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Keywords:

  • Teachers;
  • attitude;
  • inclusive education;
  • SENs;
  • disabilities;
  • Botswana;
  • mixed-method research

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References

The purpose of this study is to investigate the perception of primary teachers towards inclusive education in the South Central regions of Botswana. The research employed a descriptive survey design that used both qualitative and quantitative research methodology. Two hundred and seventy-three primary teachers were drawn from a sample size of 2950 teachers and 165 schools. Multistage proportionate stratified sampling was utilised to select teachers from these three different locations: urban, semi-urban and rural. A questionnaire that contained both open-ended and closed items was designed to explore Botswana primary teachers' attitude, knowledge and skills and their views of the perceived benefits of inclusion of learners with disabilities in regular classrooms. The findings of this study indicate that although most of the teachers were positive towards the concept of inclusive education they did not have a favourable attitude towards the inclusion of learners with special educational needs (SENs) in their classrooms due to the lack of essential knowledge and skills in inclusive education. Nonetheless, this study also, shows that pre-service training has a positive impact on the attitude of teachers towards the inclusion of learners with SENs. Based on the results of this study, the researcher suggests that the Ministry of Education and Skill Developments of Botswana (MoESD) must sponsor more students for pre-service training and or upgrade the professional qualification of the teachers in special education for them to be able to address the learning needs of learners with SENs.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References

Although the movement of inclusion of learners with special education needs (SENs) and disabilities into mainstream classes was initiated in western countries in 1980s (Pijl, Meijer and Hegarty, 1997; Singal, 2005), it is a relatively new concept in the Botswana education system. The premise of inclusive education in Botswana is based on the principle that all children regardless of ability have an equal right to be educated, which is in line with the countries' five founding principles: unity, democracy, self-reliance and development and ‘botho’ (common humanity). The nation's commitment towards enhancing access and equal rights of ‘education for all’ has been re-emphasised by the current policy on inclusive education. A significant body of research globally indicates that teachers' attitude towards inclusion of learners with SENs plays a critical role in the successful implementation of the policy. Therefore, the purpose of this study was initiated to examine teachers' perceptions towards inclusion of learners with disabilities in regular schools.

Education of learners with SENs' in Botswana

Education of learners with SENs was initiated by non-governmental organisations in Botswana (Abosi, 2000). The first educational policy which is commonly known as Education for Kagisano was developed in 1977 (Government of Botswana, 1977). It recommended that every child should have the right to education, but it was silent on the issues of education for learners with disabilities (Government of Botswana, 1993). The 2nd National Commission on Education was established in 1992 to review the entire education system in Botswana and to address the gaps. Following the submission of its report in 1993, the Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE) was formulated (Government of Botswana, 1994). The RNPE recommended that as far as possible, learners with SENs should be placed in integrated settings. The RNPE remained the major policy framework for promoting access and teacher development for the last two decades. In 2011, in alignment with the global trend, a comprehensive policy document on inclusive education for Botswana has been developed (Government of Botswana, 2011). This policy has five goals, and in order to implement the policy, there are 10 commitment statements. The goals of the policy are:

  • • 
    All learners will complete their basic education and progress where possible to senior secondary or tertiary education or to vocational training.
  • • 
    Teachers will have the skills and resources to enable children of different abilities to learn effectively.
  • • 
    Out-of-school education programmes will be further developed and strengthened to ensure the inclusion in education and skills development of those children, young people and adults whose needs cannot be met in the formal system.
  • • 
    Schools will be supportive and humane, establishments which embrace and support all their learners and value their achievements so that children will attend school regularly and work hard at their studies.
  • • 
    All relevant governmental, non-governmental and private organisations will work in harmony to develop and maintain an inclusive education system in Botswana.

Although, this policy is specially designed to assist in implementation of inclusive education, some of its goal are ambiguous and may create inherent tension. For example, the third goal seems to be not compatible with the core philosophy of inclusive education by endorsing out-of-school systems. This might become an opportunity for the school system to push low-performing students into those institutions. Simultaneously, such institutions might mushroom in the name of government–NGO collaboration (fifth goal), and the ‘charity model’ will prevail which is contradictory to the basic tenet of inclusive education, the ‘social model’.

