Functional curriculum does not cater to children with various disabilities in SEN program schools

The functional curriculum for the special education needs (SEN) in all the inclusive schools focuses mainly on functional literacy and numeracy, life skills and other daily living skills, HPE & ICT, and prevocational/vocational skills for independent living.

The functional curriculum guides the teachers with methods to teach most students with learning disabilities. However, it does not cater to all the children with disabilities, as there are children with various spectrums and types of disabilities.

A SEN coordinator of Mongar High School, Yeshey Choeki, said the current functional curriculum is useful, considering the students with varying disabilities.

“However, the curriculum does have some areas where it is difficult to understand, and the needs of the children are not included. So the Royal Education Commission (REC) has directed that there is flexibility and the teachers can change the curriculum based on the child’s capacity. The teachers can make it simple and modify for them. And they have framework and instructional guidelines, and it is helping teachers to plan the lessons,” she said.

Until last year, there was no curriculum, and the assessment had to done by teachers. Yeshey said it was quite difficult for every SEN teachers, especially those teaching in new SEN schools.  She said when it comes to assessment, there is no concrete ways as how to do the assessment, whether to do in a descriptive form or scoring based.

Since children and their parents expect progress report cards at the end of year, teachers in Mongar High School have been preparing score based report cards. She said if they a child’s report card is made a descriptive method then the child would feel they are being discriminated. All the subjects for them are in functional curriculum, and similarly, continuous assessment (CA) is also done in a same way as well as the written exams, she said.

Similarly, a SEN coordinator of the Tendruk Central School, Tara Devi, said they have various children with disabilities, such hearing disabilities, children who cannot at all walk and no body movement. She said there is no curriculum for children with severe disabilities.

“There are different forms of severity, for example, some children have severe autism. Some have high functioning autism where they do not have learning problems, and rather they pick up what the teacher is teaching faster than the general students in the classroom. The problem is they have communication issues, like they do not know how to make friends and do not know how to ask for help. In every disability they have degree of severity and spectrum. Similarly, children who are wheelchair-bound, they are mostly with Cerebral Palsy, and they can attend general class and learn like any other student, whereas there are some whose cognition is severely affected,” Tara Devi explained.

The current curriculum is useful for the children with learning disabilities, but it does not cater to the needs of the children in the extreme autism spectrum range.

Although the flexibility in use the curriculum has guidelines to adapt as per the need of a child by SEN teachers, however, only trained SEN teachers can manage such approaches. Sometimes even the trained teachers find it very hard to deliver the curriculum and benefit the SEN students due to the limited resources available to teach the lessons.

“Along with the curriculum, trainings for teachers are also required. Teaching children with different disabilities not only require the curriculum but teaching-learning materials also. Such orientations are required for the all the SEN teachers,” Tara Devi said.

She added that is too early to provide a feedback on the functional curriculum, since it has just been few months after implementing. She added that the curriculum is somehow guiding teachers who were lost until now.

Changangkha Middle Secondary School is one of the first inclusive schools in Bhutan, and also follows the functional curriculum, according to the needs and abilities of the children.

Meanwhile, Wangchuk, Curriculum Developer and Officiating Head Unit, ECCD&SEN Unit said the Functional Curriculum (FC) for Special and Inclusive Education was drafted in December 2020, and started a pilot provisional version implementation from 2021 academic year.

Guidelines on Assessment, Examinations, Promotion and Transition of Student with Disabilities, which was endorsed by Curriculum and Technical Advisory Board in 2018 spelt out the need for FC to cater to the needs of children with disabilities.

Also, it is to empower Children with Disabilities (CWD) with cognitive, physical, communication, psychosocial and life skills and create conducive environment considering the individual learning needs.

The general curriculum developed based on the ideology of “one size fits all”, presents impediment in learning for children with special needs. There are learners with disabilities who can cope with the mainstream curriculum while there are some who cannot cope with the mainstream curriculum. So, the need FC was deemed necessary for those segment who are not able to cope with the mainstream curriculum.

Considering the diverse disabilities, the curriculum is flexible, in the sense that it should be contextualized and adapted as per the interest and potential of individual learners with diverse range of disabilities and their learning needs. Teachers must treat every learner as a different individual and facilitate learning experiences accordingly, said Wangchuk.

This curriculum framework will serve as a basis for facilitating learning experiences, and as such, teachers have opportunities to explore and extract learning materials from various valid resources, he added.

There will not be separate curriculum for diverse disabilities, and if they come up with separate curriculum, it would mean that they are moving away from inclusive education, he further added.

The Department of Curriculum and Professional Development (DCPD) plans to develop the Prevocational Skills Curriculum Framework for classes VII-XII in 2022-2023 Fiscal Year.

“We are also planning to build learning material resources repository,” he said.

He highlighted the challenges of teachers having limited professional capabilities to adapt and innovate teaching strategies based on the diverse learning needs of learners with disabilities, and limited learning resources to help both teachers and students in providing meaningful education for learners with special educational needs.

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