CHILDREN with special needs will gradually be integrated into mainstream schools, it has emerged.
Those with hearing impairment may attend mainstream schools as early as next year and children with other special needs will follow in coming years, Social Development Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi said yesterday.
The inclusive education plan for children with special needs is a joint effort between the Social Development and Education ministries.
A committee comprising representatives from various ministries and experts in special education will be established. It will be responsible for ensuring all children with special needs are properly assessed and given individual learning plans.
Dr Al Balooshi was speaking on the sidelines of Inclusive and Special Education conference which opened at the Royal University for Women in East Riffa.
The two-day conference, under the patronage of Dr Al Balooshi, is being attended by teachers, school administrators, ministry officials, parents, non-governmental organisations and other interested parties.
It offers basic knowledge, tools and strategies that will empower teachers to skilfully, confidently and successfully promote learning for all students especially those with special needs.
It also provides parents and others with hope and networking to assist them in finding the support they need to help their child succeed in schools, community and the workplace.
"Bahrain's constitution states all people are equal and all have the right to education and training and in accordance with this, our ministry provides services for the disabled," said Dr Al Balooshi at the opening.
"Only one per cent of Bahrainis are disabled which is low compared to the international figure of 10pc."
She said the ministry, under the slogan Inclusive Bahrain, was taking steps to ensure all Bahrainis have access to education, rehabilitation and training.
Inclusive education is aimed at people with disabilities, as well as those at risk from dropping out of education because of poverty, learning difficulties, homelessness and illness.
It is also for others with special needs such as orphans, children from disadvantaged homes, people from remote areas and ethnic minorities.
"Inclusive education is concerned with removing all barriers," said Dr Balooshi.
"In Bahrain, we have developed legislation to get to Inclusive Bahrain. We are one of the first countries to develop a law that requires us to provide services for the disabled.
"But legislation is not enough. To be an inclusive society, awareness and education are also important.
"I hope we reach out to inclusive societies and countries and this conference will help in achieving this goal."
A keynote speech was presented at the opening by Formula One racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, who battled with dyslexia throughout his life.
Today's keynote speaker is Dr Nasir Al Mosa, who is visually impaired yet holds a doctorate and is the educational affairs consultant at the Education Ministry of Saudi Arabia.
An optional training day for schools, parents and interested parties will be held tomorrow.
It will be conducted by various experts including Kuwait Dyslexia Association chairman Mohammed Al Qatami, who is responsible for standardising and translating the cognitive profiling system (CoPS) - a test to determine learning disabilities in children.
His workshop will train educators on how to use this test and detect learning disabilities in classrooms.
For more information, visit www.ruw.edu.bh or call 36477656 for English or 39342907 for Arabic.