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Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

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ICEVI is an organisation of professionals involved in the education and rehabilitation of the visually impaired; originally it was an organisation mainly consisting of special teachers. However, at ICEVI conferences relatively little attention has been paid to the training of these teachers. There has hardly ever been an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with regard to curricula and working methods. There are no papers on this subject in the proceedings of the ICEVI 8th World Conference in W�rzburg, Germany, in 1987. The proceedings of the 9th World Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1992 contain just under four pages on this topic. "Personnel Preparation" is one of the ten topics on the programme of the Focus Day of the 10th World Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 1997.

As the education of blind and partially sighted children depends to a large extent on good, expert teachers, a discussion on the training of these teachers could be very valuable and productive.

Against this background, the ICEVI European Committee decided at its 1996 annual meeting to organise a small-scale, invitational workshop on this subject. Two representatives would be invited from every European country with teacher training institutions specialised in this field, some 30 to 40 people in total.

The workshop would centre around discussions on a number of important topics related to the training of special teachers of the visually impaired. Each thematic group and plenary discussion would be started off by a short introductory lecture.

The preparations as regards contents of the workshop were carried out in consultation with Mrs Christine Arter, Dr Heather Mason and Mrs Juliet Stone, three senior lecturers in visual impairment of the School of Education of the University of Birmingham, UK.

It was decided to hold the workshop in Central Europe in order to reduce the travelling expenses of representatives from Central and Eastern Europe. The offer of the School of the Partially Sighted in Budapest to host the workshop was therefore gratefully accepted. The organisational preparations were carried out in consultation with Mrs Judith Brezovay, head mistress of this school, and Mrs Krisztina Kov�cs, who was chairperson of the Local Organising Committee of the European Conference of ICEVI in 1995.

Research showed that nearly 30 European countries offer, in some form or another, training for special teachers of the visually impaired. A letter of invitation was sent out in September 1996 and the response was really good. Positive reactions were received from 26 countries. In the end representatives of 4 out of these 26 countries could, for various reasons, not attend. The final workshop programme was circulated in January 1997.

All participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire on the situation in their country with regard to the training of special teachers of the visually impaired. See appendix 1 for an overview of the outcomes.

The core of the workshop consisted of 4 working sessions, each with its own theme (see table of contents). Each working session was organised as follows:

Introductory lecture15 mins
Small group discussions (4 persons)75 mins
Break30 mins
Plenary discussion60 mins
Video presentations30 mins

The persons presenting the introductory lectures had been asked to formulate a number of discussion points related to the theme of their lecture. These points would subsequently be discussed in small groups. The outcomes of these group discussions would then be presented to and discussed in a plenary meeting.

A number of participants had been invited to act as chairperson and secretary for both the plenary and the group discussions. This working method proved to work well.

During the preparation of the workshop it was decided to publish the lectures and the discussion reports in order to make these available to a wider audience, both within and outside Europe.

This report does not in any way pretend to be a handbook, a standard text in the field of training of special teachers of the visually impaired. It is merely an inventory of current European views on a number of central themes.

The workshop programme also included the following informal activities:

Herman Gresnigt

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