Creating Future Together: Problems and Perspectives of Inclusive Education in Russia

an International Fellowship Project

by Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova

The research is focused on the resources and perspectives for developing the policy of inclusive education as a factor of social equity in today's Russia. The main objective of this project is an analysis of conditions, elaboration of the ways for implementation and proposition of social consequences of integrative/inclusive education in a contemporary Russia' society. Children with disabilities are in most cases in Russia taught in special schools which effect cognitive and social development of the students. The project aims to study the advantages and disadvantages of segregated educational system as well as check the conditions for integrative schooling in order to give recommendations for regional educational policy makers. I intend to do ethnographic evaluation study as well as
survey and would like to engage mass media into public discussion of the issue. The project will have components of action and participatory research.

The specific tasks in the plan of fulfillment of the project for one year are as follows:
- Comparative analysis of policy  of inclusive education in cross-cultural / international perspectives;
- interviews and focus-groups with experts on the matter of educational reform concerning the inclusive education
- survey of parents of the disabled and non-disabled children as well as students and teachers and other professionals involved
- in-depth interviews with selected parents and students
- case studies at the special school for segregated education and mainstream school where the disabled child is enrolled

Recommendations for policy implications, including the recommendation for re-training of teachers, special educators and social pedagogues (school social workers)
- engaging the local authorities to the discussion of the problem and its practical solution, including round table with administrators and  tv program (one or two times) on the issue of the project
- dissemination of the results through mass media and scholarly publications as well as preparing handouts and information for popularization of the idea of inclusive education. My teaching for social work students which will serve as one of dissemination chanels for the research results.
- an explanation of how the results of the project might be applied in practice in the relevant country(ies), and if appropriate, more broadly to the region as a whole.

Today the important issues debated in public policy are related to unexpected consequences of educational and economic reforms in Russia, re-defining disability, segregation as a latent function of education, status of social work and social pedagogy as new profession, re-formulation of 'defectology' into special education in today's Russia,
empowerment as a principle of education and social work, social mobilization of the oppressed, activization of the disabled people's movement, enhancing action and participatory perspective in public policy analysis.
The idea of inclusive education is not debated yet in Russia but it may be very close to its implementation if we do research and action to promote it and to see the possible obstacles and perspectives.

The project will create a possibility to implement the recommendations and to trace the progress of reform on a local level; to disseminate the findings on federal level and internationally; to network with those in Russia who are interested in pursuing the inslusive education; to promote research in different aspects of this reform among my colleagues and students as well as in other regions of Russia. This will be possible to do through
the arranging workshops and conference, publications, TV programs, Internet, and disseminating video-materials.

The outcomes of the research project will have significance for developing policy measures and higher education in areas of teachers' training, special education, social work, social medicine and sociology. The findings of the research will be possible to use in new textbooks on related subjects. In particular, the textbook on disability issues for social workers and social pedagogues will be developed using the results of this research.