With the implementation of this policy, it is expected that the number of learners with SENs will continue to grow, and classrooms will become more diverse than before. In order to cater for learners with diverse learning needs, teachers should have adequate knowledge and skills and favourable attitudes towards inclusive education (Ivey and Reinke, 2002; Treder, Morse and Ferron, 2000). Unfortunately, there are few studies of teacher attitudes towards inclusive education in Botswana primary schools.

Attitude of teachers towards inclusive education in Botswana

Attitude of teachers' towards inclusion of learners with SENs is well investigated. A significant body of literature revealed that a large number of demographical variables influence teacher's attitude (Chhabra, Srivastava and Srivastava, 2010; Gaad and Khan, 2007). However, these results are inconclusive and context specific. Therefore, this section reflects on the available literature on inclusive education in Botswana to highlight the current scenario which will help in the implementation of inclusive education in the country.

As mentioned previously, in Botswana, the concept of inclusive education is based on Kagisano (social harmony) and deeply rooted principles of ‘botho’. According to the ‘Long Term Vision for Botswana’ (Government of Botswana, 1997)

‘Botho . . . refers to one of the tenets of African culture . . . (it) defines a process for earning respect by first giving it and to gain empowerment by empowering others . . . It disapproves of anti-social, disgraceful, inhuman and criminal behaviour and encourages social justice for all . . . it must stretch to its utmost limits the largeness of the spirit of all Botswana.’ (p. 2)

Even though the society seems to be based on social justice, historically, people with disabilities were hidden and did not have similar social standing. Individuals with disabilities were viewed as being weak, difficult, awkward, burdensome, powerless, having no strength, with deficits in learning and progress and unable to cope with their normal peers; therefore should be educated in special schools and taught by special educators. This is assumed to have been deeply rooted in their cultural beliefs, traditional value systems and practices and the way they were taught or trained and eventually subsumed into the education system. Africans in general, associate causes of disabilities to witchcraft, juju, sex-linked factors, God-mediated and supernatural forces (Abosi, n.d). For example, an individual with albinism who participated in a study carried out by Dart, Nthobatsang and Korwa et al. (2010) beautifully described how individuals with albinism are treated in Botswana

‘. . . traditionally would not be seen at the normal community celebrations such as weddings, village meetings and funerals. . . . . many small children will spit on their own clothing, a practise that arises from the belief that spitting out saliva when you see an albino ensures that any babies that you might have will not be albino.’ (p. 4)

This practice works against the philosophy of inclusive education (botho) and is ‘not compatible with the principles and policies that govern education in Botswana (Kagisano)’ (Dart et al., 2010).

Although inclusive education has been rapidly gaining currency in Botswana's academic circles, government texts and mass media, there is a lack of shared understanding as to what the concept implies, since neither the government nor academics have been able to engage critically with the meanings and relevance of the concept in the Botswana context. Meanwhile, empirical studies in this area have been inadequate, and the small amount of published literature that does exist largely comprises of personal opinion (Dart, 2006). The limited research that investigated teachers' or pre-service teachers attitude towards inclusive education in Botswana (Brandon, 2006; Chhabra et al., 2010; Dart, 2006; Kuyini and Mangope, 2011; Mangope, 2002) indicate that most of the teachers in Botswana do not have a favourable attitude towards inclusion of learners with SENs. However, the majority of the study focused on the attitude of secondary school teachers and did not include other cardinal issues such as knowledge and skills and the teachers' personal and professional characteristics.

Method

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References

Research design

This study employed a descriptive survey research design; an instrument containing both closed-ended and open-ended items was used. This is also called an intra-method mixing (Johnson and Turner, 2003) and allows within method triangulation (Denzin, 2010) to cross-check data for the internal consistency (Denzin, 1978). The rationale for using this approach was based on the fact that the word ‘inclusion’ means different things to different people. The approach allowed the researcher to capture the multidimensional aspects of social life through both quantitative and qualitative information. It provided the researcher with a diversity of responses through rich description of educators' perceptions of inclusive education and experiences of teaching learners with SENs. Moreover, two different types of data gave a holistic picture and enhanced the validity and integrity of the findings.

