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Innovative practices in school inclusion: from Israel to Paraguay

The opportunity of attending the International Course Special and Inclusive Education in Israel was an extraordinary experience for both of us. It was a real multicultural and international learning experience, together with 23 educators from 15 countries. We had excellent professors who were able to show us how to develop team projects, we were able to actually experience hands-on approaches related to the concept of cooperative work in which we share the rich and diverse professional experience and culture that each participant from all over the world brought to the group. In fact, thinking back on the experience, today we can no longer see Israel as one point on the world map. Israel has become for us an immense joy that has given birth to a deeper commitment to spread the invaluable lesson of inclusion and embracement of diversity throughout our country.

 

Sharing was probably the most important value and lesson we took from this experience. Everything, starting with the METC office with its relaxing and nature-friendly atmosphere, was meant for sharing. The openness and warmth of every professor and staff member we met, made us feel like luxurious guests.

 

Upon returning to Paraguay, highly motivated by what we experienced, we could only think about honoring this wonderful opportunity by sharing with other colleagues and institutions what we experienced, so we started to work. We organized several presentations on “Our Israel Experience” at school seminars, psychology and education conferences, and at the annual Israel’s Alumni Latin American Meeting which this year took place in Paraguay.

 

In February 2017, we began a process of schooling support for teachers at the primary school “Madre Teresa Zavala” supported by Teresian Foundation that educates children and adolescents from Barrio San Felipe - Chacarita, a poor neighborhood in Asunción. These training workshops for teachers and parents are based on the principles learned at the Special and Inclusive Education Course in Israel which include: teacher’s self-management, cooperative dynamics that promote innovative strategies in the classrooms, as well as the active participation of parents from this community, whose characteristics are framed in the vulnerability generated by situations of risk and marginality.

 

 

In April 2017, we were invited as speakers at the Second Conference of Psychology and First of Psychiatry in Paraguay, which was organized by psychologists from the Institute of Social Security (IPS, Instituto de Prevision Social, a state agency that administers social insurance and retirement funds in Paraguay). On this occasion, we participated on a discussion panel where we shared with the director of the Department of Inclusive Education from the Ministry of Education, and we gave a presentation on “Adapting Israeli models of educational inclusion to Paraguay”.


Given the positive repercussions of this presentation and as alumni of Shalom, an organization that groups former fellows of Paraguay, we had the opportunity to share our experience again at annual Shalom Gathering. In addition to former fellows from the Israel Embassy programs, this event also hosted fellows from all over Latin America who have attended training courses in Israel.


We have promoted teacher’s empowerment and self-management through pre-school workshops at different schools like Santa Elena in Asunción and Liberty School in San Lorenzo. In addition, we both presented at the Fourth Paraguayan Congress of Neuroscience Research, held at the Autonomous University of Asunción. The experience in Israel has allowed us to incorporate the theme of diversity and inclusion as a transversal and integral theme of everything that we do. So on this occasion, we presented on "Neuropsychological bases of emotions: how to prevent burnout" highlighting the knowledge gained in Israel.


In June, we finished the training course "Innovative practices in school inclusion: from Israel to Paraguay" with the development and presentations of mini-projects by the participants. This is a training course that we developed completely based on the experience and knowledge acquired at the course in Israel with the objective of making this information available to educational professionals in Paraguay.

 

 

Through four modules exposed in eight present classes complemented with homework and projects, 13 students completed 

the initial cohort of the course. In the different modules, we displayed the multiple experiences from the centers we visited in Israel as alternative and exemplary models for managing school inclusion and the multiple ways of adjusting these models to our reality. Course participants, who were mostly teachers and psychologists from private and public schools, were fascinated with the dynamics, games, innovation offered at the course!

 

In parallel, we developed another training course that was conducted online using the platform EDMODO that was shown to us in Israel. This course developed an innovation approach for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS) in the classroom.

 

It has been so useful to take advantage of the technology to share and learn with students from different areas of the country!

 

Participants were fearful at the beginning of using technology as a mean to share their work and opinions. However, as they discover how practical this platform is they gained confidence and completed the course by experimenting with innovative applications from the pedagogical wheel.

 

As soon as these courses finalized, with the Foundation in Alianza and at the Higher Education Institute (ISE), a state entity that trains teachers in Paraguay, we have set ourselves a new challenge! We began a series of four training modules in which we are developing a teacher’s training program similar to the course on Innovative Practices.


We are also in discussions with the Organization of Ibero-American States, OEI, who invited us both as experts, along with four others professionals, to be part of a project that seeks to train 5,000 teachers from all over the country in education inclusion. The project has yet to be confirmed, however, we strongly believe that it can be a significant milestone in the training of teachers and in the implementation of inclusive policies and methodologies in Paraguay. The opportunity of including our experience in Israel in this national program is enormous.

 

Lastly, we had written a book on Inclusive Education prior to our visit to Israel. Even though this book is completed, we feel a deep need to review it and transform it so that it can incorporate the significant experiences we acquired in Israel. We also want to name it "Innovative practices in school inclusion: from Israel to Paraguay" as a way of consolidating the experience and providing a tool for Paraguayan professionals from all backgrounds to promote inclusion practices in their classrooms and daily work. We have recently submitted a proposal to the Embassy of Israel in Paraguay to do this a joint project.

 


Without a doubt, our trip to Israel has broadened our vision. We have are living proof of what scholars and embassy friends warned us before our trip: there is a before and after in everyone’s life after visiting the Holy Land. 

 

Making Michael Welzer’s words our own, we can firmly say: “there is a better place, a more attractive promised land; and that the way to the land is through the wilderness. And there is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.”

 

Thank you Israel!

Mgter. Dariela Rumich  / Mgter. Laura Barriocanal