1 National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (GREECE)
2 University of Thessaly (GREECE)
3 University of Patras (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Page: 1478 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-49026-4
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2023.0424
Conference name: 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2023
Location: Valencia, Spain
This study maps the strategies, measures and policies implemented in education during the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece. The education system suffered severely from the rapid pandemic outbreak, combined with the lack of central preparedness strategy. In the turmoil of organizing and delivery special education in the context of COVID-19 pandemic, the education experts-coordinators were called upon to interpret and implement the suboptimal central response strategy and measures facing enormous challenges, such as balancing out the ever-changing governmental instructions with the lack of infrastructure, the needs of educational staff and the educational and psycho-social needs of students with disabilities (SwDs).

By interviewing the education experts-coordinators, who being developed into important actors in understanding the challenges and perspectives of the strategy for special-inclusive education in pandemic times, this paper aims to explore the challenges surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the perspectives emerged in relation to get the special-inclusive education better organized and integrated in preparedness plans for a future crisis.

A total of 11 regional education coordinators were purposefully selected from across the country and interviews were conducted via video conferencing platforms. The thematic data analysis showed clearly that there was no recording of needs and preparedness plan before the pandemic outbreak. In addition, the teachers took initiatives to promote participation, yet with no central guidance. Some teachers were unwilling to use digital tools and adapt to the new conditions due to lack of proper training. The participation of SwDs was higher during the second year (2020-2021) than the first one (2019-2021). Furthermore, the findings revealed that in the absence of central preparedness strategy and support measures both the teachers and the education coordinators took the extra mile in organizing and delivering special education working proactively at their personal time and at their expense for the benefits of SwDs.

The main challenges identified were the lack of central leadership, lack of central guidance and measures to ensure accessibility, lack of effective communication, lack of equipment, the limited infrastructure, inadequate knowledge and digital skills of students and teachers, lack of crisis management training, rising risk of increasingly marginalized within schools and in wider communities. The measures taken to tackle with the emerged challenges include online guidelines in accessible forms, educational material for teachers and parents, training programs, meetings and communication, psychological support, and hiring more psychologists. The interviewees emphasized on the categorical need to prioritize measures such as digital skills training, equipment and infrastructure and economic support to students’ families, effective guidelines, accessible digital educational material.

The suboptimal support of inclusive education during the pandemic points to the urgent need that inclusive education must be considered on an equal basis in education systems in pandemic times. The preparedness plans for the next pandemic crisis have to include specific strategies, measures and services to address the diverse needs of all involved parties. This paper underlines the need to develop and use preparedness plan for schools during crisis, in order to promote equal access for all students.
Special-inclusive education, pandemic crisis, measures, strategies, preparedness, disabled students.