions. This project was aimed to aware how universities are prepared in terms of cultural, scientific and organizational to receive students with disabilities, and whether content of university courses takes into account the internal reality, made up of people with disabilities or not.

There were also identified academic subjects that were made after the pattern of discrimination which separates and alienates, and to what extent they are able to place special needs in inclusive perspective. The presence of students with disabilities represents a decisive step towards inclusive perspectives. It was also observed whether the procedures of university lifestyle takes into account the disability, both in terms of space, services and transport, as well as bureaucratic- institutional issues.

The project provided students with disabilities the opportunity to complete a training, gaining some scientific and professional skills, it promoted greater congruence between theoretical integration options and methods of university teaching, it allowed access to information and qualified jobs for adults with disabilities, beyond the idea that integration should be reserved only for the infants, it created by promoting the role of protagonists of students with disabilities an European scenario regarding inclusive practices. The project aimed at reducing costs for universities to provide course materials appropriate to the type and degree of disability of prospective students, through processing optimization presentation/ conversion course material accessible to students with disabilities, it provided course materials through eLearning, which was adapted to the type of students with disabilities, so that they can access resources without the need to move, and to achieve a suitable way of evaluating their results. By completion, to develop and deliver an integrated program, there were expected financial support measures for students with disabilities and limited financial opportunities, and their assignment in the educational process, with a body of educational mentors, trained by the project, selected among teachers from partner universities and among staff from social partners in education. The added value of the project is supported by the following arguments:

• By promoting easy access to higher education for students with disabilities and access to specific information in the field, the project will generate a positive, responsive to the educational needs of disabled adult;

• The development of software methods to adapt educational processes of students to the specific of the disability of the target group provides the context for them to assimilate the contents of study programs, within undergraduate and graduate levels;

• By providing for 100 people educational mentoring training adapted to disabled and by involvement in supervising students, the project will increase not only the skills of teachers, but also of others in areas complementary to traditional jobs in university education (Linu, 2010).

The specific needs in education, of the target group, revealed by studies and research that they are not adequately supported. There are programs implemented by NGOs and universities in several regions, including our project partners individually, but they do not have yet national consistency. Through the national study that was done in the project, it was aimed to ensure nationally appropriate and consistent approach, respecting the individual characteristics of each region.

3. Equality of chance

The project aimed to contribute to the integration of people with disabilities, allowing more individuals the possibility to choose for themselves, giving them more dignity, autonomy and creativity for individuals. The project has secured human personality, intelligence and potential of each person's work full conditions of expression, unhindered and protected. People with disabilities are often invisible because of the discrimination that they face daily, which mainly relies on prejudices and is often caused by the fact that these people are almost completely forgotten and ignored. Discrimination leads to the emergence and strengthening of environmental and attitudinal

barriers that prevent these people to be part of society. The applicant and the partners have complied with the legislation on equal opportunities and treatment between men and women in employment and labour work, equal opportunities and non-discrimination, and they took into account in the implementation of the project, all the policies and practices that would not achieve any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, belief, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, contagious chronic disease, HIV infection, membership in a disadvantaged category or any other criteria that has the purpose or effect of restriction, prevention of recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing of human rights, fundamental freedoms and legal rights in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. Gender mainstreaming was combined with specific actions to increase sustainable participation of women in educational mentoring.

The principle of equality has been taken into account not only in the designing and implementation of the project, but also in the development of project activities and identification of the target group. In the strategy of designing the project, the principle of equality had a tremendous role. This was integrated at each stage and activity of the project: training activities and providing support, mentoring and study programs supported target group related regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, contagious chronic disease, HIV infection, affiliation to a disadvantaged category. People in disadvantaged groups such as minorities, people in precarious financial situation or persons in any type of socially disadvantaged prevailed in project and financial assistance. The participants of the training courses for education and training of ICT mentoring were conducted in an objective manner based on established methodology that will eliminate any potential risk of disadvantaging a person regardless of the social class to which it belongs (Linu, 2010).

