With the increasing number of students with disabilities across the 20 Special Education Needs (SEN) program schools and lack of trained teachers, the students are being taught by teachers who have not been trained or have only received partial training in special education.
There are almost 265 teachers who have received some form of training in inclusive and special education and full-fledged trained teachers are very less. As per the last year’s data. There are approximately 755 teachers in the 20 inclusive schools of which there are some teachers teaching in the SEN program.
Currently there are two types of trained teachers in SEN program school. One is the qualified one and the other is teachers who have short term training on SEN program.
Chief Program Officer of ECCD and SEN Division Sherub Phuntshok said the school with special education programs has increased and there are 741 children enrolled in the program last year and he believes there are more children in other general schools as they don’t want to get enrolled in SEN schools.
In the schools across the country, there will be some students with disabilities, so the ministry plans to have at least one SEN program school per district across the country within the 12th Five Year Plan. So that children do not have to move away from the district or from their parents.
There are less trained teachers in SEN program schools and the government has already started masters program in special education in Paro College of Education (PCE).
PCE is recruiting 20 teachers for SEN program yearly. The challenge is there are only few teachers who are interested in SEN program and not many are coming forward. However, it is the ministry’s responsibility to improve their thinking towards SEN program. And the reason for teachers not opting of SEN program is because it is very time consuming and resource and time intensive.
In other countries, one severe child needs two trained teachers whereas in the country, one trained teacher looks after two severe children with disability. Government has been supporting SEN program schools but the only challenge is the lack of funds for the SEN program.
He said SEN program is very expensive and the ministry is looking at everything to improve the quality and the facilities. It is very important for SEN program teachers to get trained because the basic education for the teachers are not for the SEN, and that is the reason the ministry conducts workshops, capacity building and orientation program for the teachers and those teachers in the schools have been providing services to the SEN program schools.
There is one module on SEN program in PCE and Samtse College of Education but teachers have expressed that it is quite dangerous to assume that the teachers are provided with adequate skills and knowledge in the SEN program schools.
Sherub Phuntshok also expressed that there are some parents who are still not aware on the SEN program schools and the ministry has been advocating parents who has children with disability to enroll their child in SEN program school, but they still do not enroll them. He said there are 20 SEN program schools in the country and any children with disability should not be kept at home but admitted in the schools. They can always contact the district education officers.
Meanwhile, the education minister Jai Bir Rai said the ministry will propose the teachers who are sub-specialized in SEN program to be incentivized through a different SEN allowance for the SEN teachers in the country as it is not easy for teachers to handle students with disabilities.