This article examines state religious school teachers’ attitudes regarding the inclusion of students with special needs and factors affecting their perceptions. A representative sample of 579 teachers from primary, junior high and high schools filled in a questionnaire regarding attitudes toward inclusion and related factors such as professional support, commitment to inclusion, adaptability of the curriculum, extent of inclusion, existence of technical aids, parental involvement and the influence of the inclusion on students without special needs.
The majority of teachers reported a positive (87%) attitude towards inclusion. All the components of the inclusion were positively associated with teachers’ perceptions. The findings shed light on the factors influencing teachers’ perceptions on inclusion of students with special needs into regular education.
The present study provides an in-depth and complete picture of the attitudes of teachers toward the inclusion of students with special needs in primary, middle and high schools in the state religious education system in Israel. The study findings show that the inclusion takes place in most schools, and the attitudes towards inclusion are mostly positive.
However, flexibility in the transition between a special grade and a regular classroom is lacking, questioning the effectiveness of the process of inclusion. Including special classes in a regular school has its social advantages providing special students with more integrative activities with regular students such as meetings during breaks, in ceremonies and in trips. A student with special needs who is in a regular school may want to fit into the regular classroom and to study with his peers and feel ‘like everyone else’, therefore improving the flexibility of transition between classrooms will support the complete inclusion of the special need child on the educational, social and emotional level and improve child’s motivation for school and studies. It is recommended that this flexibility of transition will become a formal policy. Education in Israel is centralised, therefore it is important to introduce a regulation whereby the flexibility of moving between the special and regular classes will be flexible all year round. The philosophical-pedagogical approach of education in Israel in general education and in special education is based on values of human dignity, freedom and freedom of expression, while maintaining interpersonal relations based on honesty and mutual trust. The Ministry of Education’s policy derived from the Special Education Law in all matters related to the treatment of students with special needs is to grant as much priority as possible to the placement of a student within the framework of regular education. While teachers’ perception about inclusion is highly positive there is concern among them that the process is still lacking flexibility and resources to support both teachers and students’ needs. The Ministry of Education should allocate the necessary resources to improve inclusion in state religious schools.