Inclusive education is a pairing of philosophy and pedagogical practices that allow each student to feel respected, confident and safe so he or she can learn and develop to his or her full potential. It is based on a system of values and beliefs centered on the best interests of the student, which promotes social cohesion, belonging, and active participation in learning, a complete school experience, and positive interactions with peers and others in the school community. These values and beliefs will be shared by schools and communities. Inclusive education is put into practice within school communities that value diversity and nurture the well-being and quality of learning of each of their members. Inclusive education is carried out through a range of public and community programs and services available to all students. Inclusive education is the foundation for ensuring an inclusive New Brunswick society.
The discourse of Inclusion and how it has developed including the different terminologies that are associated with the move towards the realization of an inclusive education system can in itself be a challenge to policy makers as Clough and Corbett (2000) have reminded us:-
Inclusive Education is a contestable term that has come to mean different things to politicians, bureaucrats and academics. Inclusion is not a single movement; it is made up of many strong currents of belief, many different local struggles and myriad forms of practice” (p.6)
To this effect, Segal (2005) wrote that Inclusive Education has become an international buzz word and has been adopted in the rhetoric of many countries across the globe. Furthermore, Booth (1996) described inclusive education as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education.
Similarly, UNESCO (2003) defined inclusion as a developmental approach that ‘…seeks to address the learning needs of all children, youth and adults with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion’ (p 4). Many international declarations have legitimated the idea of inclusion. The principles of inclusive education for example were adopted at the Salamanca World Conference on Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994) and were restated at the Dakar World Education Forum (2000). It reads:-
Inclusive education means that schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. This should include disabled and gifted children, street and working children, children from remote or nomadic populations, children from linguistic, ethnic or cultural minorities and children from other disadvantaged or marginalized areas or groups. (UNESCO, 2003: p4)
There are many opinions about inclusion globally: ‘what it is, where it occurs, how it is implemented and so on. Whatever, the term, it is a reality that students with special needs and those at risk will at some level receive instruction in the general education setting.” (Wood, 1998: p. 5). Clearly Wood in this quotation viewed inclusion as the movement of children from segregated settings into general education settings or from special schools into regular classrooms such as the move to close down the Avarua Special School and mainstream all students with special needs in the Cook Islands a few years back. To substantiate this move, a Special Needs Education Policy was written in 2002 which is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Education in conjunction with PRIDE (acronym for Pacific Regional Initiative for the Development of Basic Education).
Inclusive education is where all children, regardless of differences have the opportunity to learn with and from each other. In inclusive settings differences are valued but the focus is on similarities which are common to all children. An inclusive school defines differences as an ordinary part of human experience, to be valued and organised for. In settings like these the modeling provided by peers reduces the amount of input required by the class teacher.
Inclusion should not be the sole responsibility of the specific class teacher. Everybody should be involved and take responsibility. However teachers make all the difference. Training for teachers should be sustained and ongoing. It should most importantly focus on attitudinal change. They need to understand and accommodate the concept of learner diversity. They also need to be trained to be innovative and flexible with regards to multi-level curriculum instruction and classroom management styles. A school-based support team should develop strategies for the whole school to meet the needs of learners with special educational needs. This team should also be a resource for teachers experiencing problems in their classrooms.
All children benefit when all students are made to feel they belong and education is sensitive and responsive to individual differences.
Inclusive education is one of the most effective ways in which to promote an inclusive and tolerant society.
The provision of inclusive public education is based on three complementary principles:
(1) Public education is universal – the provincial curriculum is provided equitably to all students and this is done in an inclusive, common learning environment shared among age-appropriate, neighbourhood peers;
(2) Public education is individualized – the success of each student depends on the degree to which education is based on the student’s best interests and responds to his or her strengths and needs; and
(3) Public education is flexible and responsive to change.
The principle of universal design is the starting point for an inclusive public education system whereby the learning needs of the greatest number of students are met by maximizing the usability of programs, services, practices, and learning environments. When this measure alone is insufficient to meet the needs of an individual student or groups of students, accommodations are required. This is both an ethical and a legal requirement. However, it is a requirement that is always exercised within a concrete context.
Policy statements on inclusive education
1. Inclusive Education must build on the human viewpoint that all individuals have the same, equal worth.
Inclusive Education complies with the principle of universality, education as a human right. Individuals are different, yet every individual has a potential for learning. Access to adequate quality education should be given to every individual regardless of personal features and gender, as well as ethnic, religious, sexual, social, economic and geographical factors.
2. Early intervention is an important principle for successful Inclusive Education.
Attitudes to learning, as well as basic knowledge and skills that constitute the foundation for personal development and learning throughout life are formed at an early stage of life. Similarly, specific challenges and needs of the individual child can often be identified at an early stage in life.
