Empowered to Address Students’ Special Needs

The Situation
Kharka Bahadur Mongar is the vice principal of the Deaf Education Unit at Drugyel Lower Secondary School in Paro, Bhutan. He worked as a pioneer teacher of hearing-impaired students for nine years without certification specifically in deaf or special education. In order to address his students’ special needs in the most effective way, he needed specific, graduate-level training in special education, which was not available locally.

The Insight & The Solution
Recognizing a gap in educational services for students with special needs, the Ministry of Education, the Youth Development Fund, and the Bhutan Foundation collaborated to build expertise by sending Kharka abroad to complete graduate-level coursework in special education. Kharka describes the experience in his own words:

I was fortunate to go and study at the University of Newcastle, Australia, for which I feel honored and owe my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Education, YDF [Youth Development Fund],and the Bhutan Foundation without whom it would not have been possible for me to pursue a graduate certificate in educational studies with specialization in special education.
I arrived at the University of Newcastle in January 2012 and was in Australia through August 2012. [For the first month], I studied the ELICOS [English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students] course (Advanced English for Academic Purposes) at the University of Newcastle language center and reached a level of proficiency equivalent to tertiary standard for postgraduate courses. Thereafter, I enrolled for a graduate certificate in educational studies with a specialization in special education at the University of New South Wales, Australia. By July 31, 2012, I successfully completed four courses (40 units) and earned a graduate certificate in educational studies (special education).
I studied the following courses offered on campus during Semester One (February–July):

During the whole semester, I was busy reading journal after journal prescribed for each course, attending class, reading online library resources, and doing course assignments. Having undergone the credited courses in special education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, I gained more knowledge and understanding of general special education. The needs are unique, uncommon,and diverse for children with special needs. There is no specific [single] remedy, strategy, method, or skill to address the educational needs of children with disabilities.

The Results
Kharka further describes the significance of his experience:

The course helped me to get wider understanding of what special education is, the diversity of challenges and needs of every individual to be addressed, changing the behavior and life of children with special needs. The early intervention in development of language skills, social skills, emotional, physical,and intellectual development is crucial prior to provision of education. Having worked as the pioneer teacher of the deaf for nine years in DEU without [being] accredited or certified in deaf education or special education, to get an opportunity to pursue a graduate certificate in educational studies with a specialization in special education in 2012 was a blessing in disguise that strengthened my knowledge and skills in special education. Now I feel more empowered and honored in understanding and addressing the special, unique, uncommon, unusual, and diverse needs of children with special needs.

With his newly developed expertise, Kharka will be able not only to have an effect on his own students, but on other teachers of students with special needs, multiplying the impact.