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Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

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DR HERMAN A.A. GRESNIGT, European Chairman ICEVI, the Netherlands

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a great pleasure to me to welcome you, on behalf of the European Committee of ICEVI, to this first European workshop on training of teachers for the visually impaired. When, after much searching for colleges and universities offering such courses in Europe, we sent out the invitations to this workshop in September last, we had not envisaged such a large response. I would also like to welcome the Principals of the schools for the visually impaired in this country, who are our guests at this opening session.

I will now give you a brief introduction to ICEVI, the International Council for Education of People with visual impairment. ICEVI is a worldwide organisation of professionals in the field of education and rehabilitation of the visually impaired, originally primarily intended for teachers of the visually impaired. One of the main objectives of this organisation is the exchange of information, knowledge and expertise in the field of the education and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. The ICEVI world conferences, which are held every five years, are the most important tool for achieving this objective. The last conference was held in Bangkok in 1992, the next will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this summer. In the conference of 2002 will be held in the Netherlands, where ICEVI was started in 1952.

ICEVI consists of 8 regions - continents or sub-continents; Europe is one of these regions; it has its own European Committee which organises activities for Europe. This committee organised a European ICEVI conference which was held in 1995 in Budapest. You have all received a copy of the proceedings of this conference.

At the European Committee meeting of April 1996 we discussed the possibility and the desirability of organising a workshop for people who have a central and leading role in the training of professionals for the education and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. For purposes of homogeneity it was then decided to restrict participation in the workshop to staff of teacher training institutions.

This decision lead to the preparation and organisation of this workshop. The fact that there are delegates from 22 countries proves that this was a good idea.

The objectives of this workshop include:

I hope that by the end of this workshop we will have at least achieved a number of these objectives.

On the basis of our experiences with the Budapest conference in 1995 we decided on a low-budget organisation for this workshop in order to make it accessible to participants from all European countries.
We are therefore very grateful that the principal of this school, a school for partially sighted children, Mrs Judith Brezovay, spontaneously offered her school as a venue for this workshop. Mrs Brezovay and her staff have made it possible for us to be her guests during the next few days.

Mrs Krisztina Kov�cs, former chairperson of the Local Organising Committee of the ICEVI conference in 1995, had a central role in the organisational preparations of this workshop.
Mrs Juliet Stone, member of the European Committee of ICEVI, and her colleagues, Mrs Christine Arter and Mrs Heather Mason, all working at the School of Education of Birmingham University, had a central role in the preparation of the workshop topics.

After a meeting in Birmingham in December 1996 where the workshop programme was worked out in greater detail, we invited some of you to act as lecturer, chairperson of plenary meetings or chairperson and secretary of group meetings. We were very pleased that this invitation was accepted by all.

We have provided the framework for this workshop; whether the workshop is going to be a success will depend on your contributions over the next few days.

We felt it would be a good idea to mix business with some pleasure - in addition to the various workshop meetings, we have therefore organised a number of social events. I hope you will enjoy these.

Finally, I would like to wish you a enjoyable and productive workshop. I hope that the training courses for teachers and other professionals for the visually impaired in your country and thus, indirectly the visually impaired themselves, for whom this is ultimately all intended, will benefit from the outcomes of this workshop.

Thank you.


WELCOME TO THE WORKSHOP VENUE: The School for the Partially Sighted in Budapest

Mrs Judith Brezovay welcomes, also on behalf of her staff, the participants of the Workshop to the School for the Partially Sighted in Budapest. She and her staff consider it an honour to host this workshop at their school. Mrs Brezovay expresses the hope that everybody will feel at home at the school for the next few days.

She then presents an introductory lecture on the education of and services for the visually impaired in Hungary in which she explains the special education system for the visually impaired in Hungary.

The last Education Act dates back to 1993. This act deals with special education for children with physical, sensory, speech, mental or other handicaps. The visually impaired belong to the sensory handicapped. Visually impaired children are divided in the following categories: blind (no or very low light per-cepti-on), low vision (2 - 10%) and partially sighted (10 - 30%). Low vision children can either attend the School for the Blind or the School for the Partially Sighted.

Education of partially sighted children in Budapest has a tradition of many decades' standing. The first independent school was opened in 1956. In 1982 the school moved to a modern, new building, which was designed especially for parti-ally sighted pupils.

Children are admitted on the basis of the expert's advice of the Sight-testing National Expert Committee. The school's aim is to support partially sighted children to finish prima-ry school with special methods and good environmental conditi-ons.
They hope that with the developing work these pupils will be able to overcome the disadvantages which arise from their handicap and become harmonic personali-ties.