Participants

Multistage proportionate stratified sampling was utilised to select teachers from these three different locations (urban, semi-urban and rural) of the south central region of Botswana. There are 165 schools government aids schools in this region, and the sample size consisted of 2950 teachers (Ministry of Education and Skills Development, 2008). Thirty-five schools were randomly selected (18 rural, nine urban and eight semi-urban). A total of 350 questionnaires were distributed to teachers which comprised 11.8% of all primary teachers in the south central regions. Out of 350 participants, 284 (81.14%) questionnaires were received back from the participants. Eleven questionnaires were excluded from analysis because of missing information, and ultimately 273 (78%) questionnaires were used for actual analysis. Table 1 displays details about the participants. As the researcher personally distributed and collected questioners through a follow-up visits, it enhanced the response rate.

Table 1. Personal and professional background of the teachers
 Number and %
Gender
Female216 (79%)
Male57 (21%)
Hold post of responsibility
Yes38 (14%)
No235 (86%)
Age range
20–2519 (7%)
26–3043 (16%)
31–3555 (20%)
36–4085 (31%)
>40 years71 (26%)
Location of the school
Urban78 (28%)
Semi-urban70 (26%)
Rural125 (46%)
Teaching experiences
1–5 years70 (26%)
6–10 years47 (17%)
11–15 years37 (14%)
16–20 years56 (20%)
>20 years63 (23%)
Grade level/class taught
Lower102 (38%)
Mid101 (36%)
Upper70 (26%)
Level of education
PTC66 (24%)
Diploma primary Ed111 (44%)
Diploma sped32 (11%)
BEd sped20 (7%)
BEd PriEd44 (16.12%)

Instruments

A two-part questionnaire was designed based on an in-depth literature review (Brandon, 2006; Chhabra et al., 2010; Dart, 2006; Mangope, 2002; Sharma and Desai, 2002). Part one of the questionnaire consisted of two sections. Section 1 focused on gathering data on the general academic and professional background of the participants. It had eight items covering the profession, post of responsibility, gender, age range, educational qualifications, teaching experience, class/grade taught and location of the school. In section 2, participants' beliefs, knowledge and skills and perceived benefits of inclusive education were captured using open-ended questions. Part two of the questionnaire consisted of 18 Likert-type statements designed to gather information on attitudes towards inclusive education, knowledge/skills of the teachers and perceived benefits of inclusive education.

The questionnaire also contained open-ended questions to gather information on teachers' experiences of teaching learners with SENs, knowledge and skills and their beliefs about inclusive education. The Likert-type statements were selected based on review of literature and modified slightly, particularly in terms of making the wording in the original scales suitable for the subjects in this study. This questionnaire was given to academics, researchers and a practising teacher. They were requested to rate each of the items as ‘relevant’ or ‘not relevant’ for the study, and based on their opinion the questionnaire was further modified. This added face validity of the instrument. The survey instrument was pilot tested on 50 in-service students-teachers who had experience of teaching in primary schools in Botswana. The results of the pilot test were used to find the reliability of the instrument. The Cronbach reliability coefficient for the Likert scale of the instrument was found to be 0.88.

Data collection

Permission to carry out the research was sought from and granted by the research division of the MoESD. After obtaining permission from the school head, 10 questionnaires were distributed randomly to 10 teachers personally by the researcher. Each questionnaire contained a cover page to inform the participants about the study and to request that participation in this survey was voluntarily. The questionnaires were collected from the teachers on a subsequent visit. Each questionnaire was given a number which was entered into SPSS system.

Data preparation and analysis

The information captured in the survey was coded and entered in the worksheet of SPSS, version 20 (IBM Corp., 2011). Likert-type scale consisted of 18 statements. The statements were either positive or negative. The positive statements were scored as ‘1’ for ‘strongly disagree’ and ‘6’ for ‘strongly agree’. The negative statements were coded in reverse fashion (‘1’= strongly agree; ‘6’= strongly disagree). Various descriptive and interpretive statistical procedures were utilised to analyse and interpret the data derived from the survey instrument. The responses collected through open-ended items were transcribed into MS Excel 2010 and then entered into AllasTi5.5 (ATLAS.ti Scientific Software Development GmbH, Berlin, Germany) following the appropriate protocol. Content analysis (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) was used to summarise answers to three open-ended questions. The purpose of the qualitative analysis was to augment and cross-check quantitative data.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References

