Based on an approach emphasizing strengths and qualities but not shortcomings of the people with divers-abilities, the Degree in Special Education has managed to change the perspective for caring these traditionally and socially excluded and marginalized people, giving them a place they deserve in order to dignify both their social and legal status.
Thus the UPN meets the Constitution and laws in relation to educational service to which all citizens are entitled regardless their condition, a commitment fully shared with the special education division of the National Pedagogical Institute (IPN), fulfilling the goal of the Institutional Educational Project of the University.
Today, the “Special Education in Colombia shows a strong demand to train graders who should ready to propose educational, pedagogical and didactic proposals by assuming the basic right to the education of these people in a context of justice and social equity by allowing them to develop in their jobs and building themselves as people useful to the development of our country,” says Libia Vélez Latorre, coordinator of the Degree in Special Education.
On the other hand, Lina Hernández, a Special Education professor, graduated in this program, says this one has given her a plus, because besides being a teacher she can teach and make understand in a different and creative way. That is why, Hernandez sees the greatest wealth of the UPN at the level of inclusion included within the didactics and strategies to work with diverse population, with disabilities or exceptional talents.
For the first semester of the current year, 23 students with visual impairment, 31 with hearing impairment, 5 with motor disability and 1 student with Asperger syndrome are enrolled in different undergraduate programs at the UPN. Additionally, the University has 456 students included in the Special Education Degree, and after 50 years of experience this program has graduated around 3,000 professionals.
Special education at the IPN
The National Pedagogical Institute, now part of the UPN, began in 1968 a pioneer project caring children and young people with cognitive deficiency and manifestations relating to Down syndrome.
This program was created aiming to include these children in a regular school, since at that time the young people with that type of disability were in specialized institutions and did not have any contact with other children.
The methodology included cross-cutting activities, such as specialized workshops of bookbinding, handicrafts and woodworking, in which children and young people with intellectual and cognitive deficiencies were prepared to work and social life. It also offered common arenas in which they learned music, dance, language, mathematics, among other subjects together with other regular pupils.
These children not only went through the school, but also attended the UPN to carry out different activities, including swimming in the pool of the University, as a part of the therapies that were developed to improve the processes of corporality management, spatial relationships, attention and concentration that would allow them to improve the conditions to live in society.
Since then, the IPN has continued with this program and taken part in the debate about the inclusion spreading little by little in the domestic and international level.
Marisol Cobos, the academic coordinator of the Special Education division, explained that autonomy and social inclusion are strongly worked there to ensure that students may be developed in the society in which they are enrolled. This one is focused on working in the creation of certain habits other than the curriculum, which each year is adapted to the characteristics of children who naturally suffer from Autism or Down syndrome.
This is achieved through a personalized education in maximum four levels, each with a limit of 10 pupils. During the first two levels, the foundations of pre-math and pre-writing are taught. In the last two, they may be trained to work in areas, such as bakery and marquetry, also with the possibility of working in any homemade project.
Such a training is supplemented by developing areas, such as music, physical education and technology, among others, achieving that after around 16 years of the entire process the pupil may be wholly independent.
There are other programs supplementing the institutional offer for people with divers-abilities, such as the Support Program for People with Disabilities (PRADIF), the Humid Classroom, OAT, Hands and Thought, and other technological alternatives, such as the Tiflo-technology Center located in the Central Library of the UPN. In the following notes, we will discuss in detail each of them and the most important achievements in this 50-year history devoted to development and full integration of people with divers-abilities.