From QUT to Dasma City: An Odyssey of Inclusivity

By Manuela S. Tolentino, Philippines

It began with a passion, an advocacy to strengthen the implementation of Inclusive Education in the City Schools Division of Dasmarinas and eventually in the whole Region of CALABARZON. And the rest is history.  

I was able to experience to be in the University of the Real World…Queensland University Technology, Brisbane Australia! 

Nelson Salangsang, Manager, International Projects Office of Commercial Services, Queensland University Technology, provided me, along with other fourteen fellows from Region IV-A, the opportunity to participate in the Australian Award Queensland University Technology sponsored program entitled Developing Lighthouse Region for Inclusive Education: Facilitators’ Training (Philippines). This training lasted for almost a month, April 24, 2017-May 19, 2017. 

The program focused to broaden participants understanding of a range of activities, strategies, and providers to facilitate equitable access to education for children and youth with disabilities, based primarily on the index for inclusion. 

Under the able stewardship of Suzanne Carrington, I was enlightened on the process of moving from special education to inclusive education, the framework and process of index for inclusion. Her book inspired me a lot to fully understand authentic IE implementation. Lectures on development of action research to promote IE was a real help. 

Lyn Thiele endowed us knowledge about leading management effectively using strategic action plan to promote inclusive education. 

Liezl Harper granted us different strategies on how to implement inclusive curriculum, universal design for learning and instructional materials to facilitate teaching and learning process in an inclusive setting. She also coached us to develop our individual action plans to be presented during our colloquium.  

The encounter I had with Education Queensland enlightened me how policies and strategies work to sustain IE. 

Much more, the school visits arranged by QUT through Nelson and Laura gave us the real feel of encounter with the implementers of inclusive education in Queensland. Their rich and varied experiences inspired me to apply IE in going back to the Philippines. 


Developing Lighthouse for Inclusive Education: Facilitators’ Training created a great impact in the implementation of inclusive education in the City Schools Division of Dasmarinas! 

Applying the framework developed during the training and presented in the colloquium began to change the way how we understand and implement inclusion in our division. Starting with the first step that is Building my Circle of Influence, launching of index for inclusion served as the jumpstart to make stakeholders understand how inclusive education works. This was participated by the Chiefs of the Curriculum Implementation Division, School Governance Operating Division, Education Program Supervisors, Public School District Supervisors, Heads of the Departments, School principals from elementary and secondary schools, both public and private, teachers and parents and some local government officials. Those who participated during the launching were enlightened, and in return, they pledge their support to inclusion implementation by signing in the IE Commitment Wall. Great impact in gaining support for the program was indeed harvested! 

Another great impact gained from the training is in the area of governance. Lessons from Lyn Thiele about change management works in the initial implementation of IE in Dasmarinas City. A Division Guiding Coalition/Change Management Team is created to guide the ten (10) schools who will pilot the IE implementation. The process of Index for Inclusion learned during Suzanne Carrington’s discussion was clearly understood by the group through the Focus Group Discussion. A work plan following the process was developed by the members of the Guiding Coalition Team. To make the plan doable, a division policy was issued for clear and smooth program implementation. This milestone marked the start of the goals of the Division Guiding Coalition in their journey to inclusive education with their respective pilot schools. Ownership and commitment about the program was built through the process. 

The Greet and Meet Session with the Pilot School Implementers (Phase I) composed of the school principal, SPED and regular teachers, parents, barangay officials and other stakeholders was the next step. The session was led by the assigned Team of Division Guiding Coalition. In this activity members of the pilot school implementers’ change management team were able to express their thoughts and feelings, ideas and recommendations about the IE implementation and leaves them an impression that they are important because they were consulted. 

The Parents and Teachers Engagement done to further the index process was a success. Suzanne Carrington’s Diamond Nine activity and the World Café session she taught during the training was well loved. In these episodes, parents and teachers were able to express freely what they want and do not want, the needs of the teachers, parents and students plus the priorities to be undertaken were clearly stated in their answers. More importantly, building of rapport and harmonious relationship between parents, teachers and students was created and ignited their willingness to support IE in their respective schools. 

Based on the priorities derived from the Engagements, the Division Guiding Coalition is planning to implement the priority areas crucial to the authentic implementation of IE. The first priority which is for the regular teachers to have capacity building on the curriculum to be utilized in an inclusive classroom. For the parents is the conducive facilities their special children need for conducive learning which is now the top priority of the concerned school principal. 

Moreover, the training provided by QUT created a deep culture of shared vision and mission among the fellows of the CALABARZON Lighthouse of Inclusive Education. Each fellow supports the activity of the other in their advocacy and training. The Inclusion Hymn created by the team and arranged by Ms. Fe Enguero is a great inspiration in sustaining the program implementation not only in Region IV-A but in the whole country, the Philippines. 

Inclusive Education is a journey. We cannot measure its success at once, but from the insights, practices and strategies acquired during the training from QUT, I am positive to its success and ripple impact in due time! 

“We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.” We have to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn to move, push forward advance to an authentic inclusive education implementation…! 

Queensland University Technology…thank you very much! 

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