Education officials from Denmark visit York to learn about inclusive education

The Faculty of Education recently hosted a delegation of education consultants from Denmark who were here to examine best practices in teacher training for inclusive education.

Denmark-Consultants-300x225The consultants are working with Denmark’s Ministry of Children, Education and Gender Equity to review research and practice in Finland and Ontario in order to increase the percentage of pupils identified with exceptionalities in mainstream classes within the next five years.

York’s Faculty of Education was chosen to host this meeting by Ontario’s Ministry of Education because of the Faculty’s reputation for excellence in weaving social justice, equity and inclusiveness throughout the Bachelor of Education program and into Additional Qualification courses for teachers.

Isabel Killoran, associate professor in the Faculty of Education, provided the group with an overview of how York University prepares teacher candidates to plan for and implement the principles of inclusive education in their practice. She spoke about the critical importance of raising teacher candidates’ awareness of school or systemic barriers to inclusion and how to advocate for all students.

Gillian Parekh, research coordinator for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), discussed how the district utilizes current demographic data to develop system and school plans directed towards the continuous improvement of equity and inclusive education practices. She distributed a TDSB document entitled “Inclusion: Creating School and Classroom Communities Where Everyone Belongs” which provides an overview of the research, along with valuable tips and tools for educators to support inclusion in their schools and classrooms.

Janet Murphy, director of Professional Learning, informed the group about Additional Qualification courses and certificate modules that provide teachers with enhanced inclusion skill sets to improve teaching and learning in their classes for all pupils. Rick White, coordinator of Leadership and International Programs, discussed the ways in which York U prepares aspiring school leaders in the Principal’s Qualification program to become leaders in equity and inclusive education. Specifically, principals are not only provided with the legal and ethical mandate for inclusion but are also trained in identifying personal bias or systemic challenges to inclusive practices, and how to use their emotional intelligence skills to deal with those challenges.

Johanne Köpfli Møller of Ramboll Consulting said after the meeting, “We were looking for similarities and differences between Denmark and Ontario.  Although we found a lot of similarities, one thing that stood out to us as being quite different in Ontario is that all principals must take specific courses before becoming principals.

“This enables you to ensure that principals are given some tools and competencies to better handle the complexity of school management including how to support teachers in working with children with exceptionalities. As the principals play an important role in both countries, those competencies are expected to be important for the inclusion of children with exceptionalities.”

The delegation will draft an analysis comparing Denmark, Finland and Ontario based on findings from their visit. The analysis will be presented to the Ministry of Children, Education and Gender Equity later this month and will form one part of a large inspection of the work with inclusion of children with exceptionalities in primary and parts of secondary schools in Denmark (K-G9).