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Teachers Assistants, Inclusive Education, Female Empowerment, Down Syndrome, UAE
This paper presents the findings of a government-funded research project that was aimed at providing well-trained teacher assistants to enable inclusion of learners with intellectual disabilities in 21 Emirati government schools across the United Arab Emirates. The project is a first in the country and attracted media attention because of its dual benefit in not only supporting the national trend of the inclusion of learners with disabilities in mainstream schools, but also enabling empowerment of young Emirati women who did not make it to higher education for some reason or another but are keen to join the work force.
The main research question was, “what is the impact of the programme on the lives of those Emirati women who became teacher assistants and on the education process in the school where they were trained?” Mixed methods were applied to achieve the aims of the project. Provisional results showed that having a well-trained teacher assistant in class, alongside the class teacher in Emirati mainstream schools, supports and empowers young learners with intellectual disabilities and contributes to an effective and long-lasting inclusive education. In relation to the Emirati trainees, the programme was effective and it supported such young women to secure a place in the work force as well as equipped them with new skills that they found useful for their own self-development and their respective communities across the UAE. The project was funded by the Emirates Foundation for the UAE Down Syndrome Association in collaboration with the British University in Dubai and the Ministry of Education in the UAE.