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April 7, 2010

“Together We Can Be Agents of Change"

Bethlehem University Symposium Addresses Special Education in Palestine

SymposiumThe March 4th Special Education Symposium at Bethlehem University was designed to identify the Palestinian special education reality, procedures , and activities. Mr. Basri Saleh, Assistant Deputy Minister for Planning and Development within the Ministry for Education and Higher Education, explained that the symposium will help “find modern ways to give children with special needs equal opportunities for education.”

Sponsored by the Spanish non-governmental organization Fundación Promoción Social  de la Cultura, the symposium also offered a rare opportunity for Palestinian education professionals to learn more about developing the field of special education within the broader Palestinian system.

SymposiumSaleh noted that legal changes are underway to guarantee equal educational opportunities for Palestinian children with special needs. Schools cannot create change alone, he explained, and the new Palestinian law sees this equal opportunity as “the responsibility of everyone.”

Some diploma level training programs exist, but Mary Badra, a math teacher at Rosary College in Bethlehem, explained that Palestinian teachers lack opportunities for undergraduate study in special education. “I do not have the qualifications to diagnose students with special needs,” she said. “Therefore, I try to attend every course to learn more about it.” Bethlehem University is seeking to provide more courses in special education.

SymposiumThe symposium incorporated regional experience from Al-Ein University in the United Arab Emirates by Dr. Samir Dukmak and international experience presented by Professor Rienhard Markowetz from the Catholic University of Applied Sciences-Freiberg. Representatives from local schools (private, public, UNRWA) and nongovernmental institutions also shared their perspectives.

Symposium participants agreed on a series of recommendations for development needs in the field of special education:
1- Document and publish all special education services recommended by schools, institutions, universities and the Ministry of Higher Education.
2- Establish a field examination study on types of special needs problems and ways to solve them.
3- Establish an equipped special education center to diagnose special needs cases.
4- Provide or improve programs in inclusive education in accordance to the society’s needs.
5- Launch television programs and electronic websites that raise awareness and understanding in the local community about special education.
6- Form a consultancy committee in special education that involves expertise from educational institutions and universities in the field in order to act as a link with all education sectors.

“Alone, perhaps we can do little” said Brother Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Together we can be agents of change”.

For more pictures click here

The symposium was part of the “Synergy for Development” project, an extension of the Faculty of Education’s “Quality of Education for All Through Partnership” project.


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine