1. Problems of Pedagogical Innovations in Inclusive Education in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova

Belarus (BY), Ukraine (UA) and Moldova (MD) joined some major international instruments on human rights (UN Declaration on Human Rights, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Children Rights) and committed themselves to respect human rights, in particular, to ensure the right to education of children with special educational needs (SEN). In these countries over the past 10 years, reforms have been undertaken in special education, which resulted in a significant number of children with SEN having been transferred into mainstream schools. The positive public opinion on inclusive education has been created. State regulations aimed at the development of inclusive education have been developed and adopted.

According to operative data, in BY, UA and MD there are more than 200.000 children with SEN integrated in secondary schools (in BY about 50.000, 130.000 in UA and around 20.000 in MD). However, the organizational and methodological principles of the learning process in secondary schools in BY, UA and MD are focused on children with regular development, and does not take into account the peculiarities of the educational-cognitive activity of children with SEN. Non-compliant forms and methods of pedagogical influence on these children can create the preconditions for the formation of their negative attitudes toward school and deviant behavior.

BY, UA and MD are currently facing several major issues in social protection, which primarily affect children with SEN. Lack of alternative education for children with SEN and lack of adequate support for their families in bringing up such children inevitably reduce the quality of their education. Therefore most of these children graduate from schools without acquiring proper skills and abilities necessary for life and many of them are being deemed “uneducable”.

The successful implementation of inclusive education for children with special needs, requires the solution of many problems at the state level. One of them is the introduction of Pedagogical Innovations in Inclusive Education, based on the latest assistive technologies (AT) and information and communications technologies (ICT).

2. Legal framework and main challenges

The concept of innovative education enjoys high priority within international and European policies. The European Council has repeatedly recognized innovation as crucial to Europe’s ability to respond effectively to the challenges and opportunities of globalization. In December 2006, for example, it noted that “Europe needs a strategic approach aimed at creating an innovation-friendly environment where knowledge is converted into innovative products and services”. While in many European countries innovative education and innovative schools became a reality, BY, UA and MD still have a long way to go in order to adjust to international developments.

On the other hand, institutions of teachers’ education do not offer training courses for teachers’ re-qualification or retraining teachers in Pedagogical Innovations in Inclusive Education. In consequence, apart from isolated short term or punctual in-service, trainings on individual aspects of innovative education practically do not exist in BY, UA and MD.

3. The involvement of the project idea

To tackle these problems the consortium proposes the following project aiming at the development of a holistic concept and a pilot structure for coordinated teachers’ training in Pedagogical Innovations in Inclusive Education by creating correspondent networks and fostering universities' contribution to the development of educational, legal and technological support for the implementation of Pedagogical Innovations in Inclusive Education with a regional-wide impact. The first step in the development of innovative education is training and/or retraining of teachers of pre-universitary educational institutions to equip them with the knowledge and skills to work with children with SEN and with their parents. As a result, children with SEN will acquire easier skills in: reading, writing, mathematics, entreprenorial, ICT and foreign languages in correspondence with EU strategies regarding basic competences.

Therefore the consortium members express their will to establish a particular inter-university regional network of promoters for Innovative Education. The consortium members believe that the creation of this network will be an important step towards a knowledge society.

An important role in the project constitutes the experience in this field of Germany, Spain and Sweden, where innovative education systems were created in the frame of the education system reform. Another important advantage is the experience of the Minsk Institute for Education Development (MIED), the National Pedagogical Dragomanov University (NPDU), the South Ukrainian Pedagogical Institute "K.D.Ushynsky" (SUPI) and the Institute of Continuing Education (CEI) in the provision of professional training for teachers as well as their experience in the initial education of teachers. Thus the project’s idea not only corresponds with the regional development priorities but fits well into the competencies and development priorities of the partner universities and educational institutes in BY, UA and MD, who have developed a range of activities related to innovative education, including research and studies to various national and international forums.

The previous experience of the consortium members’ universities in many national and international projects demonstrates their capacity and expertise to contribute to the project objectives. The EU universities have established already the partnership relations in BY, UA and MD and possess the experience in training/retraining of pedagogical staff in the innovative education area. The involvement of the three Ministries in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova will guarantee the input of the relevant stakeholders in Pedagogical Innovations in Inclusive Education into the project’s realization and thus increase the project’s sustainability.