Promoting Inclusion in Higher Education through the Erasmus+ Project Tofie

Adults with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD) represent around 6 to 8% of the population according to the French Dys Federation, hence the importance of promoting an inclusive learning environment where students with disabilities can thrive and live to their full potential. As learning disabilities are a life-long issue, we need to look at inclusion from a different perspective, where it is not only important in primary and secondary schools but throughout an individual’s entire life.

Students with learning disorders are less likely to finish their degree or to graduate with a good degree because institutions fail to respond to the students’ needs. But, by building inclusive practices into an institution’s structure, less accommodations are needed in the future (Office for Students – UK). Learning disabilities are not something that can be “fixed” in an individual, nor it is related to intelligence : it is a neuro-diversity issue that if embraced can be managed giving the opportunity for students to succeed.

In an effort to understand how reasonable accommodations are applied in universities in the partner countries of the Erasmus+ project “Tools for Inclusive Education” (Tofie) and how they can be improved, the project team created Good Practices report that collected the following conclusions :

  • Greece – In Greece neither the legislation so far nor the structures that exist particularly help for this inclusion The majority of educators attend educational programmes/ seminars on Inclusive Education mostly in primary and secondary education, as a means for professional development. There is not much space for interaction with colleagues and sharing experiences, or between the school community and policy. The lack of adequate personnel and resources make inclusive environments even more difficult to be created.

  • Spain – Tool identified in Spain demonstrates the variety of organizations and federations that have been born to support the strategies offered by the government and to advance inclusive education by giving support to people with disabilities and their families, when government aid does not arrive.

  • UK – Some policies, tools and practices exist that aim to support and provide inclusive education for disabled people in the UK. The benefits are being recognised and the methods becoming more mainstream, as the level of support rises and the desire to receive the right support at the right time for the right people grows. However, more tools and policies are needed in order to increase and improve the available inclusive education. Particular holes exist in higher education, consistent policy and incentives, and foreign students.

  • Belgium – The main inclusive resource in Belgium is the status of student with special needs that gives the student access to reasonable accommodations according to their needs and the institution’s limits. Every university in Belgium has a department that is specialised in inclusion and that ensures that students are followed but some issues remain as a barrier. Académie De Recherche et d’enseignement Supérieur (ARES) often are responsible for creating training programmes, along with the help of non-profit associations involved in inclusion.

  • Romania – Romania is at the beginning of the process of providing educational opportunities and support for learning disorders and the first step to take in this process is to focus and invest in human resources. The lack of training targeting adult educators and professors from universities needs to be addressed in order to develop programs that will be able to accommodate all learning needs of students.

  • Finland – Finnish education system is built on the principle of Inclusive education and this principle is applied in pedagogical training programmes that qualify for teaching. There is a network of NGOs that offer help and support for different learning challenges, short-term training and information for diverse learners and professionals.

This analysis will be used to develop the methodology of a training package that will be addressed to educators and higher education professionals in general.

This project will last 26 months, from October 2020 to November 2022, stay tuned for more information!

Related projects:

First European bank of free educational resources for dyspraxic children,
from 6 to 15 years old.

Foster student’s memory anchoring and inclusive learning by creating learning paths adapted to their profile and needs, with interactive contents and use of flashcards.

Create a methodology to use comics as a pedagogical tool for inclusive English language learning.