Supporting the Educational Needs of Children Who Require Additional Support
Japan is engaged in a number of wonderful initiatives designed to help people with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives as active members of society. With the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on January 20, 2014 and the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act on April 1, 2016, Japan has sent a strong message to the world about our determination to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability.
This determination is reflected in the education system. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is committed to the goal of an inclusive education system predicated on equality, where both able-bodied and disabled children have the opportunity to study and learn alongside one another.
Inclusive education is predicated on the concept of giving “reasonable consideration” to the nature of each individual disability to ensure all children with disabilities have full access to education that meets their needs, together with the associated education infrastructure. ICT is seen as a key component in realizing this vision.
Learning Together Project with Kagawa University
The Learning Together Project, a joint research initiative conducted by Fujitsu and Kagawa University with assistance from the Kagawa Board of Education, runs over three months, from January 7 to March 31, 2016, at four special support schools* in Kagawa Prefecture. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop an effective ICT utilization model for inclusive education predicated on the notion of reasonable consideration to provide children that require special support due to intellectual disability, physical handicap or other form of sickness or frailty with an academic education, while also teaching them basic life skills and encouraging greater autonomy and independence.
Kagawa University is advising the project on the educational needs of students who require special support, as well as quality of life issues in school and home settings. The university is also conducting regular interviews with teachers, parents and guardians to evaluate the ICT systems used in the project and solicit general feedback about inclusive education systems.
Fujitsu, meanwhile, has set up ICT classroom systems in four classes at the four participating schools, from elementary through to senior high school level, and is using these to pursue the development of ICT models of inclusive education, such as Education Solution K-12 Learning Information Utilization V1 Chietama, which is used for managing academic histories. Fujitsu is also developing dedicated communication software designed to give children with developmental and intellectual disabilities greater freedom to express themselves emotionally.
* Special support schools are primarily designed for children with relatively serious disabilities, including visual, auditory, intellectual and physical impairments, as well as severe illness. The four participating schools are: Kawaga Takamatsu School for Children with Physical Disabilities; Kagawa Zentsuji School for Children with Severe Illness; Kawaga Central School for Children with Intellectual Disabilities; and Kagawa West School for Children with Intellectual Disabilities.
ICT Models for Inclusive Education
Kagawa University and Fujitsu have been working together since FY2010 on ICT-driven educational solutions for children who require special support. Key outcomes to date include the development of a smartphone app (in 2011), trials of educational software programs designed specifically for children with disabilities (in 2013), and the Learning Together project described here.
Fujitsu will use the findings of the Learning Together project to continue pursuing the development of inclusive education solutions for elementary and junior high school students.