Scope of Good Practice
This campaign that continues to run today was launched in Russia in 2007 as the communicative component of a larger integrated effort to promote inclusive education — the process of including fully students with disabilities into mainstream education. Research was conducted to determine knowledge, attitudes and behavior concerning inclusive education among parents, and the campaign materials were pretested. Television and radio public service announcements (PSAs), posters and ads were placed in national and regional media. A variety of public events were held with strong media coverage. Educators, school administrators and state officials were reached through specialized publications, study tours, conferences and workshops. Children were reached in school and after-school activities. The campaign was nationwide, with special emphasis in 25 regions.
The Problem Addressed by the Campaign
In Russia the majority of children with disabilities are still educated in segregated schools, classrooms, institutions or at home. About 35,000 children with disabilities do not receive any education at all. Approximately 1.5 million children have special education needs and get minimal support at school. As a result, children with disabilities do not develop a full range of social skills and often do not receive adequate education, while children without disabilities can grow up without ever knowing or seeing a disabled person. This segregated system is self-perpetuating, making it difficult for people with disabilities to become accepted and integrated into the workplace and society.
The campaign made use of general surveys about disability issues and campaign-specific surveys conducted by the Grand Prix Center for Advertising Research to determine attitudes, knowledge and practices among parents associated with inclusive education.
Sociological surveys in Russia have consistently shown that people without disabilities know virtually nothing about people with disabilities or their problems.
Specific research showed that more than half the respondents didn’t have a clear understanding of what the term “inclusive education” meant. Of those who had some understanding, the majority of respondents had a positive attitude towards it. However, the respondents expressed concerns that children with disabilities would bring down the level of education in the classroom and require individual attention from the teacher, to the detriment of the other students. While a significant number of respondents were willing to welcome children with disabilities in mainstream schools, they thought they should be taught in separate classrooms.
Knowledge and attitudes of educators, school administrators, and state officials to inclusive education were also researched in previous programs. At the time the campaign began, most of these audiences were not familiar with the term or the concept of inclusive education, and were skeptical that it could be successfully implemented in Russia.
The overall campaign strategy was to portray inclusive education in Russia as a positive practice that benefits both disabled children and children without disabilities. The campaign images and slogan, “Children Should Go to School Together!” portrayed children with and without disabilities studying together naturally and receiving an individualized approach that addresses their specific needs. Activities, materials and events for children, parents, educators and officials highlighted successful examples of inclusive education in Russia, providing contacts for more information and expert support.
The animated PSA portrays inclusive education: each child receiving an individual approach to ensure his or her optimal development. The ad showed every audience segment: teachers, parents and children. The children are all different, symbolized by the geometrical figures on their foreheads. The teacher notes the differences and uses a specific approach for each child. Accessibility which is absent in Russia is depicted by the elevator. The call to action is: “When choosing a school for your child, be sure it has an inclusive approach.” Viewers are directed to a website for more information at the end of the clip. The images, music and tone are playful and upbeat.
The live action PSA shows school children welcoming a new disabled classmate and taking their class picture. The poster shows four schoolchildren with markedly different appearances and abilities happily going to school under the campaign slogan. Radio clips used the audio from the animated PSA. Badges and other materials were created for events.
All the materials present a positive view of inclusive education and clarify what it means for both children with and without disabilities. Since disabled people are rarely depicted in the Russian media, these positive depictions were revolutionary.
During the course of the campaign, legislation concerning donated space for PSAs changed, complicating the initial plan. However, over 10 national and regional television stations, five national radio stations, and six newspapers and magazines, including specialized and popular women’s and parent’s magazines, aired or placed campaign ads. Outdoor advertising was placed on billboards, street benches, and bus stops in Moscow and other cities. Partner organizations and media included banners and ads on internet web sites. The total cost of the donated media was estimated to be over $450,000.
The messages in the media were supplemented with a wide variety of public events in Moscow and other regions. For children with and without disabilities, disability awareness trainings, photo and poster contests were held. Film festivals, Weeks of Inclusive Education, photo exhibitions, rallies, parent-teacher meetings and other events were held to educate people about inclusive education and promote inclusive schools in Russia. Organization staff prepared reports, held conferences and workshops, and worked with ministry officials and legislators at the city, regional and federal level to educate policy-makers on the benefits of inclusive education. Special events were held for print and electronic journalists, who were also invited to cover special events.
The campaign “Children Should Go to School Together” was the communicative component of an organizational effort to promote inclusive education in Russia. The Russian Disability NGO Perspektiva — the author and leader of this campaign — works with parents of disabled children, schools, parent-teacher associations, and governmental officials at the city, local, and national level to provide assistance and support to individuals and institutions in their efforts to make mainstream schools accessible and welcoming to students with disabilities.
Over the course of the campaign and institutional efforts, more than 100 schools in 25 regions have become inclusive. The term “inclusive education” is now included in legislation and ministry statements and materials. Inclusive education is included in the federal law “On Education,” the National Strategy for Action in the Interests of Children 2012-2017, and the program on Accessibility. In 2009 president, Dmitry Medvedev visited an inclusive school where all the children were wearing the campaign ribbon. Campaign posters were shown on national TV. This visit helped to raise even more awareness about inclusive education.
Funding constraints did not permit research to isolate the impact of the campaign, but anecdotal evidence has shown that it contributed to improved knowledge and attitudes. The problem of segregated education and inadequate education of disabled children has been recognized in the target audiences of parents, educators, and state officials. Inclusive education is now state policy, and more and more parents of disabled children want their children to study at inclusive, not segregated schools; other parents are increasingly regarding inclusive education as a benefit for all children, disabled or not.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In addition to the media campaign, the work with schoolchildren, educators, parents and state officials was crucial to the success of these efforts. The ads introduced inclusive education and presented it in a positive light, but all the stakeholders needed opportunities to discuss questions and concerns. The provision of step-by-step blueprints for including children with disabilities into mainstream schools, training of teachers and school administrators, and continuous support (e.g. literature, trainings, public awareness activities, collaboration with schools), was a key factor in the overall success of the campaign. Finally, the campaign was led by disability organizations and organizations of parents of disabled children in each of the participating regions, and many of the events were organized jointly with their allies — new inclusive schools. Their role as spokespeople for inclusive education gave the campaign legitimacy and was a major contribution to the campaign’s effectiveness.