Inclusive education is learner-centred and linked to the quality of education. Educational quality, in managerial terms, is the agreement between administrators, teachers, pupils, parents and politicians on the goals of education, the means of achieving those goals, and the evaluation of those goals. The concept of quality in education in Lithuania is defined in the Concept of the Quality Assurance System for Formal Education (2008) and the Good School Concept (2015). The quality of education is ensured by education monitoring, external evaluation of school performance, school appraisal, performance evaluation of school leaders, teacher certification, and assessment of pupils’ achievements. The lack of data-driven management is a major challenge to quality education. The aim of the empirical study is to find out the barriers and incentives for the implementation of inclusive education in Lithuanian schools. The chosen method of empirical research is qualitative research, focus group discussions. Four focus groups (one of teachers, one of parents, one of pupils and one of administrators) were set up in four Lithuanian schools. The findings of the study can be used to plan school change for quality inclusive education.
The goal of every leader is a successful, high-quality, competitive school. Which is a good school? What makes a school successful? Which are the most important areas for the school? What determines the quality of a school’s performance and its prospects?
The concept of quality in education in Lithuania is defined in the Concept of the Quality Assurance System for Formal Education (2008), the Good School Concept (2015), which states that “A good school is a school that is based on fundamental humanistic values, that strives for meaning, discovery and personal success in education, and that is guided by the agreements and learning of the school community. The Concept identifies the proper implementation of the school’s mission as the most important feature of a successful school, i.e. y. good (desirable, acceptable) educational outcomes and rich, memorable, meaningful, enjoyable school experiences”.
The literature suggests that there are two closely interlinked areas that determine the quality and prospects of a school: school strategy and school culture. School culture is shaped by the school community and, above all, by teachers. Teachers’ values and positive attitudes towards pupils are key to creating a positive environment. Inclusive education is associated with a positive attitude, is learner-centred and linked to the quality of education. The strategic activities of the school leader, organised and targeted, have a significant impact on the culture and thus on the quality of the organisation. The quality of an organisation’s performance depends on the involvement of the whole community in strategic planning. Educational quality in managerial terms is the agreement between administrators, teachers, pupils, parents and politicians on the objectives of education, the means of achieving them and the evaluation of those objectives. The findings of the empirical study can be used to plan school change for the implementation of quality education.
When asked to reflect on inclusive education practices, the administrators who took part in the study talk about children with special educational needs due to congenital or acquired disabilities and their access to formal and non-formal education. This is in line with the narrow conception of inclusive education, where inclusive education is defined as education that seeks specific educational strategies for a specific group of learners. The opinions expressed by the administration, teachers and parents during the discussion lead to the conclusion that the school is not changing much, which is a weakness of inclusive education. The aim would be to have a broader understanding of inclusive education and to initiate cultural, political and practical changes in the school, in order to take into account everyone’s differences and individual needs.
The analysis of the data highlighted the management’s view of inclusive education as a permanent change that takes place in organisations, suggesting that change in organisations can be planned and implemented through evidence-based management.
Teachers identified the competence of the school leader to see, evaluate and motivate the teacher as one of the possibilities to motivate the teacher to implement inclusive education. It can be assumed that the school leader, by thinking about teachers’ intrinsic motivation to implement inclusive education, could shape teachers’ value attitudes necessary to implement inclusive education.
The ideas expressed by the participants in the study about the support system for the pupil and the school are related to the support provided by the education support teams in the school and by specialists from different agencies. It can be assumed that if the right system of support for the pupil and the school is selected, using inclusive working methods and techniques, then the provision of support will become a tool for the implementation of inclusive education. The possibility of having education support specialists in schools is linked to municipalities’ decisions to fund education support specialist posts.
It is likely that the use of the data from the empirical study in planning the change of schools for the implementation of quality education would weaken the barrier to the implementation of inclusive education identified by the respondents – the lack of support for inclusive education in mainstream education schools.
Laima Lukšienė, Deputy Director of Kaunas Kovo 11 -osios Gymnasium,
Master’s degree in Educational Leadership, ISM University of Management and Economics