4. SWOT analysis of project implementation in "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu

The implementation of project activities in "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu allowed us to identify key issues, specific to this institution of higher education. Thus, through the SWOT analysis there were revealed the project's advantages, weaknesses, opportunities and threats arising from project activities and future exploration activities.

Strength:

• Training in educational mentoring of the mentors included in the project and other academic staff engaged in teaching students with disabilities;

• Training in ICT field of mentors included in the project and other academics engaged in teaching students with disabilities;

• Network support for students with disabilities made up of: students with disabilities, teachers, mentors, student mentors, experts project (education expert, quality management expert, IT expert);

• Monthly scholarships for students with disabilities;

• Equipments purchased by the university, adapted to the needs of disabled students;

• Progress made by a significant number of students with disabilities in the curriculum plan (exams, practical internships, graduation exam), in the relational plan (integration, socialization, effective communication) ;

• Good collaboration with the experts from other partners.

Weaknesses:

• Non reaching number of 100 students with disabilities included in the target group;

• High diversity of the types of deficiencies of students;

• Lack of progress of some students with disabilities in the curriculum plan (fail the exams and the graduation exam).

Opportunities:

• The possibility to be engaged in university studies, which outside the project would not have been possible;

• The development of pedagogical skills to teachers, which are particularly useful in working with students with disabilities;

• Raise awareness and development of communication skills, positive relationships between students without disabilities who exhibit positive attitudes and a mentality of support and inclusion of students with disabilities;

• Provision of the partner universities and other universities in the country to a substantial number of free of charge places for students with disabilities;

• Multiplication of project in other partner universities;

• Dissemination of the project in the institutional environment of social assistance and community in order to integrate them after graduation.

Threats:

• Incoherence of the process of inclusion of students with disabilities, after completion of the project;

• Stiffness among teachers who show segregationist attitudes toward students with disabilities;

• Suspension SOPHRD program for Romania.

5. Conclusions

Through its activities, the project responded to objectives of promoting sustainable development of "citizens able to act responsibly for future generations." Thus, the project aimed to have people better prepared to face current and future challenges and to respond accordingly with responsibility for future generations. Project's activities were conducted in accordance with the principles of sustainable development through all its stages. In the implementation of the project there were respected the principles of environmental protection, reducing the consumption of resources that can affect the next generation (paper, electricity etc.), by accessing and transmitting electronic and on- line information. In addition, this project has contributed to the development of Romania's long term development by raising standards of teacher training and adoption of technologies and methods in education and indirect contribution to support the younger generations by raising their overall level of qualification and ability to overcome challenges of a changing world. Last but not least, education digitization has made significant contributions towards the development of the economy and preservation of the environment by reducing the use of resources. In summary, the results obtained after implementing the following aspects:

• Cooptation strategy and support for persons with disabilities in the educational process;

• Conversion system of teaching material for people with disabilities in their training appropriate formats;

• ELearning solution developed, implemented and adapted for people with disabilities;

• 100 people trained by providing educational mentoring program for students with disabilities;

• 100 teachers trained to use ICT tools developed by the project, and to guide students with disabilities in their current use;

• 300 students with disabilities, trained to use ICT tools developed by the project;

• New tools, procedures, methodologies developed by the project, implemented in partner universities;

• 150 students with disabilities part of the target group of the project, financially supported;

• 300 students with disabilities trained, due to involvement of educational mentors and volunteers, over a period of two university years.

References

• * * (1999). Dezvoltareapracticilor incluzive in gcoli. Ghid managerial. Bucure§ti: MEN §i UNICEF. Canevaro, A. (1999). Pedagogia speciale: la riduzione dell'handicap. Milano: Bruno Mondadori.

Ghergut, A. (2001). Psihopedagogiapersoanelor cu cerinte speciale: strategii de educatie integrata. Ia§i: Polirom.

Linu, A. (2010). Dezvoltarea implementarea unuiprogram-pilot integratpentru creqterea accesului la invatamantul superior pentru persoane

cu dizabilitati. Bucure§ti: MECTS. Mara, D. (2009). Strategii didactice in educatia incluziva. Bucure§ti: Didactica §i Pedagogica.