Saudi Arabia is a country that has been in the forefront trying to portray its care and concern for its citizens. Its government has formulated comprehensive and realistic policies and strategies aimed at complying with the basic and special needs of its citizens. This has mainly been aimed at ensuring all citizens’ access to the basic facilities and amenities in an unprejudiced manner (Al-Khashrami 1995).
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One of the main areas in which the government has invested to ensure equal rights for all citizens is the education sector. The government has developed strategies aimed at ensuring that all discriminative limitations are eliminated so as to ensure that all people within its jurisdiction have equal rights for high quality education.
The main challenge in this strategy has been provision of education for those with different forms of physical disabilities, such as those with hearing, sight, mental and developmental impairments among others.
Regardless of the difficulties arising in the process of tackling this issue, the government has successfully launched initiatives for integrating the concerns of special educational needs into the mainstream schools, namely through the development of special integration programmes, starting from the initiation of the integration programme in Riyadh.
Also, a number of programmes were established in order to train teachers to implement the integration programme smoothly (Al-Hilawani 2003; Al-Khashrami 1995).
Background of the Study
Every member of society deserves to be treated equally and have equal access to community support services notwithstanding the citizens’ social and ethnic background as well as any challenges that he or she may face due to any disability or special need. This explains the need for all social activities to be carried out in such a manner so that every citizen could have equal access to them.
Therefore, the launched programmes must include those with physical or mental disabilities (Higgins 1990). Since the year 1990, the implementation of mainstreaming in Saudi Arabian schools has been limited.
However, in 1996, the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia put forward a new educational strategy emphasizing the role of public schools in educating children with disabilities and integrating them with their non-disabled peers (Al-Mousa, 2010, p. 15).
Acknowledging the fact that most systems were originally designed to satisfy the needs of non-disabled citizens, the government of Saudi Arabia decided to reconsider some of its policies in order to pay proper attention to the special needs of disabled individuals in different spheres of community life, particularly in the educational domain.
This means that every member of society with any disability deserves an equal chance to access all the education facilities and receive training required to achieve different levels of education. Those with hearing impairments have not been left behind in this need.
Though it has been very difficult to involve those with hearing impairments in the mainstream learning activities and sessions, there has remained a great need for every student with hearing impairment to be fully integrated into the mainstream schools so as to ensure that they not only receive special education but also can access the education programmes and training sessions just like other non-disabled students (Al-Mousa 2010).
There is therefore a growing need for the government and all the involved stakeholders to ensure that they provide all the required resources and facilities to ensure that students with hearing impairments are not segregated from the mainstream education (Higgins 1990).
Since there are so many challenges that arise as a result of such an integration of those with hearing impairments into the mainstream schools, there is a need for everyone involved to be adequately trained to face the corresponding difficulties.
For instance, by creating hybrid classes for students with hearing disabilities and non-disabled students, schools would create additional challenges for disabled and non-disabled students and teachers. Therefore, every participant of the teaching-learning process should be adequately trained and prepared for these challenges.
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More importantly, teachers need to be equipped with appropriate knowledge, tools and skills to be able to overcome those problems and also to help the rest of the parties to overcome their own challenges. This goal can be effectively accomplished at the university level where teachers may be well prepared for the tasks ahead of them as far as the integration programmes are concerned (Yetman 2000).
The process of integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was associated with significant challenges for teachers, deaf children, non-disabled children, government, and other stakeholders (Kluwin & Stewart 2001; Wilson 1998).
Aim and Objectives
The main objective of this study is to define the teachers’ perceptions of the challenges arising in the process of integrating deaf students into the mainstream schools and the most appropriate strategies for organizing the educational process and distributing the responsibilities between the mainstream teachers and teachers of deaf students.
Based on the analysis of the perceived challenges and beliefs, this study aims to provide recommendations for further improvement of integration programmes.
The study will be designed and framed to answer the following questions:
- Has the process of integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools been effective in Saudi Arabia?
- What are the challenges experienced by teachers, deaf children, non-disabled children, government and other stakeholders during the process of integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools from teachers prospective?
- What are the main challenges faced by primary teachers in integrating deaf children in mainstream classrooms?
- What is the social impact of integrating children with hearing impairments into mainstream primary schools?
- What strategies may be used to ensure the effective integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools?
Significance of the Study
The government has formulated policies and provided funds to ensure the relatively smooth integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream schools.
The main assumption made by the initiators of these programmes was that earlier engagement of students into the mainstream school environment could enhance their following development and reduce their difficulties in interacting with non-disabled members of the community in their adolescence and adulthood.
The government attempted to integrate students with hearing and sight impairments into the mainstream schools. To empower disabled students since their early age, these programmes focused mainly on integration of primary school students (Gikow & Kucharski 1987).
A wide range of special schools were established all over the country for the purpose of integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools. The programme for the integration of children with hearing impairments has been implemented in separate schools for boys and girls.
In the course of the mainstreaming programme, the disabled students, their non-disabled peers and mainstream teachers faced a number of challenges, such as the communication barriers, lack of training and skills required for disabled students to access their teachers and peers, non-disabled students to socialize with deaf students and teachers to differentiate the curriculum and use appropriate teaching techniques and an individual approach to deaf students (Ramsey 1997).
Notwithstanding this significant success and improvements, there was no appropriate research dealing with the perceptions of teachers of the challenges they faced during the integration process and specific measures that can be taken to address these challenges.
To fill in the existing gap in literature, this study is aimed at determining how effective this programme has been, taking into consideration the main challenges faced by teachers, the impact of such challenges on the success of the programmes as well as the social implications of these challenges.
The study will use a qualitative design, coming up with conclusions on the effectiveness as well as formulating recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of the programme (Albertini, Lang & Marschark 2002).
This study will focus on the teachers’ perceptions of different challenges experienced by them during the process of integrating the children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools (Livingston 1997). The study will hence consider a sample of the mainstream schools offering the programme and then will use the teachers in these schools as its subjects (Klugh 1986).
In this study, primary data will be collected from the sample population and used for analysis so as to answer the research questions and meet the research objectives.
The study will not go too far into the analysis of the underlying causes of the existing situation, but will collect the information on the challenges of this programme from different subjects and this information will be deemed efficient to provide the required data for a qualitative analysis and hence offer the conclusions that will meet the research objectives and answer the research questions (Klugh 1986).
The study will extend over a period of three months with three weeks dedicated to the data collection.
Different governments around the world in both developed and developing countries have for a long time shown a lot of concern for their citizens with different disabilities.
The intentions to engage the disabled citizens into various social and educational programmes can be regarded as an integral element of the countries’ broader development strategies that are meant to improve the wellbeing of the vast majority of citizens (Casale, Forsythe & Troiano, 2004).
As a part of the growing concerns over the protection and non-discrimination of disabled citizens, the policy of including students with special educational needs (SEN) into the mainstream schools has been firmly established in many countries worldwide (Winter, 2006).
In that regard, the measures required for integrating the citizens with disabilities into social activities and educational mainstream were considered important by the governments (Al-Mousa, 2010; SIL International, 2007, pp. 51).
In the developed countries of Europe as well as the developing Asian countries, governments have put into place plans meant to ensure the integration of all its citizens with different disabilities into the mainstream operations so as to guarantee their benefits from all the social amenities equal to those of non-disabled citizens (Jallon, 1977).
For instance, India and some of the countries in South Asia attempted to make their societies more inclusive and improve access of students with SEN to high quality education by integrating them into the mainstream schools (Luetke-Stahlman, 1998; Powers, 2001). The governments have dedicated substantial funds to the achievement of these goals.
These resources were required for ensuring that all the members of the community with any physical disabilities can enjoy equal opportunities like the nondisabled citizens do. These issues are critical for the areas of basic needs, such as education, employment, access to government and public resources, security and resource allocation among other factors (Yetman, 2000; Brelje, 1999).
Questioning the effectiveness of special schools for not only meeting the special educational needs of students with disabilities, but also providing them with profound learning opportunities, governments put more emphasis upon the transition towards inclusive schools integrating disabled students into the mainstream teaching-learning process.
The governments believed that the integration into the mainstream school could provide students with opportunities for better social interaction with teachers and their non-disabled peers to improve their learning abilities (King, 2001; Brelje, 1999).
The government of Saudi Arabia has given serious consideration to the engagement of its disabled citizens into social activities (Yetman, 2000; Brelje, 1999). The measures imposed by the government of Saudi Arabia were based on concerns of diversity and consideration of special needs of its citizens.
One of the main ways in which the government has demonstrated its care for its citizens was the formulation of policies aimed at ensuring the equal opportunities for all its members with disabilities. Mainly, the government has offered resources to aid all those with disabilities for their socialization (Jallon 1977). These attempts opened up new opportunities for those with hearing, sight and physical impairments.
In the recent past, the government of Saudi Arabia has formulated a policy aimed at reducing instances of discriminating those with disabilities into special institutions and enabling them to access facilities and resources in the mainstream institutions, especially in the education sector (Casale, Forsythe & Troiano 2004). One of the disabilities that the government has put a lot of focus on has been hearing impairment.
Over the history of Saudi Arabia, since the time of King Abdulaziz’s unification of the country in 1932 and the subsequent establishment of special schools for those with hearing and sight impairments, the government has established institutions in different regions so as to cater for the special needs of students facing such challenges (Luetke-Stahlman 1998; Powers 2001).
There have been a lot of efforts taken by the government to integrate the disabled individuals into the mainstream educational institutions so as to allow them to access the educational facilities, skills and experience that the non-disabled members of society can access (King 2001; Brelje 1999).
For those with hearing impairments, a programme aimed at integrating them into the mainstream schools was first initiated at Riyadh in 1996 and later different mainstream schools followed the suit in trying to integrate disabled children into the mainstream education programmes.
Residential schools for those with hearing impairments were also established so as to cater for those who had a hearing impairment and a high IQ (SIL International, 2007, p. 51).
There has been an encouraging move towards improved social and educational inclusion of students with hearing impairment into the mainstream schools. In addition, more attention has been paid to development of innovative services of community support to satisfy the special needs of students with hearing impairments and their families.
The main rationale for integrating students with hearing disabilities into the mainstream schools was to facilitate their social interaction with nondisabled peers and teachers and create favourable language environment for them which was believed to improve their oral language and learning skills (Russel, 2003).
Students with hearing disabilities who have attended both special and mainstream schools admitted that apart from improved opportunities of social interaction with non-disabled peers, mainstream schools offer better learning opportunities (Angelides & Aravi, 2006/2007).
On the other hand, along with improved opportunities for learning and interpersonal relationships with peers, integration of deaf students into the mainstream schools creates a number of challenges for all participants of the teaching-learning process, including the deaf students, their nondisabled peers and mainstream teachers.
Thus, due to the physical barriers to communication with their nondisabled classmates, deaf students can face the problem of isolation and marginalization in the mainstream classrooms. The non-disabled students can have negative feelings towards their deaf classmates because of the inconveniences created by their special educational needs and increased attention of teachers to them.
Mainstream teachers need to differentiate the curriculum and use specialised teaching techniques to comply with special educational needs of deaf students and facilitate their understanding of the learning materials (Angelides & Aravi, 2006/2007).
At the same time, mainstream teachers frequently lack knowledge and skills for applying the appropriate teaching techniques in hybrid classes. The lack of skills required for teaching students with special educational needs is reported to be one of the most frequently cited reasons for the teachers’ resistance to inclusion programmes (Winter, 2006).
Appropriate training and education for teachers, disabled and non-disabled students is critical for success of inclusion programmes. There are two main approaches which are traditionally used for the integration of deaf students into the mainstream schools.
The first model is based on the withdrawal of a deaf student from class and organization of the teaching-learning process on a one-to-one basis with a specially trained teacher of deaf (ToD). This approach can be used to create better listening conditions and limit the possible distraction.
In the second model, a ToD plays an advisory role and during the mainstream lessons only fills in a checklist focusing on the abilities of deaf students to access their teacher and their non-disabled peers (Powers, 2001).
