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Barriers to inclusive education

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


Upon completion of this unit teachers will be able to:

1. List obstacles in their school that make education challenging for both teachers and students with disabilities. 

2. Identify and learn ways to overcome and make small changes to make their classrooms more inclusive.  


Barriers to inclusive education (X min.)


Trainer: Begin the unit by getting teachers to think about their current classroom and some barriers they might encounter in their classroom and school when trying to include students with disabilities. 


What expectations should teachers have for students with disabilities?


Students with disabilities are not a homogenous group. For example, not every blind student is the same or learns in the same way.  It is important to think about your community and about what type of students with disabilities you might be including in your classroom.  


Engage in dialogue:

To include students with special needs in my classroom:

1.     Will I have to change my classroom practices?

2.     How can I plan for all students in my class?

3.     How will I know if my students are learning?

4.     Who will support me as a teacher?

5.     What learning will I need to do?


Following the dialogue, conduct a brainstorming session about what they will need to get out of the next three days in order for them to have a successful inclusive classroom.  What barriers to inclusion do they have in their school and classroom? 



Trainer: Read one barrier and then have teachers in groups brainstorm ways they can change their classroom or school to overcome that particular barrier. Then read the solution section to give them more ideas for making their classroom or school more inclusive. 


Inclusive education is challenging to any teacher, even those with the most experience. Although conditions in your country may be difficult, inclusive education is possible and can be beneficial for both student and teacher. Below are some barriers to inclusive education in many countries and avenues to overcome these barriers.


1.     Unstructured School Day


The way the school day is organized can have profound effects on learners. If there is not a clear schedule, everyday changes depending on conditions, and teachers are not well prepared for lessons then students will not and feel chaos. All students cope with chaos and unstructured environments differently but students with disabilities may find it very difficult to learn in these type of environments. Students with disabilities in these situations may become frustrated and disrupt the class or become easily distracted and begin to distract other students.


A well-organized school day benefits all learners and teachers, not just those with disabilities or behavioral problems.  It may take a little effort to reorganize the school day and potentially persuade headmasters to restructure but doing will make the classroom more inclusive for all learners. Once this is done teachers should find their jobs become easier. 

A clearly organized day can enable learners to become more self- sufficient or supportive of each other in school. They may need less guidance or instruction from the teacher if they do not have to navigate through a chaotic day. Involving learners in designing how to reorganize the school day so that it suits everyone can further promote tolerance and empathy.

Routines are important for most children, especially those who have learning difficulties.

When teachers need to change the schedule for the day they can:

• be patient and remember that some children will find it difficult to adapt to changes with timetables and activities (especially those with disabilities)

• tell children about the changes in a clear and calm way. It is important for children to understand the changes that are taking place and feel that they are a part of the process. 


2.     Lack of Resources

Accommodating for students with disabilities almost always requires technology. A computer can be a relatively easy way to provide text to speech, vocabulary support, visual interpretations of difficult concepts but if a computer is not available there are things teachers can do to provide accommodations for students with disabilities in their classroom. 

  • Books on tape for students that have visual impairments or students with a reading disability or have an assistant or another student read aloud to that student
  • Use differentiated learning (see chapter on designing curriculum
  • Effectively use supports in your classroom such as a volunteer in the community or peer-to-peer tutoring (see chapter on supports in the classroom

In Bagh, Pakistan, teachers supported by USAID’s ENGAGE program used simple and available materials to make lessons more visual or tactile for students.

Teachers often asked students to bring supplies from home to use in lessons, such as dried foods, empty boxes, bottle caps, or buttons. Teachers used dried beans/corn to teach number concepts. Ten beans glued on a small stick became a “10- stick” which was useful for teaching place values.

When posters or flashcards were made, teachers outlined the letters, numbers, or objects with yarn so that children with visual disabilities could feel them.

(INEE, 2010, p. )

3.     Long Session Times


Students with disabilities may find session (or lesson) times longer than 45 minutes difficult to maintain concentration.  The same is true for most children and even adults, yet most schools have sessions lasting longer than an hour.  Some children with learning and behavioral disabilities have very short attention spans. Students with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, visual or hearing impairments will tire more quickly because of the extra effort it takes to communicate, move, read and concentrate.  


Shorter lessons (i.e. 30 minutes) will help more learners – with and without disabilities or behavioral problems – to participate and perform better in class.

Teachers can:

• discuss with the school principal about scheduling shorter lessons

• ask to schedule frequent breaks throughout the day, especially for younger children. This will ensure that children are rested, with toilet and food needs taken care of so they can join the class with little distraction, ready to concentrate.

• use these breaks to rest themselves – it takes a lot of energy to teach well

• use longer ‘double’ sessions for active lessons like physical education.  Children need to expend energy and have fun throughout the day as well as learn.  Doing both will ensure they associate school and learning with enjoyment and a safe feeling.



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All barriers and ideas to overcome these barriers taken from the INEE pocket guide:

INEE (2010). The INEE pocket guide to including students with disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.ineesite.org/uploads/documents/store/INEE_Pocket_Guide_to_Supporting_Learners_with_Disabilities.pdf.

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