Mongolia: Special education teachers help drive inclusivity
April 10, 2024 by Ayurzana Bayarmaa, Save the Children Japan |
5 minutes read

At pilot schools in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, special education teachers are participating in a government project supported by GPE to implement inclusive education in mainstream schools.

Batmunkh Nyamsuren, a teacher in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, recalls the moment that inspired her focus on special education.

Batmunkh Nyamsuren
“In 2016, after five years of teaching at a general education school, I began working as a math teacher at the Special Education School #25. There were 10 students in my first class; nine were paraplegic or in wheelchairs, and one had intellectual problems. After class, I saw a student with an intellectual disability helping a classmate push a wheelchair into a music classroom. I was amazed to see such pure unconditional love. That student had a great attitude and a habit of assisting others even though no one taught her to do this. From that moment on, I started to work for the welfare of children, particularly those with disabilities.”
Batmunkh Nyamsuren
Teacher in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

In 2018, Ms. Nyamsuren completed the one-year Special Education Program at the Mongolian University of Education.

Ms. Nyamsuren
“My intention is to promote hope and motivation in the children. They have dreams too – but, we must assist them to achieve their goals. The class I supervised received several awards, including best class, top reader class, the most outstanding student in the school and district, and outstanding students of the year.”
Ms. Nyamsuren

Contributing to the inclusive education project

Mongolia has made a significant effort to enhance its inclusive education policies, aiming to ensure that all children, irrespective of disabilities, enjoy equitable access to quality education.

Inclusive education entails providing equal learning opportunities to every student, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, within mainstream educational settings rather than segregating them in special education schools.

To this end, the Ministry of Education and Science – with support from GPE – is actively working on initiatives to improve physical school infrastructure to better accommodate students with disabilities. This includes the establishment of Student Development and Support Classrooms (SDSCs) in mainstream schools to implement inclusive education, the deployment of special education teachers to mainstream schools, and the creation of a network of teachers dedicated to implementing inclusive education practices.

As part of this project, Ms. Nyamsuren was one of the consultants in the team that supported mainstream teachers at Erdmiin Khutuch and Secondary School #71 to make education more inclusive for children with disabilities.

As a consulting team, they organized training and awareness activities aimed at the school management, support team, teachers, parents, and peers; and observed the teachers’ teaching methods, children's participation, and the attitude of the class community.

Ms. Nyamsuren
“Students with disabilities reported low self-esteem, self-isolation from peers, inadequate school infrastructure, and a lack of support from classmates.”
Ms. Nyamsuren

Challenges faced by mainstream teachers of children with disabilities

Ms. Nyamsuren says that the majority of primary school teachers in the two schools where they worked have a good understanding of Inclusive Education and Individualized Education Plans. However, there were issues with implementation.

Ms. Nyamsuren
“There is a shortage of teaching methods for dealing with children with disabilities and a lack of collaborative teaching and instruction, and no formal team support structure at the school. The teachers also expressed concerns about a lack of understanding of and methods for using adaptive equipment and teaching learning materials, as well as the necessity for professional consulting and advice. The middle school teachers lacked knowledge and understanding on inclusive education, the necessary skills to deal with and teach children with disabilities.”
Ms. Nyamsuren

Step by step towards inclusion

Based on the results of classroom observation, the consulting team provided individual methodological advice to teachers and mentoring.

The next step was to conduct individual interviews and consultation with children with disabilities and their parents, as well as initial assessments. Then, they assisted teachers in developing individualized education plans, developing different tasks, adjusting programs, and evaluating the progress of the children with disabilities.

Finally, they suggested the creation of a network of teachers based on the types of disabilities.

Great expectations

Ms. Nyamsuren expected that working with the respective schools would give them the opportunity to recognize, understand, and support the characteristics and needs of students with different developmental stages; increase cooperation among schools, teachers, parents, guardians, and peers; effect positive changes in attitudes, ensure equal participation, and provide learning methods based on each child's actual abilities.

The improved legal framework has sparked the interest of guardians and parents in facilitating peer-to-peer interactions for their disabled children within mainstream schools.

During the 2023–2024 academic year, 27% of children with disabilities were enrolled in special schools, with the remaining 73% attending mainstream schools.

It is hoped that teachers will select the appropriate teaching materials and methods to work with the child, provide equal access to educational services based on their needs and interests, learn the methods from the teachers, and that the methods improve and progress is made for each child.

Over the coming year, they aim to create tangible improvement for all students with disabilities. The children’s progress will be monitored by National Institute of Educational Research.

About the project

The Mongolian Ministry of Education and Science has been implementing the Enabling Equity to Advance Learning project with financing of US$5 million from GPE since September 2022.

The program is focusing on three education sector priorities, inclusive education, school feeding and blended learning, which are supported by multiplier partners – JICA, KOICA, Save the Children and other development partners in Mongolia.

As part of the project's inclusive education component, Student Development and Support Classrooms (SDSCs) are being established in 18 target schools. A team of six special education teachers was piloted for deployment in five target schools of Ulaanbaatar city to improve the SDSC’s activities and services.

Furthermore, it would be disseminated throughout 13 schools in four target provinces. The team conducted counseling sessions, assisting children, school managers, teachers, and parents in resolving issues related to equal inclusion of children with disabilities in education, and established a teacher’s network at the school level.

By establishing a network at each school, teachers are able to exchange experiences, share information, increase their expertise, improve their methods of instruction, create cooperative teaching and build their full capacity.

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