Abstract: Understanding of Inclusive Education in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Understanding of Inclusive Education in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Friday, January 13, 2023
Alhambra, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jean-François Trani, Associate Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Background. The principle of universal education, namely sending all children to school has become increasingly widely accepted by policy makers, practitioners, experts and mostly parents alike across national, socioeconomic and cultural contexts (United Nations Educational & Organization, 2020). It is of note that Taliban leaders themselves have modified their views of girls’ education, partly because the new generation has been exposed to city life and its services, including education, and partly because the community whose support they sought and needed to regain power after 2005 were increasingly keen to send their children to schools (Kazemi, 2022; Samim, 2022). Yet, to date, in the aftermath of the lockdown policies put in place as a response to the COVID19 pandemic, many children were not able to come back to school and drop out increased considerably. The present study investigates the following three research questions: (i) What does inclusive education mean and encompass for students in primary schools of rural Afghanistan and Pakistan? (ii) Why is inclusion important? (iii) What are the factors that influence inclusive education?

Methods. We conducted 104 Group Model Building workshops with groups of 6 to 12 children from grades three to five in 2018 and 2019 to identify factors influencing inclusive education in Afghanistan and Pakistan. GMB is a community-based system dynamics (CBSD) technique that allows participants to identify factors, causal feedback loop and leverage points to understand and influence the behavior of a system around a complex problem. GMB workshops were conducted by trained facilitators from the local community. All the workshops were audio taped and the recordings were translated from Dari and Pashto into English and transcripts included into a structured report. Overall, the workshops involved hundreds of students from 102 schools in 5 provinces of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We conducted thematic analysis following the six-step framework of Braun & Clarke (2006), using the analytical software, Dedoose.

Results. Findings show that almost half of all children’s respondents (42.2%) defined inclusive education as attendance, the welcoming of all children to school, but also as their effective participation in the learning process. Students have a clear idea of what inclusion means and this includes a sense of quality of teaching and learning. Students defined behaviors that need to be adopted and activities that need to be conducted to learn paying attention to the teacher, doing homework, coming on time are necessary for the learning process; teachers able to interest and engage with students was considered essential for quality education.

Implication. The study demonstrates children’s understanding of the impacts and importance of inclusive education at different level: individual, family, community, and societal levels, echoing the ecological model. It also revealed the factors that will assistant children’s quality learning and build inclusive environment. Based on this study, we incorporated children’s perspectives in developing the interventions to further strengthen inclusive and quality education.