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Foreword: Importance of inclusion for all students

Page history last edited by Lara Malpass 10 years, 10 months ago

This manual is designed to equip teachers to organize their teaching to meet the educational needs of all children.  It will equip teachers to be able to respond to the diversity of educational needs in the classroom.   

 

Introduction

 

Defining inclusive education

All children have a right to education. Inclusive education ensures the presence, participation and achievement of all students in schooling. It often involves restructuring the culture, policies and practices in schools so that they can respond to the diversity of students in their locality.

Inclusive education:

• acknowledges that all children can learn

• acknowledges and respects differences in children:age, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, HIV and TB status, etc.

• enables education structures, systems and methodologies to meet the needs of all children

• is part of a wider strategy to promote an inclusive society

• is a dynamic process that is constantly evolving.

Inclusive education is essential to achieving quality education for all.

 

Source: Save the Children UK (2008) Making Schools Inclusive: How change can happen. 

(Taken from INEE (2010) p. 11)

 

There has been an international trend towards inclusive education.  Inclusive education is defined to mean integrating children with disabilities and typically developing children into the same classroom (Stahmer & Carter, 2005).  The United Nations has been an active promoter in the education of all students in inclusive settings.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges that all children with special needs have equal human rights and freedom as any other child (United Nations, 2006).  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child further declares that all children (with or without special needs) have basic rights to an education, and to experience full involvement within society (Frankel, 2004; United Nations, 1989).  Inclusive education is based on the principle that local schools should provide education for all children regardless of any perceived difference, disability or other (Florian, 2008).  The child with a disability should attend the school he/she would attend regardless of the disability.

 

Inclusive education has been used to refer to the integration of disabled students, previously segregated, into general education classrooms (Ware, 2001 as cited in Broderick, Mehta-Parekh & Reid, 2005).  Good teachers are responsive to all learners needs and can adapt, accommodate and modify the curriculum as indicated by students needs.  Students tend to take cues from the teacher and so the teacher’s attitudes toward disability will greatly influence how students treat difference.  Thus, teaching about diversity-race, class, ethnicity, ability, etc.-should be an integral part of the curriculum in inclusive classrooms.

 

The Salamanca Agreement (1994) was a four day international conference where 92 signatory countries agreed to implement inclusive education.  The agreement gave policy guidelines for effective implementation of inclusive education.  See here.

 

Unfortunately, governments have fallen short in providing teachers and students with adequate resources in implementing inclusive education. At the teacher level there are many things that you can do to effectively include students with disabilities in your classroom.  This module is intended to give teachers the skills necessary to include all students in their classroom.   

 

The critical components for successful inclusion are teacher attitudes both towards the concept of inclusion and students with disabilities (Leyser and Romi, 2006). It is important for the teacher to realize that given the correct supports and resources inclusion can be very successful. All students, both general education and students with disabilities, benefit in inclusive settings.  The underlying idea behind inclusive education benefitting all students is exposing children to diversity.  The world is diverse and therefore the classroom should reflect this notion.  Exposing all students to diversity is beneficial for social development of the child.

 

Importance of Inclusive Education

 

Given a world that is not designed with disabled in mind it is important for the disabled child to learn to get around in society (Hehir, 2005).  Although this is true, sometimes that assumption can be detrimental to the education of the disabled child.  Disability should not be thought of as something that needs to be overcome, but it is a part of who that person is (Hehir, 2005). Often times when a disability is thought of as something that needs to be overcome, the proper supports to enable education are not provided for the student.  For example, a blind student who is not taught Braille because the teacher believes the student needs to learn to lip read (Hehir, 2005).  Not being taught Braille is depriving that student of a wealth of information that could be available to them.  An effective teacher will recognize the capabilities of the whole child and give supports necessary in order to succeed.  Given the right supports and instruction students with disabilities can often times succeed to full potential along with their peers.

 

Reactions to Inclusive Education

 

Parents of students with disabilities, by in large, support their children to be educated in inclusive settings. In a school in Malaysia, parents of students with disabilities were interviewed on their thoughts about inclusive education. “I am very pleased when the school allowed him to attend the normal class, because I want people to treat him as normal. In normal classroom, he will be treated like any other normal kids.” (Jelez, 2000, p. 192)  “Even if he stays in special class all the time, I do not think he will ever pass the exam. But in the mainstream classrooms, he can have real friends.” (Jelez, 2000, p. 192) “Although my child had some problems in the beginning, her classmates were very nice to her. She is motivated to go to school because of friends.” (Jelez, 2000, p. 192).  It is also an incentive to go to school and stay in school if the disabled child attends the same school where their brothers or sisters attend.  

 

Mainstream teachers perceived that included students experienced improvements in their awareness and responsiveness to the routines and demands of the class. One teacher related the experiences of one child and his transformation (Jelez, 2000): “Muthu used to show non-compliance. I just left him alone. Later he realized other kids are busy, doing things and talking. Slowly he had reason to be alert and be part of the group.” (Jelez, 2000, p. 192)

Another benefit for included students was skills acquisition. Students learned a variety of communication, social and expressive skills (Jelez, 2000):

“I see him laugh more now and trying to focus on listening to what his friends are saying. I guess there are role models and many other things available here that would not be available to him if he were to be in a room with kids similar to him.” (Jelez, 2000, p. 192)

 

 

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