From November 24 to 28, 2014, Bridge of Hope NGO was hosting the Annual Network meeting of OSF Early Childhood Program funded NGOs from almost 10 countries. The partner NGOs from Serbia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Moldova, Tajikistan and Georgia, and experts and Program managers from the United Kingdom come together to discuss the achievements and challenges of the inclusive education initiatives in their countries and listen to recommendations of well-known consultants. The event was funded by the OSF Armenia.
The selection of Armenia for hosting the Network Meeting was based on recognition of and interest of the group in the positive developments of inclusive education in the country and especially the key role the Bridge of Hope MGO is playing in relevant policy and practice development of the sector.
The agenda of the Workshop included country presentations, followed by consultants reviews and presentation of recent international developments in inclusive education practices, legal and financial issues. There was a marketplace for grantees to present the “products” of their projects and share with resources that support education. We were presenting the OSF London funded project titled “Bridging gaps between special and mainstream education”, which is aimed to support the transformation of special school into a resource center for mainstream education settings. The project is partnering with two schools and two kindergartens and also with a Special school 17, which will be the pioneer in a transformation to the regional pedagogical psychological resource center. The site visits arranged for the guests to the project sites demonstrated the use of the didactic material and renovated and equipped resource rooms for inclusive education specialists the project had provided to its partners. The trained teaching staffs presented how they apply the new assessment tools in practice and also how they plan the lessons to support the education of all students. Lesson observations, shared experience, and nice hospitality made the site visit tours both informative and joyful. The feedbacks of grantees shared during the reflection session demonstrate that the Armenian experience of inclusive education practice was worth to see.
On the first day, the Network members were welcomed by Artak Davtyan, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport of the National Assembly of Armenia. He briefly presented the recent amendments in the Mainstream Education Law and the role of BoH is promoting the revisions in regulations that will improve the education of children with disabilities. He also pointed the importance of the project in supporting the development of the concept of the regional pedagogical resource centers and new assessment approach of special educational needs. He was confident that the amendments in the Mainstream Law will be approved by the Parliament on December 1st, 2014.
Guest speakers from Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Anna Hakobyan, Head of Disability Division) and Ministry of Education and Science (Varduhy Katinyan, Director of Medical-Psychological Pedagogical Assessment Center) presented the core approach to SEN assessment based on WHO ICF framework and the new tools developed within the frame of the project with UNICEF Armenia support.
Lani Florian, from University of Edinburgh, talked about the latest developments in assessment and referral process for children with SEN and inclusive pedagogy; Hellen Pinnock from Enabling Education Network (EENET) presented the work and activities of the Enabling Education Network (EENET); tools and resources for the grassroots IE NGOs; Examples of national-level advocacy for IE & UNESCO IE advocacy guidelines and, the most important piece, the guidance for UN CRPD implementation review Commenting process.