Adopting philosophies such as ‘Inclusion is a right, not a privilege’ and ‘No more silence, no more invisibility’
the Al Ain Higher Colleges of Technology recently hosted the inaugural Conference on Special Education Needs, ‘Embracing Inclusion’.
The first event of its kind to be hosted by the HCT Al Ain Colleges, attended by hundreds of delegates, promoted the theme of full inclusion in mainstream learning and enhancing learning opportunities for all students, particularly those with special needs.
Its aim was to explore strategies for inclusion in local schools and to provide teachers and staff with flexible approaches, addressing the diverse needs of all learners.
It was officially inaugurated by H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor, Higher Colleges of Technology. H.E. Sheikh Nahayan has been a strong supporter of enhanced special needs education in society, saying that the maturity of society was reflected when special needs services were included in the education system.
The special needs conference featured three international keynote speakers and special presentations by the Abu Dhabi Education Council and the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy.
The afternoon session featured 23 workshops focused practical strategies classroom teachers can take to ensure all students are included and help all students reach their full potential.
Keynote speakers were eminent British education expert Sir John Jones, University of Central Florida professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar Dr Lisa Dieker and University of Prince Edward Island Director of the Centre for Education Research Dr Carla DiGiorgio.
In a highly entertaining and relevant address Sir John Jones drew on his own experiences as an educator in the North-West of England when he spoke about the challenges teachers face if they are to be truly inclusive in the classroom, while stressing the role that schools and teachers play in enhancing the life chances of young people.
A feature of the conference was the demonstration of the Al Ain College’s Assistive Technology Learning Resource Centre, a hallmark of the Higher Colleges of Technology’s strong emphasis on inclusion for students with learning difficulties or special needs. These state-of-the-art centres, already installed in many of the Higher Colleges of Technology, provide students who have special learning needs with the technology and expertise to help them fulfill their potential.
Dr Tayeb Kamali, Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology said it was an honour to host an international conference of this nature at its Al Ain Colleges.
‘HCT has always adhered to the principle that students with learning difficulties or special needs are given the appropriate support to enable them to undertake their studies and college activities with dignity, confidence and acceptance so they are given every opportunity to be an integral part of the United Arab Emirates,’ Dr Kamali said.
‘We are pleased to be working closely with the local community and industry experts to present this conference.’
Tim Smith, Director of the Al Ain Higher Colleges of Technology, said the conference emphasis is about accepting differences in the community and responding to all individual needs.
‘It is our strong belief at the HCT Al Ain Colleges that people, and particularly students, with special needs should be given assistance to help them gain independence and confidence in their lives and become valued members of society without being stigmatized, ostracized or ignored,’ he said.
‘The Colleges have always maintained a strong role in working with local communities and experts in the field of special needs so that people with these needs continue to be valued and appreciated for their contributions to society, in whatever form.’
Mr Smith said the conference was a great success due to the support of several organizations such as the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, Abu Dhabi Education Council, and the Rehabilitation Centers of the Ministry of Interior, Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, Nord Anglia Education, CfBT Education Trust, Taaleem-Edison Learning and SSAT Abu Dhabi.
The Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy was represented by Dr. Sabha Al Shamisi, Senior Executive Advisor ‘ Education Programme at the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, who gave a presentation in the main morning session of the conference.
‘People with disabilities have faced many challenges and have previously been excluded from all sectors of society. This event is paramount as it is creating awareness and knowledge about the issue of inclusion,’ Dr. Sabha said.
‘This event has also provided us with an excellent platform to announce our new grant competition: ‘Disabilities ‘ Promoting Inclusion Programme’ which is aimed at UAE organisations striving to develop and strengthen the inclusion into society of individuals living with disabilities in the UAE.’
For more details visit http://spedu.aawc.hct.ac.ae/