Out of 273 respondents, 81% (n = 221) were regular teachers, and 19% (n = 52) were qualified as special educators. The majority 79% (n = 216) of the respondents were female with only 21% (n = 57) being male presumably this broadly reflects the make-up of the Botswana' teaching population. It was interesting to observe that out of 38 (14%) teachers who hold the post of responsibility as senior teacher advisors learning disabilities (STALD), only 11 were qualified as special educators, and the remaining 27 teachers were promoted to be STALD without any formal training. For analysis in this study, the mean attitude scores of each subscale were obtained, and a t-test and/or one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted on each of the variable characteristics to investigate whether the demographic variables affected the attitudes of teachers towards inclusion of learners with SENs in regular schools. The mean and standard deviations of each item are given in Table 2.

Table 2. Participants responses on each item, means and standard deviation
StatementsStrongly agreeagreeTend to agreeTend to disagreeDisagreeStrongly disagreeMeanStd. Dev.
Attitude towards inclusive education
Learners with SENs should be given equal opportunity function in a regular classroom6977283447184.121.64
25.3%28.2%10.3%12.5%17.26.6%
The individual needs of majority of learners with disabilities can be addressed adequately by a regular education teacher7473372138302.871.72
27.1%26.7%13.6%7.7%13.9%11.0%
Parents of children with SENs prefer to have their child placed in an inclusive classroom setting.4279273049463.621.76
15.4%28.9%9.9%11%17.9%16.8%
I am concerned that including learners with SENs will increase my workload.7869492038192.731.68
28.6%25.3%17.9%7.3%13.9%7.0%
Learners with SENs should not be taught only in special education classes7465403038262.891.68
27.1%23.8%14.7%11%13.9%9.5%
Most students with SENs (regardless of the level of their disability) can be educated in regular schools in Botswana5560432636533.311.81
20.1%22%15.8%9.5%13.2%19.4
I do not have sufficient time to undertake the responsibility of educating learners with SENs in the regular classroom618831343128  
22.3%32.2%11.4%12.5%11.4%10.3%2.891.64
Learners with SENs should be taught by special education teachers only557640314526  
20.1%27.8%14.7%11.4%16.5%9.5%3.041.64
Parents of learners with SENs do not require more support services from teachers than parents of typically developing learners5589511445192.861.56
20.1%32.6%18.7%5.1%16.5%7.0%
Perceived benefits of inclusive education
Learners with SENs can learn social skills from students without disabilities in the regular classroom6893352337174.291.56
24.9%34.1%12.8%8.4%13.6%6.2%
The challenge of a regular education classroom promotes academic growth among learners with SENs.3589353562173.811.55
12.8%32.6%12.8%12.8%22.7%6.2%
Learners with SENs develop higher self-esteem when included in regular school5874252256383.781.8
21.2%27.1%9.2%8.1%20.5%13.9%
Inclusive education is useful for students without SENs, because having students with SENs as friends, they can learn social acceptance and tolerance towards differences74786622249  
27.1%28.6%24.2%8.1%8.8%3.3%4.471.37
Knowledge and skills
I have adequate knowledge and skills to teach learners with SENs in regular class.2457202357924.121.80
8.8%20.9%7.3%8.4%20.9%33.7%
I can give adequate appropriate attention to all students in an inclusive classroom.2850333570553.891.71
10.3%18.3%12.1%12.8%25.6%20.1%
If one of my learners with SENs is unable to remember the information given in a lesson, I know how to increase his/her retention in the next lesson314938339230  
11.4%17.9%13.9%12.1%33.7%11.0%3.281.60
I know collaborative strategies needed for working with other colleagues in inclusive classrooms27562324113303.151.62
9.9%20.5%8.4%8.8%41.4%11.0%
If a student becomes disruptive in my classroom, I feel assured I know some techniques to redirect his/her behaviour355642434526  
12.8%20.5%15.4%15.8%16.5%9.5%3.901.48

Teachers' attitude towards inclusive education

In order to measure the attitudes of teachers, a subscale consisting of nine items was used. Three items were negatively polarised, and six items were positively polarised. The higher score indicated favourable attitudes towards inclusion of learners with SENs in regular schools, whereas the lower score indicated unfavourable attitudes. The total score analysis of all the 273 respondents indicated an overall mean of 3.15 on all the nine statements on the attitude subscale. This indicated that the overall attitude fell closer to the middle of the response scale in which 1 indicated unfavourable attitudes towards SENs, and six indicated more positive attitudes towards SENs. A mean of 3.15 indicated an attitude towards inclusion as falling between ‘tend to disagree’ to ‘tend to agree’ but leaning towards ‘tend to disagree’.

