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THE POWER OF THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY IN INCREASING INCLUSION

Global Education Monitoring Report (UNESCO, 2020) stressed that empowering educational practice today is not limited only to the people with disabilities, but it should address all learners, regardless of age, gender, race, social or ethnic affiliation, place of residence, property status, language, religion, sexual orientation, migration, and other conditions.

For ensuring inclusion and well-being of learners, it is important to recognize the signs of inequality which is essential in the implementation of inclusive education and taking measures to overcome inclusion barriers. One of such barriers are related to the currently employed concept of special needs, emphasizing people normalcy and abnormalities. The concept of inclusion should be reconsidered by replacing it with participation and learning barriers.

Learners’ engagement and participation in the learning process has become extremely acute challenge in the covid-19 situation. Many schools and teachers met with many problems to successfully ensure educational process and active participation of all learners. However, data through national and international research (Kaminskiene et al, 2021) indicate that schools in many cases just transferred the same educational models from face-to-face to remote mode without sufficiently adapting the new learning mode to diverse learners and particularly those, who experience more diversified learning needs.

The study reveals how school communities in Lithuania addressed covid-19 situation and how inclusion was ensured through collaborative practices with school communities among teachers, school administration, pupils and parents. The research was based on the focus group discussion and involved school leaders, teachers, educational support specialists, psychologists from 23 Lithuanian schools geographically spread in cities and villages of Lithuanian regions: Alytus, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Panevėžys, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena, Vilnius.

The main findings indicate that the system of provisioning the educational process should be student-centered and addressing diversity of learners. The tools used to organize the remote learning process must meet the possibilities of using various digital tools, platforms and programmes. Teacher competence should be focused on modeling flexible curriculum, creating possibilities for realizing learners’ decision-making, ensuring co-creative practices; keep and enhance active participation of learners in the educational process. A culture of inclusive leadership in schools and self-government should be developed and strengthened with the school communities.