However, the second model can have a number of negative implications, such as the developed passivity and dependence of deaf students as a result of continuing presence of supportive ToDs, psychological discomfort of deaf students and negative feelings of mainstream teachers to ToDs whose work seems to be easier.
Szwed (2007) noted that the role of a supportive teacher is too complex and cannot be generalized and outlined in certain prescriptive directives. Therefore, individual schools need to conduct substantial research to define the most appropriate strategy for organizing the educational process and integrating deaf students into the mainstream schools.
Methodology of Research
To address the challenges arising in the course of the mainstreaming programmes of integration of deaf students into the mainstream schools, the current study will apply a qualitative research paradigm to define the underlying causes of existing problems and define measures which can be imposed to reduce or eliminate them.
“A qualitative study is defined as an inquiry process of understanding a social or human problem, based on building a complex, holistic picture, formed with words, reporting detailed views of informants, and conducted in a natural setting” (Casale, Forsythe & Troiano 2004).
The qualitative research paradigm is regarded as the best suitable for social sciences and would be the most appropriate for addressing the issue of teachers’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes.
A research design is a master plan specifying the methods and procedures for collecting and analyzing the necessary information (Kvale 1996). It therefore provides the framework for the collection and analysis of data. The design in this study will start from the analysis of the research questions and evaluation of the issues generated from the interviews (Weisel 1998).
In order to address the above discussed issues, it will be necessary for the research to start with the identification of the various aspects that play a significant role in providing the required answers (Myers, Well & Lorch 2010). Tools for the collection of data will be identified.
In order to achieve the intended objectives, research tools will be designed to capture the information points for the data collection (Triola 2009; Fageeh 2003).
The study will be carried out in the Riyadh region, Saudi Arabia. This is an area with a lot of the mainstream schools implementing the programme of integrating children with hearing impairments into their programmes. It is also the region in which this programme was first established and also the one in which the effects of the mainstreaming programme have been most visible (Frasier 1996).
Since this study is mainly concerned with the challenges of the programme, this region is the best for the study as the schools found in this region have run the programme for a long time and hence have enough information on the challenges faced by the participants of the programmes (Hairston 1994).
The target population of the study will be the teachers in the mainstream primary schools for girls with a programme aimed at mainstreaming children with hearing impairments in the Riyadh region of Saudi Arabia. The study will specifically consider teachers from two categories, those from the general education and those engaged into the programme for the girls with hearing impairment.
The area chosen for this study has a large population of the mainstream primary schools offering the programme of integrating children with hearing impairments into their system with a total of five girls’ schools participating in the integration programme.
Since this study will be based on the interviews of mainstream and supportive teachers in Riyadh, a convenience sampling technique will be used in it (Kluwin, Moores & Gonter-Gaustad 1992). Consequently, the subjects that will be considered for the study will be convenience sampling.
Though this method is a non-probability one, it is more appropriate for this study since it will reduce the costs as well as ensure that the information obtained is consistent with the requirements of the study.
Taking into account the fact that the involved population will be large and sparsely distributed, and the available time and resources will be limited, it can be stated that the convenience method will be the best to apply for the study (Al Hilawani 2000).
Research instruments are methods or tools used for the purpose of collecting the data. Face-to-face interviews and the use of semi-structured questions will be the most appropriate tools for collecting the information in this research. The interviews will be designed in such a manner that I will have all the necessary questions needed to meet the research objectives by answering the research questions (Kvale 1996).
The method of semi-structured interviews would be used in this study. With the specific design of semi-structured interviews, this framework allows adding new questions whenever such a need arises in the course of conversation.
Therefore, the method of semi-structured interview is the best suitable tool for addressing the teachers’ perceptions and beliefs. This flexible tool would enable teachers to express their individual concerns without constraining them to a set number of questions.
Before the interview starts, I will use an informed consent note to establish an interpersonal contact with the sample and receive their formal consent for participation.
First, a letter requesting a permission to access the subjects in the target areas will be issued and then after the approval is received, a reconnaissance will be carried out to familiarize myself with the target group (Albertini, Lang & Marschark 2002). For the interviews to be conducted effectively, substantial amount of time per interviewee will be necessary in order to achieve better results (Kvale 1996).