The children are provided with more intensive lighting, so that they may be able to achieve a higher degree of academic suc-cess, which might not otherwise be obtainable due to their eyesight. In addition, the surfaces of the individual desks can be tilted. In this way they can provide an optimal reading position for sight. These special tables put an end to bending which arises from short-sightedness. Seating of the pupils depend of the measure of their long-sight.
They take the light sensitiveness of children into considera-tion as well as which eye they can see better with. Photocopiers, enlargers, hand magnifying glasses and special quality glasses improve the sight-efficiency.

There are also possibilities for integration: about 2/3 of the partially sighted children and youngsters are integra-ted into mainstream schools.

The school also takes part in the teacher training for typhl-ope-dagogy of the Gust�v B�rczi Training College for Teachers of Handicapped Children by offering student placements.

Then Mrs Brezovay gives an overview of organisations, schools and other facilities for the visually impaired in Hungary:

  1. Hungarian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted
  2. National Committee of Assessment & Rehabilitation for the Visually Impaired
  3. School for the Blind in Budapest
  4. School for the Partially Sighted in Budapest
  5. Laszlo Batthyany School for the Multiple Handicapped in Budapest
  6. Dr Alad�r Kettessy primary school for the partially sight-ed in Debrecen
  7. Centre of Education & Rehabilitation for the Visually Impaired in Pecs
  8. State Institutes for Adult Blind in Budapest, Debrecen, Szombathely, N�gr�dbercel and Szeged

Finally, she shows a diagram concerning the attitude towards a visually impaired child:
(triangle with cusps: opthalmologist, special teacher and parents, and visually impaired child in the middle of this triangle)


PROF DR EMY CSOCSAN, head of the Department of Education for the Visually Impaired at Guszt�v B�rczi Training College for Special Education, Budapest, Hungary

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of all our colleagues involved in training teachers for visually impaired children and adults, I am very pleased to welcome you to Budapest again. I am very happy to see the faces of friends we met at the ICEVI congress two years ago and I would like to welcome colleagues who are visiting us for the first time. I hope the number of Budapest fans will increase after the seminar.

Nowadays we live in exciting and - may I say - very hard times, not only for the people in Central Europe but for all of us in Europe. The political and economical changes in Eastern and Central Europe have brought about a lot of challenges and positive opportunities but we have also had some negative experiences. Some of the problems have the same causes but the methods for solving these problems may differ in different countries. Through sharing information our seminar could be a great contribution to helping each other improve strategies and methods in our daily work as well as developing strategies in the future.

Before I introduce the theme of the seminar let me tell you my story about the changed situation in Europe. The opening of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin became the symbol of opening up of international boarders in Europe. That is the historical background of my story : two years ago I applied for a job as a professor for education of the visually impaired at the university of Dortmund. The post was advertised in Germany and I was one of seven candidates who applied for this job. I went to Dortmund and held a lecture and seminar in May 1995. After this I sent the huge amount of paper which was needed for accepting my application to the commission. Last year in March the senate of the university chose me for the job and in December 1996 I signed my contract with the University of Dortmund. I believe that my story could not have happened before 1989.

It is only a coincidence that I begin my work in Germany immediately after this workshop. So this days I am in a "schizophrenic" situation. I am very sad to leave my colleagues in Budapest and I am looking forward to my new job . First of all I would like to believe that my activity in Dortmund brings advantages for our college in Budapest with a wider range of international contacts and opportunity for learning.

I am honoured and pleased that my colleagues in Dortmund trust me and ask me to represent the department of education for the visually impaired during this seminar. I do it with pleasure but I must add that today I know the situation regarding special education in Hungary much better than in Dortmund.

The Budapest ICEVI congress proved that the conditions of the education of the visually impaired have changed dramatically in the last two decades. Let me summarise some of these changes:

  1. Through the development of human sciences and special education the methods of assessment of visually impaired children have more varied and have become more effective.
  2. Early intervention and co-operation with families of visually impaired children are now in the focal points in the special education of the visually impaired.
  3. Assessment and training has become increasingly important for low vision children.
  4. The school-situation of visually impaired children has changed. In Hungary the Education Act gives parents the right to choose schools for their disabled children. Every year more and more blind children attend mainstream schools in our country.
  5. The so called special schools possess increasing "know-how" in the practice and theory of the education of the visually impaired. The schools have more freedom to set their goals and perspectives. Also through contacts with institutions in Hungary and abroad., their role have changed. The institution is not only a school any more but a centre of competence in helping to integrate visually impaired children or in occupational rehabilitation.
  6. The number of multiply challenged visually impaired children has increased significantly in the last ten years. Earlier methods of intervention of in special education are not sufficient for these children.

