PwC Middle East releases guide for education of children with support needs
The Middle East arm of Big Four professional services firm PwC has released a guide for education policy-makers on improving learning for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.
The policy guide, which PwC Middle East released in partnership with the Institute of Education at The University College London (UCL), sets out the key elements for an effective approach to improving learning outcomes for students who need additional support or cannot access mainstream programmes, specifically those with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties (SEBD).
The intention of the guide, say its architects, is to support policy-makers in removing barriers in the provision of education to children and adolescents who may require specialised learning environments or who may otherwise display disruptive behavior which can lead to their exclusion from mainstream settings.
The report notes that the worldwide prevalence of children up to the age of 18 with mental health disorders is estimated currently at 13.4% (of which a significant proportion will fall under the SEBD umbrella), describing the situation as a “global challenge to the progression and wellbeing of children.”
And the Middle East is not immune, with figures given for Saudi Arabia, for example, indicating that 14.7% of the country’s juvenile population suffers from depression, and a further 17.3% experience clinical anxiety. Of the other regional statistics given, 34% of Iranian children are said to exhibit traits associated with conduct disorder, while in the UAE there’s a 12.5% rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children between 11 and 14 years of age.
From a regional perspective, the consulting firm notes its extensive experience working with local governments and education providers on policy design and application, as well as its growing network of subject specialists on the promotion of special education in developing regions. With that in mind, however, the authors of the PwC policy document say that although it was developed by the firm’s Middle East practice, the evidence presented and the guide’s recommendations are applicable for the wider global context.
The key elements identified by the report are the need for; a clear national policy framework; a multi-tier framework underpinning planning and provision, a multi-method, multi-source, multi-setting assessment process with evidenced assessment tools; graduated education provision with a preference for maximum inclusion, and; interagency engagement and cooperation.
Keys to development
Commenting in the report, Sally Jeffery, Partner and Global Education Leader at PwC Middle East, said that the primary objective is to remove barriers to improve student wellbeing and outcomes. “This starts with a clear policy framework that cascades national policies down to the school level, ensuring that they are translated into practical and standardised approaches for improving learning.”
Jeffrey notes that any policy however is only as good as its implementation, and the report identifies a further eight essential features of effective provision; qualified and committed professionals; ongoing evaluation; strong family involvement; effective social interaction; practical and functional environmental supports; robust academic support systems; effective behavior management plans, and; community support mechanisms, with key, cross-functional stakeholders including parents/guardians and medical/social-care staff as well as the teachers and local education authorities.
The firm concludes; “The focus the Middle East region is placing on human capital and maximising the potential of its citizens, supports improvements being made to education here. Whilst there are some individual examples of good practice there is more to do in identifying and providing effective pathways to inclusive and effective provision for this particular group.”