It is thus of vital importance for a country to develop a system of ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) that covers all children, and to allocate resources to ensure the early provision of relevant support to meet the specific needs of the individual child. (Norway is still striving to achieve this.)
3. Successful Inclusive Education per se and as a means for Social Inclusion, depends on close cooperation between the education system and external public and private partners.
The role of education and training is to serve the society, to organise and provide the necessary resources for the development of knowledge and skills to the benefit of individuals, the various sectors and the nation in its entirety.
In the perspective of ensuring optimal education, stimulation and support to the individual child, a close contact and cooperation between the school and the parents is of great importance.
In general, relevance and quality in education and training can only be ensured by direct involvement and close cooperation with the stakeholders, including the community and labour market actors, on policy development and implementation.
Resources, regulations and arrangements that are vital for the removal of obstacles and realization of Inclusive Education in mainstream education are often controlled by other authorities. Examples are building regulations for ensuring universal access to public buildings, and technical equipment and transport for the disabled.
If Inclusive Education is a means for achieving Social Inclusion, it must also cover vulnerable groups that are otherwise considered the responsibility of other authorities, such as labour, immigration and justice. These authorities control resources and regulations relevant for training of the unemployed, immigrants and prisoners, respectively, groups that are excluded or need new opportunities and support.
5. Adequate governance is important for ensuring equity in both treatment and result.
Inclusive Education implies carefully adapted education to diverse individual needs in different local contexts. These diversified provisions must be organised and administered locally.
Good governance is necessary in a decentralized system in order to ensure equality in provision / treatment and outcomes.
It is furthermore important to allocate sufficient resources for ensuring high quality in education, particularly in the public education system.
Practicing inclusive education is a demanding task. It is thus important that the government organizes teacher training so as to ensure that all teachers are properly equipped with pedagogical qualifications for adaptation of teaching to the individual learners’ needs.
Inclusive education is not merely about providing access into mainstream school for pupils who have previously been excluded. It is not about closing down an unacceptable system of segregated provision and dumping those closing down an unacceptable system of segregated provision and dumping those pupils in an unchanged mainstream system.
The many meanings and approaches highlighted how different ways of seeing the broad picture will influence the detail of practice and provision. Not only are interpretations of what inclusion means contentious, but there are also diverse and conflicting debates in which different approaches are seen as detrimental to the effective development of this area(Clough and Corbett,2000). Having looked at the meaning of inclusive education discussed, it can be said that inclusion is not only about placement or the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classrooms.
Reasons for inclusive education
• Children do better academically when in inclusive settings;
• Developing peers gain in understanding about disability, tolerance and support;
• Inclusion provides models for normal and age appropriate behaviour;
• Inclusion provides opportunities to develop relationships;
• Inclusive education is the key step towards inclusion in life;
• One of the most important ingredients for successful inclusion is the will to make it succeed a positive attitude;
• Most teachers have the skills to understand the individual needs of a child with Down syndrome;
• Most teachers have the skills to teach children with Down syndrome effectively and sensitively;
Specific learning profile of a child with Down syndrome:
• Child is not just developmentally delayed in his whole development;
• No need for a diluted curriculum in all learning areas;
• Learning profile goes hand in hand with a learning style;
• Certain factors influencing learning are typical of many children with Down syndrome;
• Strengths that facilitate learning;
Strong visual awareness and visual learning skill are:
• Learnt by using signing;
• Learnt by using the written word;
• Learnt by modelling behaviour and attitudes;
• Learning by way of practical material and hands-on activities
• Weaknesses that inhibit learning;
Relevance of inclusive education
Inclusive education has a range of benefits and many recipients of those benefits.
Children with disabilities
v They can learn new skills through imitation.
v They are with peers from whom they can learn new social and real life skills that will equip them to live in their communities.
v They have the opportunity to develop friendships with typically developing children.
v They get access to education in their communities instead of being sent away to special schools or staying at home.
Children without disabilities
v They are able to learn more realistic and accurate views about children with disabilities.
v They can develop positive attitudes towards those different from them.
v They can learn from others who successfully achieve despite challenges.
v Both slow and gifted learners can benefit from the inclusion.
v They can economise by providing one programme for all children rather than separate programmes.
v People with disabilities who have developed their full potential through effective education no longer a burden to society but making a contribution.
v Communities will learn to appreciate diversity in their midst
Families of children with disabilities
v Will feel less isolated from the rest of the community.
Will develop relationships with other families who can provide them with support.
v Can enjoy having their children at home during their school years without the need to send them away to special schools or hostels
Families with children without disabilities
v Will develop relationships with families with children with disabilities and be able to make a contribution.
v Will be able to teach their children about individual differences and the need to accept those who are different
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