Sunday, February 6, 2011

What is inclusive Education?

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. What ever, 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). I have been facilitating the consultation processes for this review consulting widely in the Cook Islands. From the consultations, it was obvious that the narrow meaning of Inclusive Education that means;  the movement of children either from a home (outside) environment or from special segregated settings towards a school setting in regular classrooms, still prevails. 
Inclusive education has a much wider meaning than all the terms discussed above. In this respect Len Barton has argued a major role for inclusive practices in education in order to realize wider changes in society:
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. Existing school systems in terms of physical factors, curriculum aspects, teaching expectations and styles, leadership roles. will have to change. This is because inclusive education is about the participation of ALL children and young people and the removal of all forms of exclusionary practice. (Barton, 1997: p. 84-85)
Barton’s definition above supports the concept of inclusion as a process rather than a specific philosophy or set of practices. The process of inclusion in this case, requires an overhaul of current cultures that are often driven by deeply embedded negative values and believes.  Armstrong (2003) and Ainscow (1999) also shared similar views:-
…inclusion refers to a set of principles, values and practices which involve the social transformation of education systems and communities. It does not refer to a fixed state or set of criteria to be used as a blue-print, but seeks to challenge deficit thinking and practice which are ‘still ingrained’ and too often lead many to believe that some pupils have to be dealt with in a separate way. (Ainscow, 1999,.p.8 as cited in Armstrong, 2003)
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. This paper shares the views of Barton, Booth, Armstrong and others who believe that Inclusive education must now stand alone  , only by definition at least, driven by social justice and the need to remove all forms of iniquities from our education system. It involves the changing of school cultures that are deeply embedded with exclusionary beliefs and values that need to be eradicated lest they remain a challenge to Inclusive Education.
Next Article: Part 2: Inclusive Education: The Challenges of the Cook Islands.
1.    Armstrong, F. (2003) Spaced Out: Policy, Difference and the Challenge of Inclusive Education, Netherlands: Kluwer.
2.    Barton, L. (1997) ‘Inclusive education: romantic, subversive or realistic?’ International Journal of Inclusive Education, 
 1, 3, pp.231-42.
3.    Booth, T. (1996) Stories of exclusion: natural and unnatural selection, in E. Blyth and J, Milner (eds), Exclusion from School: Inter- Professional Issues for Policy and Practice, London: Routledge.
4.    Clough,P. and Corbett, J. (2000) Theories of Inclusive Education- A Students’ Guide, London: Paul Chapman.
5.    Segal, N. (2005)’ Mapping the field of inclusive education: a review of the Indian literature’. International Journal of Inclusive  Education, 9, 331-350. 
UNESCO. (1994) The Salamanca World Conference on Special Needs education: Access and Quality, UNESCO and the Ministry of  Education, Spain. Paris: UNESCO.
6.    UNESCO. (2003) Overcoming Exclusion through Inclusive Approaches in Education: a Challenge, a vision-Conceptual Paper, Spain,  Paris: UNESCO
7.    Wood J.W. (1998) Adapting Instruction to Accommodate Students in Inclusive Settings. New Jersey, U.S.A: Prentice Hall

Inclusive Education Vs Integrated Education
‘Inclusive education’, goes beyond ‘integration’ – a term which, until the late 1990s, was generally used to describe the process of repositioning a child or groups of children in mainstream schools. ‘Integration’ was a term used by organisations such as CSIE (originally called the Centre for Studies in Integration in Education) when seeking neighbourhood placements for all students, and implied the need for a student to adapt to the school, rather than for the school to transform its own practices. The onus for change appeared to be on those seeking to enter mainstream schools, rather than on mainstream schools adapting and changing themselves in order to include a greater diversity of pupils. ‘Inclusive education’ implies a radical shift in attitudes and a willingness on the part of schools to transform practices in pupil grouping, assessment and curriculum. The notion of inclusion does not set boundaries around particular kinds of disability or learning difficulty, but instead focuses on the ability of the school itself to accommodate a diversity of needs.
·  Inclusive education takes place when students, with or without disabilities, learn, participate, and interact together in the same classroom. When children with disabilities join classes with peers who do not have any disabilities, both the disabled and the non-disabled children can reap the benefits.

Effective Learning

·  In inclusive education, children with and without disabilities are all expected to study, learn, read, write. By having higher expectations for children with disabilities coupled with good and effective instruction, they quickly learn academic skills. Because the philosophy and mission of inclusive education is intended to help all students to learn, all children in the class benefit from the method of instruction. Based on evidence from the National Center for Education Restructuring and Inclusion, children with disabilities in the classroom tend to show academic achievement in several areas including improved performance on mastery of IEP goals, standardized tests, motivation to study and learn, overall good grades and classroom behavior. Also, children with disabilities who are instructed under general educational settings have scored higher on literacy than those children educated in segregated classrooms

Inreased Understanding

·  When students participate in classes that mimic the differences and similarities of individuals in the outside or real world, they naturally learn to accept diversity. Understanding, acceptance, and respect grow as the children with differing cultures and abilities interact with each other. Inclusive classrooms also create venues where children form and develop friendships with each other while strengthening their social and interactive skills. Children with differing abilities will learn from each other. Because it creates a solid group, the inclusive classroom promotes the civil rights of all students, provides support to the social value of equality and respect, teaches collaborative and socialization skills, builds interdependence and support between students, promotes social peace, and provides children a micro model of the real world.

