Training needs of teachers in mainstream primary schools in Saudi Arabia in relation to pupils with SEN
This study explores perceptions of the competencies of Saudi primary school teachers, and their training needs, to teach pupils with special educational needs in mainstream classes, in the light of the recent trend to inclusion. The research was carried out in the Madinah district in Western Saudi Arabia.A questionnaire was developed by the researcher, based on an extensive review of the competency literature, to survey teachers' perceptions. Of 180 copies distributed to teachers in six boys' primary schools, with different kinds of inclusion arrangement (resource room, special programme for learning difficulties, and no special provision), 175 (97%) were returned. The questionnaire data were complemented by qualitative information obtained through semi-structured interviews with 19 teachers, selected from among the questionnaire respondents; 11 teacher trainers from Riyadh University - the only one in the Kingdom that provides courses in special education - and 11 educational supervisors responsible for inspecting and advising teachers in the Madinah district. The findings revealed that only 10 teachers had received any pre-service training in relation to SEN, and only 3 had received in-service training. Moreover, most educational supervisors had little or no training and experience in regard to SEN. Teachers generally lacked confidence in their competencies across all the dimensions investigated, with the exception of personal skills. They expressed needs for training to recognise children with SEN, and support and advice in practical aspects of teaching them. Their perceptions did not, in general, vary with their personal characteristics, or with school inclusion arrangements. Based on the findings, it is recommended that preservice training programmes be modified to include knowledge and skills related to SEN; and that opportunities be made available for continuing professional development and on-going consultancy support, as necessary components of responsible inclusion.