The mean attitudinal scores of male (M = 3.14, SD = 1.03) and female teachers (M = 3.17, SD = 1.03) were calculated; t-test was run; it yielded non-significant differences between two means in this subscale. However, this finding should be used cautiously given the fact that only 57 male teachers took part in this research. The mean and standard deviation of teachers who hold positions of responsibility were M = 3.23, SD = 1.0, whereas those who did not hold positions of responsibility were M = 3.13, SD = 1.01. Post of responsibilities also did not influence the attitudinal score significantly. Since the majority of the teachers who held special education positions were not qualified as special educators, this finding was expected. Table 3 displays attitudinal scores along with the demographical variables.

Table 3. Participants attitude towards inclusive education, mean, standard deviation, t or F-test
 n Mean SD t/F Sig (P)
  • *

    considered significant at p < .05.

Gender
Female2163.171.03 t=−.171.864
Male573.141.04  
Hold post of responsibility
Yes383.231.23 t= .508.612
No2353.131.00  
Age range
20–25192.940.87 F= 2.38.052
26–30433.161.06  
31–35553.351.02  
36–40853.281.14  
>40 years712.870.87  
Location of the school
Urban782.980.91 F= 1.81.165
Semi-urban703.291.20  
Rural1253.170.99  
Teaching experiences
1–5 years692.940.90 F= 2.05.087
6–10 years483.281.07  
11–15 years373.331.14  
16–20 years563.341.05  
>20 years632.991.01  
Class taught
Lower1023.171.03 F= .224.800
Mid703.091.01  
Upper1023.201.06  
Level of education
Primary Teacher's Certificate662.73.69 F= 79.67.000*
Diploma PriEd1112.77.70  
Diploma sped324.82.37  
BEd sped204.73.28  
BEd PriEd442.70.79  

One-way ANOVA was used to analyse variables such as location of schools, grade taught, experience in teaching learners with SENs and education qualifications. Except educational qualifications, other variables did not influence the attitude of teachers towards inclusion of learners with SENs. Of the total number of participants, 66 (24%) had an education level of the primary teachers certificate, 111 (41%) had a diploma in primary education, 32 (12%) had a diploma in special education, 20 (7%) had a bachelor in special education, and 44 (16%) hold a bachelor's degree in primary education. A one-way ANOVA between the mean scores yielded a significant difference between the means on the attitude scores (F(5, 267) = 79.67, P < .05). This means teachers who graduated with a diploma and/or degree in special education had significantly more favourable attitudinal scores than teachers who had other educational qualifications. This finding clearly indicates that in order to implement inclusive education policy in Botswana, more teachers should be trained in the area of special education.

To gain insights into the teachers' attitude(s), textual analysis of participants' responses to open-ended questions was used to complement the quantitative information. Throughout the transcripts of educators, attitudinal barriers were highly visible in teachers' responses. Their responses were prefaced by phrases like ‘they are a burden’, ‘I don't have time’, ‘increased workload’ and ‘they should go to special school’. The participants expressed frustrations about the workload they have to contend with in primary schools. Their displeasure was reflected in the following remark: ‘We are teaching large classes, it's a lot of work. You have to make sure that all children are catered for. This is not easy.’

Teachers also complained about high student ratio. In order to emphasise the issue one of the teachers said:

‘Student teacher ratio is not favourable. We teach large numbers of students. Having a child with disability is real problem. It is impossible to give equal attention to all students.’

The following excerpts could best illustrate the issues of ‘lack time’.

‘It is sometimes very hard to work with such kinds of students. Because they take more time to teach. I really hate to have these kinds of students in my class. They need much attention and time, so it is not easy to teach them in a regular class.’

