I hope I can accurately document my experiences in Brazil and share my knowledge with other educators. The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Project offers an extremely unique opportunity for a special educator. The need for both leaders and educators in special education to develop a global perspective of their field and an international understanding for policies and procedures abroad is imperative. Opportunities to learn from educators, government officials and inhabitants of countries promoting large education initiatives, especially those targeting students with disabilities and individuals who require alternative teaching methods, offer invaluable information about the country’s perception of special education, the disabled population, and what role culture plays in educating individuals with disabilities. Mutual understanding and learning amongst educators in this field is critical to the development of programs that will meet the unique needs of diverse populations.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sao Paulo (Day #2)
Sao Paulo Public School Classroom
Brazilian Public Special Education Teacher
The Ministry of Education in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Director of Special Education for the Ministry of Education in Sao Paulo.
Today was absolutely wonderful! During a visit to the Ministry of Education, the person who directed and implemented special education initiatives in the state of Sao Paulo spoke. It was very interesting! They are currently focusing on teacher training because there is currently a shortage of special educators (sound familiar?). In 2009 the Ministry of Education trained 17,823 teachers in various themes related to special education. Inclusion is also an area of focus across Brazil. In the southern region many public schools offer both inclusion and pull out. However, the northern and more rural areas of Brazil still have many separate public schools that house students served in special education. The Ministry of Education is also responsible for producing modified materials for students with disabilities. Much like the U.S., there are both federal and state laws that govern special education. Recent initiatives have been implemented in Brazil due to both UNESCO and the 2007 world convention for the rights of students with special needs. In regard to special education, Brazil is seeking to make social, cultural, and academic change in its public school system. The state of Sao Paulo is currently serving 52,652 students who are either diagnosed with disabilities or are identified as being intellectually advanced (gifted).
After leaving the Ministry of Education we visited a public school in a middle class area of Sao Paulo. Upon entering the school it was clear that renovations were being made throughout the building. The principal explained that the school was being renovated to meet the needs of students diagnosed with physical impairments. Steps were being removed and doorways widened. I was able to have a lengthy conversation with a special education instructor (via a translator). She was in a very small room and working with one student. She mainly served students through pull-out and she rarely had more than 3 students at a time. She worked on individual skills with each student and reviewed classroom learning student previously received in the reg ed classroom. She explained that she meets with the regular education teachers twice a week to review curriculum, plan, and discuss student needs. She said this time was required and part of the school day. To good to be true??? I must explain that students only attend school 3 hours a day. Teachers usually teach 3 groups of students a day (a morning group, an afternoon group, and an evening group). I was also able to look at student work and share information about special education in the U.S. (she was very curious about our system). Although a language barrier made it difficult to communicate, I felt an instant connection with this teacher. She must have felt the same because upon leaving she reached out to hug me.
It was a wonderful experience, however the reality of the situation soon ended the pony and rainbow feelings I was flooded with that afternoon. Let me explain… As I shared this amazing exchange with the Brazilian educator her principal as well the director of special education from the state department hung on each and every word she said. I feel there was a great deal of pressure for her to be “politically” correct and more importantly for the school to appear “politically” correct. Later I found out that this school was chosen by the Ministry of Education for us to view because of the special education program. I will be visiting several other schools and am curious to see how this one measures up!