Normal Lives

·  For families with disabled children, the dream of living a normal life comes true thanks to inclusive classrooms. Of course, all parents want their kids to live normally: have friends, be accepted by others, and have regular activities. Inclusive classrooms make this a reality for children with disabilities. Through inclusive settings, children with disabilities can achieve a sense of belonging with diverse groups of people. Therefore, it provides a good venue for learning and growing. In terms of socialization, children learn to develop friendships while enhancing self-respect.

·  Special education programs in school systems have made attempts to ensure that students are placed in inclusive education classes, sometimes with a separate resource classroom for homework and study skills. There have been some benefits to these inclusive classroom environments, but there have been concerns expressed as well.

General Education Practices Have Not Changed Enough

·  Inclusion may not have changed teaching practices in the regular education classroom enough to benefit special needs students who are integrated into the classroom. Most classrooms tend to teach to average level students and it can be difficult for the learning disabled student to keep up with the pace of the classroom. Regular education teachers may resent slowing the classroom pace for the few special needs students, as they feel it might be detrimental to the majority of students in the classroom.

Not Enough Teacher Training

·  Regular education teachers often do not have the appropriate training or education to understand the needs of students who have disabilities. A teacher is not able to provide special needs students with enough care or attention in the classroom, so the student falls behind or acts out behaviorally. Even the most flexible teacher can have difficulty. Due to continued demands for standardized testing or other academic standards, she may be unable to be as creative in teaching as she might otherwise be.

Lack of Funding for Appropriate Resources

·  Some of the detriments of inclusive education could be minimized if the regular education classroom had the appropriate resources available for teachers. For example, inclusive classrooms can be benefited by having a teacher's aid or paraprofessional in the classroom to assist the regular education teacher with behavioral issues, study skills and assignments of special needs students. Funding for these resources is sparse though, so the teacher may find that keeping control of a large inclusive classroom is beyond his abilities.

Lower Educational Standards and Loss of Advocacy

·  Parents and special education teachers may be concerned that the lesson plans in a regular education inclusive classroom will be watered down to accommodate the special needs students. This would end up being a detriment not only to the regular education student, but the special education student as well. Special education teachers are specifically trained to understand the strengths of individual disabled students. Therefore, lesson quality can be higher in the special education classroom. With the shift from special education classrooms to regular education classrooms, students could not only experience a loss of quality in the teaching, but a loss of advocacy from the teacher.

International Iniatives:
Roma Children:
Despite the efforts to expand and improve education for Roma children, as many as 50 per cent of those in Europe fail to complete primary education. UNESCO, in collaboration with the Council of Europe, is working towards ensuring the right to basic education for Roma children, with particular emphasis on improving access to early childhood educational opportunities and their transition to quality primary education.
Some areas of interventions for Roma children:
·         Developing personal trust with parents and influential Roma members.
·         Working actively on the positive attitude of schools and employers: training of Roma teaching assistants, teachers and school administrators.
·         Providing institutional support and training to Roma NGOs capable of effective advocacy, linking those NGOs to wider regional and national activities and campaigns and strengthening networking across borders to impact on policy processes at the national and EU levels.
·         Developing a network with other institutions to ensure integrated care.
·         Creating training, development, internship and funding opportunities for the generation of Roma women and men who will be the future leaders of national and international Roma movements.
·         Ensuring the fair application of legislation
·         Promoting Roma women’s access to public institutions and participation in the decision-making processes.
Street Children:
For the millions of children worldwide who live in the street, education is the most effective method of reintegration into society. UNESCO’s work in this field has the two-fold objective of developing basic education for street children and of preventing children in difficulties from ending up on the streets. Activities are centred on: (i) raising awareness of the general public about street children and the non-enforcement of the right to education for all; (ii) providing technical support for organizations and institutions in order to meet the basic needs of these children; and (iii) strengthening partnerships between the public and private sectors at national and international levels in order to ensure that action is sustained and effective.  
·         National campaigns and information dissemination to encourage governments and civil society in the provision of educational opportunities for all. 
·         Adoption of a multisectoral approach to promoting the right to education andstrengthening partnerships between Government, UN agencies, civil society, NGOs and the private sector. 
·         Basic service provision (e.g. literacy courses, medical and psycho-social support, food and clothing) provided at street level to aid children in making informed and positive decisions about their lives, about leaving the streets and becoming integrated in residential centres or reintegrated with their families.  
·         Organization of street rounds to identify new street children, establish a dialogue based on respect to enable them to decide to leave the streets.
·         Inclusion of street children in the mainstream school system from early on and rehabilitation programmes for drop-outs.  
·         After-school educational activities, personalized educational workshops and functional literacy courses and vocational training to bridge formal and non-formal education and to facilitate street children’s enrolment in the public school system. 
·         Organization of advocacy campaigns and preventive education programmes for street children on HIV and AIDS and development of life skills training programmes about communication and interpersonal skills, decision-making and critical thinking skills, coping and self-management skills.
·         Creation of a classroom environment that retains former street children in school.  
·         Improving pre-service and in-service training where teachers acquire experience in inclusive methods and practices, meeting pupils with different abilities, experiences, social and cultural backgrounds.