Teaching students with disabilities was perceived to be a burden since it creates more demands on the part of the teachers. This is something that teachers were not prepared to undertake. It seemed that teachers prefer to have learners without disabilities because they did not demand additional attention, preparation and time outside the teachers' ‘normal’ scope of work.

In sharp contrast to the negative attitudes recorded, there were some teachers who had positive attitudes towards inclusive education. One positive statement made by a teacher was:

‘In the initial stages learners without disabilities treat those with disabilities differently. They end up segregating them, but ultimately things normalise.’

The data demonstrated that some of the regular teachers were open to ideas and the values of inclusive education and saw inclusive education as an opportunity for learners with SENs to socialise with peers.

Teachers' knowledge and skills

In order to determine the teachers' knowledge and skills, five items were used. The higher the score the better the knowledge and skills. The mean score of this subscale was found to be 3.67, which falls between 3 and 4 (tend to disagree – tend to agree) indicating that respondents were not confident with their knowledge and skills for inclusion of SENs in regular classrooms. One-way ANOVA was conducted to find the influence of the demographic variables.

Apart from educational qualifications, other variables did not influence the mean score on knowledge and skills. The mean scores indicated that teachers who were graduated with a diploma and or degree in special education had significantly higher scores than teachers who had other educational qualifications. It could be interpreted from the findings that teachers' educational qualifications influence in the development of knowledge and skills of the participants, Therefore, more numbers of teachers should be formally trained in the area of special education. Other variables such as location of schools, grade taught and experiences in teaching did not influence the attitude scores. Table 4 displays participants' scores on knowledge and skills subscale along with the demographical variables.

Table 4. Knowledge and skills mean, standard deviation, t or F-test
 n Mean SD t/F P
  • *

    considered significant at p < .05.

Gender
Female2163.621.03 t=−1.38.169
Male573.851.04  
Hold post of responsibility
Yes383.481.11 t=−1.01.270
No2353.701.10  
Age range
20–25193.741.06 F= 0.307.873
26–30433.750.90  
31–35553.761.15  
36–40853.631.17  
>40 years713.581.12  
Location of the school
Urban663.581.21 F= 0.457.634
Semi-urban1113.651.13  
Rural323.731.02  
Teaching experiences
1–5 years693.571.02 F= .452.771
6–10 years483.771.21  
11–15 years373.701.10  
16–20 years563.771.08  
>20 years633.591.13  
Grade level/class taught
Lower1023.651.08 F= .203.816
Mid1013.641.10  
Upper703.741.14  
Level of education
Primary Teacher Certificate663.421.03 F= 11.87.000*
Diploma primary Ed1113.441.04  
Diploma sped324.650.77  
BEd sped204.520.66  
BEd PriEd443.411.17  

In order to probe into teachers' knowledge and skills, the teachers' response to open-ended questions were analysed. The following statements capture the teachers' level of knowledge and skills:

‘I was not trained in special education, so I ignored the child and simply referred the child to a special school for children who are deaf.’

‘It is difficult to teach pupils with learning disabilities, if you are not trained in special education to deal with such students. Since they need special attention and normally they work at their own pace.’

‘It is really difficult to teach them mostly if you have not been trained for them. But with patience and tolerance I ended up having a small knowledge on how to assist them.’

One of the participants recommended, ‘Teachers should be taught how to handle pupils with disabilities’. The data suggested that adequate training in inclusive education was a critical prerequisite for teachers to function effectively in order to implement inclusive education successfully. Lack of knowledge and skills such as sign language and Braille appeared to be the serious concerns for teachers. This was revealed in the following comments:

‘We do not have enough knowledge and skills to manage SENs in the regular classroom.’

‘We don't know how to communicate with children with hearing impairment, we don't know sign language.’

‘I lack skills, it really worries me, as I would not want a child I feel for her, as I do not have the experience to teach her (sic).’

Perceived benefits of inclusive education

Teachers' perceived benefits of inclusive education have been recognised as positive factors in inclusive education (Clough and Nutbrown, 2004). In this section, participants' responses to the perceived benefit subscale were used. There were four items in that subscale.

