In line with changes being applied to the national education system in Cuba, Special Education is undergoing an extensive improvement process, looking to perfect comprehensive education for students with special and learning needs, with a key focus on diversity, noted Dora Laborí Kindelán, a special education methodologist from the Ministry of Education (Mined).
Educational support for students with varying needs and circumstances, the role of specialists and staff training programs, are all important aspects of this process.
Experimental initiatives focused on areas such as support for pupils with severe learning disabilities and work with blind and visually impaired students, are currently being applied in six of the country’s provinces. The results of these experiments will later be extended throughout the rest of the country.
“Today every school is designing its own institutional educational scheme, working on the basis of a more flexible and context specific curriculum,” the Mined methodologist stated.
One of the aims of the Special Education program during this stage of the improvement process is to have a learning agenda focused on the potential of every student. “The impact of the social and educational factor is far more important than any biological limitation the student may have,” Laborí Kindelán noted.
Another proposal is to restructure the assessment system and aim toward providing quality education in a school which must continually work to be more inclusive.
The Special Education program is responsible for addressing the needs of students with particular learning requirements which may or may not be associated with a disability. January 2016 will mark 54 years since the system was first implemented in the country.
Every year 1,400 students graduate from the island’s various special education institutions and join the workforce.
There are currently more than 12 special kindergarten schools and 98 early childhood intervention centers in Cuba. The country’s 360 special schools cater to the needs of students with disabilities such as learning difficulties, autism and speech and behavioral disorders, as well as blind-deaf, deaf and hard of hearing children and adolescents.
Dora Laborí Kindelán also noted that more than 1,600 students suffering from some sort of physical impediment preventing them from attending school receive home support.
The official also highlighted that around 21,400 children aged up to 6 years old receive early childhood intervention services, while another 333, anticipating long hospital stays, are provided with educational support in 17 hospital based classrooms countrywide.