CULTURE AND PRACTICE OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN LITHUANIAN SCHOOL: THE STUDENTS’ PERSPECTIVE

L. Miltenienė 1, J. Valuckienė2, M. Damkuvienė2, S. Balčiūnas2

1Vytautas Magnus University (LITHUANIA)
2Siauliai University (LITHUANIA)
The aim of this study was to look at the processes of inclusive education in the eyes of the students, without distinguishing them by age, gender, socio-cultural factors, disability, etc., and give them a voice and an opportunity to express their views about the barriers and the recourses for inclusive school culture and practice. Research suggest that listening to student voice facilitates a more insightful approach to educational research and practice, including and honoring the students’ perspective not only yields richer and more authentic results, it also increases student engagement (Mansfield, Welton, Halx, 2012). The creation of secure, accepting, collaborating, stimulating community is one of the essential elements of inclusive school <…> and all students in the school should have an opportunity to contribute in uncovering barriers and recourses (Booth, Ainscow, 2016). Leading schools for social justice has rarely considered the student perspective as an integral component of leadership decision making. Listening to and considering the voice of the student help to create positive, student-centered and inclusive environments for students in all global contexts (Mansfield, Welton, Halx, 2012).

Research question:
What are the barriers and the recourses for creating inclusive community, culture and practices from the student perspective?
Questionnaire survey was used for gathering the data. There were open-ended question asking for the desired changes in the school: What would you like to change at your school? Why?

The target selection method was used to form the sample. The research was carried out as a part of the project of School Development Centre in Lithuania “Teaching first” through which inclusive education is being fostered. The schools, participating in this project, were asked to participate in the survey and electronic questionnaires were distributed to all 3-12 grades students from these schools (N=14). The sample of the research is 3761 students (N=3761).
Respondents' answers to the open-ended questions were processed using a content analysis method. Empirical data has been processed by using content analysis and applying an inductive strategy.

From the students' point of view, it was found that main barriers for inclusive school culture and practice are:
• Teachers' disrespectful communication with students, screaming, humiliation, lack of teachers’ humanity, respectful and equal communication, cooperation, positivity, a good mood, a willingness to help children.
• Not managed discipline and behavioral problems in the classroom, bullying, discrimination and the practice of exclusion of some groups of pupil.
• Students’ intolerance to diversity and segregationist and discriminatory attitudes toward peers who do not conform to “normality” standards.

As recourses for inclusive school culture and practice students see:
• Increased opportunities for informal communication and spending time at school, participating in projects, non-traditional events, field trips and class trips.
• Listen to students and enable them to participate in decisions making.
• Focus more on reducing bullying, avoiding discrimination against students and exclusion.
• Male and younger teachers at school.
• Safe, accepting, pleasant emotional environment, attention to the students' well-being at school.
• Communality and help from their teachers and peers.