Teachers' score on the subscale of perceived benefits subscale was used as a dependent variable, and the participants' professional and personal background were used as independent variables. The overall mean score of the five items was found to be 4.09. This means that teachers perceive the benefit of inclusion of learners with SENs. An independent t-test was used for dichotomous variables such as profession, gender and post of responsibilities, and ANOVA was used for other independent variables such as age range, educational qualifications, teaching experiences, grade-taught and locations.

Similar to the other two subscales, the educational qualifications is the only variable that influenced the teachers' perceived benefit towards inclusion of SENs in regular schools. The mean scores of teachers who were graduated with a diploma (M = 4.82; SD 1.10) and those with degrees (M = 4.42; SD = 1.11) in special education had significantly more favourable attitudinal scores than teachers who had other educational qualifications. One-way ANOVA was run, and the difference was found to be significant (F= 5.31, d.f. = 5, 267, P < .05). Other variables such as location of schools, grade taught, years of teaching experience and experience in teaching learners with disabilities did not influence the perceived benefits scores. Table 5 displays the benefits of inclusive education along with demographical variables.

Table 5. Perceived benefits of inclusive education, mean, standard deviation and t/F test
 n Mean SD t/F P
  • *

    considered significant at p < .05.

Gender
Female2164.041.17 t=−1.16.246
Male574.251.21  
Hold post of responsibility
Yes383.871.30 t=−.508.612
No2354.121.16  
Age range
20–25193.981.11 F= .549.700
26–30433.991.03  
31–35554.161.08  
36–40854.211.22  
>40 years713.971.30  
Location of the school
Urban784.111.30 F= .314.731
Semi-urban703.991.24  
Rural1254.131.07  
Teaching experiences
1–5 years664.021.12 F= 0.215.930
6–10 years1114.091.12  
11–15 years324.001.10  
16–20 years204.181.12  
>20 years444.131.39  
Grade level/class taught
Lower1024.111.23 F= 0.413.662
Mid1014.011.14  
Upper704.171.17  
Level of education
PTC664.081.19 F= 5.316.000*
Diploma primary Ed1113.921.20  
Diploma sped324.81.80  
BEd sped204.48.74  
BEd PriEd443.661.28  

In order to gain an insight about the issues of inclusion, teachers were asked to give their opinion about the inclusion of types of categories of disability; the opinions of teachers differed. The majority of teachers preferred learners with a learning disability (64%) to those with any other disability. Teachers reported less preference for learners with physical disabilities (44%), deafness or blindness (19%) and emotional problems (10%). The reason for these preferences for learners with a learning disability was expressed as ‘it is easy to manage and accommodate’. Mobility impairment was the category next most frequently endorsed by teachers. It emerged from the data that learners with mobility impairments did not create serious demands on the part of teachers in the lines of instructional accommodation. The least preferred categories were visual or hearing disabilities and students with emotional disorders. Participants of the study believed they could not effectively accommodate these learners in regular classrooms. It could be deduced from the data that teachers seemed to prefer selective inclusive practice rather than the fully inclusive model.

However, not all the teachers were positive about the benefits of inclusive education. Their reasons expressed concern about including SENs in regular classrooms and their statements were dominated by negativity about inclusive education. Teachers gave reasons such as ‘inclusive education disadvantages the normal students’, ‘SENs consume all the teaching time’, ‘I do not have enough time’, ‘I have to finish the syllabus objectives before exam’ and ‘They will drop my class pass rate I am being judged by the pass rate’. This is an interesting comment raised by teachers and education policies including the current one is silent about such practical issues. It is important to underscore that MoESD need to take cognisance of practicing teachers and resolve such issues. It appears that negative attitudes are rooted in the lack of knowledge and skills of meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. This was apparent in the comments of one participant:

‘I found no benefit, more so I don't have the knowledge and skills of what it entails, If only I was familiar with the concept may be to some extent I would dream to try it (sic).’