The idea for this seminar came from the recognition that the content and structure of special educator (teacher) training in most Central and East European counties do not satisfy real demands. Thus - as you may read in the programme of the seminar the main topics are the following: the competence of the special needs teachers of the visually impaired; the special skills of itinerant teachers; methodological and organisational aspects of teachers training and problems of postgraduate courses.

I hope during the seminar we will try to eliminate some of the contradictions that I have found since I started working in special education training in 1977.
One of the main contradictions is that our field becomes more and more detailed. Knowledge and expertise are continually increasing. The need for specialisation is also increase. In spite of this the conditions of higher education is deteriorating. Research projects and college teaching staff numbers have been hit by reductions in financial support. Financial difficulties in schools may adversely affect enthusiasm of colleagues helping students in their teaching practice. Increasingly less colleagues undertake this duty every year. Also selection is impossible. As a result, training colleges may have to move in a more theoretical direction because of expense of practical guidance.

Now allow me to introduce our new curriculum of special educators (teachers and therapists) for the visually impaired at the Guszt�v B�rczi college. The first educators of visually impaired persons trained in this new curriculum graduated last year.

The B�rczi Guszt�v college comes under the further education system in Hungary but its special structure and tasks differ from other training colleges. At present the college is the only establishment which trains professionals working with people with special educational needs and it is the central research institute for special education and rehabilitation of the disabled in Hungary.

The college offers many forms of study for its students. Most of them attend the eight semesters and are awarded a degree in the education of the disabled or in social work as teachers of the disabled or as social workers.

The B�rczi Guszt�v training college provides training for:

EducatorsSocial service professionals for
Teacher or therapist for
- intellectually challenged persons
- people with learning difficulties
- the hearing impaired
- the visually impaired
- the physically disabled
- the speech and language disabled
- people with challenging behaviour
- senior citizens
- rehabilitation for the disabled
- in child welfare
- in mental health

In addition the college provides part-time degree courses for students working at institutions for the disabled, as well as postgraduate courses for teachers.They study while they work and receive regular consultations at the college.
For entrance to the college a high school diploma is required. The candidates take an entrance examination.

The curriculum for special teachers has the following structure:

General background


Basic studies in two fields
in education of
  • intellectually challenged persons
  • people with learning difficulties
  • the hearing impaired
  • the visually impaired
  • physically disabled
  • speech and language disabled
  • people with challenging behaviour

Special subjects in one field with two specialities
teacher and therapist within one field
two fields with one speciality in each
i. e. teacher in one field and therapist in the other

In the first and second semester the students attend background studies in human sciences, psychology, pedagogy, and social sciences. In the third and fourth semester they can chose two fields and attend basic courses in special anatomy, pathology, psychology and special education. They also acquire the necessary skills for these fields.

General background subjects 1st and 2nd semester

Functional anatomy
Developmental anatomy
General pathology

Child Psychiatry

Social sciences
History of culture
Culture of speech

General education
Introduction of special education
Integration into mainstreaming education


Physical education

Basic subjects 3rd and 4th semester - Subjects related to the education of the visually impaired

In the 5-8th semesters they can chose two fields with one specialisation or one field with two specialisation's. The specialisation's within any given field are teacher and therapist. In the field of the education for the visually impaired the therapist is responsible for working in early intervention and for conducting low vision training and elementary rehabilitation.

Special subjects 5th to 8th semester

Theory of teaching
- for the partially sighted
- for the blind
- for multiply handicapped
- for deafblind
Rehabilitation of v.i.
Praxis of teaching
Early intervention
Education in the family
Low vision therapy
Elementary rehabilitation
Orientation and mobility
Preparation for vocational training
Music therapy

The number of the students in this field is 45-50 a year.

Student of education for the visually impaired are supposed to be familiar with the characteristics of different visually impaired and multiply disabled persons, children, youngsters and adults. They acquire compensational, correctional and developmental techniques based on wide knowledge of visually impaired persons' characteristics, skills and abilities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I strongly believe that all of us will benefit from this seminar. We anticipate interesting conversations during the breaks and beyond the official programmes. I wish all of you a pleasant stay in Budapest and fruitful work during the congress. May repeat our well known slogan: "Mutual information and inspiration" for one and all.

Thank you for you attention!

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