Since the main tool for collecting the data that will be face-to-face interviews, this method will ensure the required information for the answers to the questions required for the study is obtained. In addition, interviews are the best tool for the collection of the required data as they are easier to conduct and obtain all the required information. Respondents also find the interviews more convenient for them.
Since the target population will be the teachers involved into the programme of integrating children with hearing impairments into the mainstream school programme, the respondents will have time to respond to the questions to enhance the effectiveness of this method. The data collected from the sample using interviews will be first-hand and hence more reliable.
The data may not be generalized for the whole population but will be a good representation for the most important aspects of the study objectives. The data will therefore help in provision of important information from the different subjects involved into the programme.
The basic principles of sociological research and ethical considerations need to be taken into account to develop an effective study design.
Taking into account the specifics of the research question dealing with disabled students, serious consideration should be given to ethical issues and best interests of the participants of this study as well as the deaf students participating in the integration programme who can be discussed in the course of the interviews.
This study is based upon ethical concerns to ensure it is conducted in an acceptable and ethical manner. This is especially so because the study itself is a social research seeking for the ways of enhancing the wellbeing of the society and making it better. Hence, the issues of the society come first.
The study has sought to choose a sample that is bound to provide credible information that is accurate and reliable so as to reduce the impact of respondents’ bias that may cause misinterpretation of the information resulting in wrong conclusions.
Furthermore, during the study, the permission from the school authorities and an informed consent from the participants will be gained so as to ensure that every participant is aware of the use of the information they provide.
Hence, it should be clearly stated to participants that the information they give shall only be used for comparison purposes in a research aimed at fostering and improving the mainstreaming programmes in the future through the identification of the main challenges and measures that can be imposed for overcoming them.
On the other hand, the research will be designed in such a manner that the names of respondents are not included into the interview sheets to keep them anonymous, treat their identity and information with privacy and confidentiality and reducing the possible bias. This is important as it reduces the respondents’ fears of being associated with the information they provide and encourages them to give more sincere answers.
A total of 5 interviews will be conducted during the research. The main distribution of the interviews to be conducted will be:
- 3 teachers from the general education section of the mainstream schools integrating girls with hearing impairments
- 2 teachers from the hearing impairment section of mainstream schools integrating girls with hearing impairments
Different methods will be used to determine research validity, especially in the aspect of the research questions, the objectives of the study as well as the data aimed at being collected from the interviews.
The initial method that will be used to determine the validity of the study will be the face validity method that will ensure that all the questions that will be included in the interviews are valid and will provide required information (Kuehl 1999).
Limitations of the Research
First, data will have to be collected using great care so as to avoid possible bias as a result of the chosen sampling technique and responses received from interviewers which that may lead to collection of wrong data and hence would result in making of misleading conclusions (Higgins 1990). A convenience sampling technique will be used in this study.
Though this will help in reducing the expenses of the study, this non-probability sampling can be regarded as one o the main limitations of the study design (Myers, Well & Lorch 2010). In addition, the research findings and conclusions reflect the situation in the individual schools participating in the survey with little space for broader generalization.
The data obtained from the subjects through interviews will first be coded so as to be in a format that may be easily analyzed and interpreted. Qualitative data analysis methods will then be used to analyze the data obtained and provide conclusions to answer the research questions. This method is bound to provide results that may be easily interpreted to come up with conclusions consistent to the research objectives (Kuehl 1999).
The study is expected to provide information on the main challenges as perceived by teachers engaged into the programme of integration of children with hearing impairments into the mainstream primary schools. This information will be very important as it will help in formulating recommendations on the main ways of addressing the challenges so as to ensure that the programme is effective and beneficial to the society.
Discussion and Recommendations
After the analysis of the data obtained from the interviews by means of qualitative data analysis methods, the obtained results will be discussed so as to come up with conclusions for the study (Triola 2009).
In addition, the conclusions obtained from the study will be used to come up with recommendations on the most effective strategies to apply in the integration of children with hearing impairments into mainstream schools so as to overcome the main challenges experienced by the different stakeholders (Myers, Well & Lorch 2010).
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