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References

In this study, the researcher sought to examine the attitude and knowledge and skills as well as their views of perceived benefits of inclusion of learners with SENs in Botswana's primary schools. Apart from educational qualifications, no relationship was found between Botswana teachers' attitudes, knowledge and skills and perceived benefits of inclusive education and their demographic variables (age, gender, post of responsibilities, location, grade taught and years of experience). Teachers who were formally trained as special educators possessed a more positive attitude towards inclusion of these learners. These positive attitudes could be attributed to the skills and knowledge they had acquired during their formal training. The results of this study were consistent with the results of the previous studies done by other researchers in other countries (Ali, Mustapha and Jelas, 2006; Loreman, Forlin and Sharma, 2007). It was also found that most of the teachers preferred to include learners with a learning disability over other categories of learners with SENs, and teachers felt that this group of learners were easy to manage. This finding is in agreement with the study carried out by Gaad and Khan (2007). Participants of their study also preferred to include learners with learning disabilities.

Consistent with other research, Chhabra et al. (2010) in Botswana, Agbenyega (2007) in Ghana, Kuyini and Mangope (2011) in Botswana and Lifshitz, Glaubman and Issawi (2004) in Israel and Palestine, this research also found that teachers do hold unfavourable views towards inclusion of learners with SENs in regular classrooms. The findings of this study indicate that these are positive relationships between teachers' educational qualifications and knowledge and skills in managing learners with SENs in regular classrooms. It could be attributed to the fact that teachers who underwent diploma and/or degree studies in special education took more courses in the subject and underwent 14 weeks of compulsory teaching practice designed to enhance their knowledge and instructional strategies needed to work with students with disabilities. Although others educators took only an introductory course in the area of special education, and did not go through teaching practice in the area of special education, therefore they were not well equipped to work with SENs.

Although teachers had an overall negative attitude towards inclusion of learners with SENs in regular classrooms, it was interesting to find that teachers perceived the benefits of inclusive education in a broader manner. The participants were of the opinion that enhancing opportunities and gaining acceptance through inclusion would develop independence and socialisation skills for learners with SENs. In addition, inclusive education would offer more chances to participate in a variety of school activities, enhance self-image and be a better preparation for the real world. They did not find any negative impact on typically developing children in inclusive education. It is believed that through inclusive education; typically developing children increase their sensitivity to others and understand human diversity. This reflects findings from research in other contexts (Farrell, 2000; Katz and Mirenda, 2002).

Conclusion and recommendations

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References

The study indicates that although teachers understood the benefits of inclusive education, they did not possess a favourable attitude towards inclusion of learners with SENs in their own classes and lacked adequate knowledge and skills in teaching learners with SENs in regular classrooms. However, this could be attributed to the lack of knowledge and skills in teaching SENs. The predominant factor that played a significant role in attitude, knowledge and skills is the formal training in special education.

The current inclusive education policy in Botswana reassured the nations' commitment to provide equal opportunities to all its citizens. One of the goals of the policy is: ‘Teachers will have the skills and resources to enable children of different abilities to learn effectively’. The findings of this research clearly indicate that although teachers have accepted the concept philosophically, they lack the knowledge and skills required to cater for the needs of learners with diverse educational needs. Therefore, the process of implementation is not going to be easy. Inclusion of learners with SENs in regular schools is a complex activity that needs extraordinary commitment by all stakeholders (Mukhopadhyay, 2009). It is equally important to underscore that inclusive education is multidimensional and highly context specific. Nonetheless, the mixed method of data collection and analysis elicited richer information about the teachers' conceptualisation of inclusive education than only quantitative research would have revealed.

However, this study has inherent limitations. The study focused only on teachers' self-reported information; the researcher had to rely on what the participants reported. The researcher did not capture the school and classroom observations to understand the process and practices of inclusive education in Botswana. Future studies should use multiple methods of data collection from multiple stakeholders to get a holistic picture.

The findings of this study have several implications. These implications are relevant to, and should be addressed by policy-makers and teacher education universities and colleges. First, training opportunities at both initial teacher training and in-service training need to be developed to include requisite knowledge and skills to teach learners with SENs. Second, regular teachers should take more special education courses during their pre-service training, and the teacher training programme must incorporate practical training to cater to the needs of learners with diverse educational needs and their families. It is, however, the opinion of the researcher that in order to implement inclusive education in Botswana, the general and special education programmes at institutions of higher learning must emphasise and encourage special and general educators to work collaboratively. This would enhance their skills to teach in regular schools and equip them with better instructional strategies to work with learners with SENs.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Method
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion and recommendations
  8. References
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