Child Workers:
Education is a key tool in preventing child labour while child labour acts as an obstacle to children attending school. Universal access to education, and particularly to free and compulsory education of good quality secured until the minimum age for entry to employment, is a critical factor in the struggle against the economic exploitation of children. Through its programmes UNESCO helps children acquire basic education and enrol in primary and secondary schools so that they are not vulnerable or subject to child labour. UNESCO is part of the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education for All, together with ILO, UNICEF, the World Bank, UNDP, Education International and the Global March against Child Labour. The Task Force objective is to contribute to the achievement of EFA through: 
·         Mass public information campaigns and community mobilization to increase awareness about the rights of working children at all levels of society and legislation related to child labour.
·         Access to free and compulsory education of good quality, secured until the minimum age for entry to employment.
·         Measures to bring girls to school and keep them in school including security and the provision of adequate sanitation, girl-friendly methodologies and vocational training in practical life skills leading to further formal vocational training.
·         Initiatives to attract higher numbers of women teachers to teach in rural and slum areas and training for male teachers in girl-friendly pedagogical approaches.
·         Development of life skills training programmes for child labourers.
·         Legislation to guarantee access to education and prevent child labour.
·         Codes of conduct and procurement policies for employers regarding child labour.
·         Universal child registration at birth and protection of a child’s right to official proof of age.

Child Soldiers
The number of conflicts worldwide may be in decline but new forms of warfare, often involving warlords, mean that children and youth are frequently used as soldiers.
Worldwide in over half of the states at war in 2003, there were reports of combatants under 15. Among the reasons why children become combatants are: security, protection, food, boredom, humiliation, frustration, intimidation, promises of education and employment or to avenge the deaths of family members.
For children recruited for combat, who have missed out on schooling, education can serve as a vital component in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Demobilized child combatants require education programmes which take into account their specific experiences of war and prepare them for peace and reconciliation. Some may wish to resume formal education, while others may need vocational and skills training. Significant numbers of girls are involved in armed conflicts but few are included in demobilization programmes, perhaps because of the stigma of sexual abuse which is often prevalent in conflict.
Some areas of interventions for child soldiers: 
·         Programmes and activities tailored to the specific needs of child soldiers.
·         Education combined with psychosocial support and income generation assistance such as apprenticeships and loans for micro-enterprise.
·         Education programmes combined with initiatives to stop rejoining child soldiers.
·         Training and support at all levels for lasting reintegration and follow-up studies carried out on ex-soldiers. Visits or monetary/material incentives to ex-soldiers and their families are often essential to keep them in the reintegration programme.
·         Education programmes including curricula and teaching methodologies adapted or created to take into account the psychological state of children with war experiences.
Children with Disabilities
Reintegration of handicapped child, France
Reintegration of handicapped child, France
Over 650 million people around the world live with disabilities which can exclude their participation in society. They often have little hope of going to school, getting a job, having their own home, creating a family and raising their children, enjoying a social life or voting. For the vast majority shops, public facilities and transport are not accessible.
Children with disabilities have to combat blatant educational exclusion. Of the 75 million children of primary school age who are out of school, one third are children with disabilities. Thus, children with disabilities make up the world’s largest and most disadvantaged minority. An estimated 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people are those with disabilities; over 90 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school; an estimated 30 per cent of the world’s street children live with disabilities: and the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as three per cent – and, in some countries, as low as one per cent for women with disabilities.
Some areas of interventions for children with disabilities.
·         A flagship led by UNESCO under the Education for All Programme to ensure that the right to education and the goals of the Dakar Framework are realized for individuals with disabilities.
·         Production of advocacy and awareness materials such as policy guidelines, toolkits and DVD for people with disabilities.
Indigenous People
A family in Vanuatu
©UNESCO/Peter Coles

A family in Vanuatu
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples in the world, representing approximately 5 per cent of the total world population. Indigenous people account for more than 5,000 languages in over 70 countries on six continents; that is, nearly 75 per cent of all languages believed to exist. In many cases their ecologically sustainable practices protect a significant part of the world’s biological diversity. Despite two UN Decades on Indigenous People, this group continues to face serious discrimination in terms of access to basic social services, including education and healthcare. A great number are marginalized and live in precarious conditions, often due to forced displacement and the impacts of globalization and climate change.
Some areas of interventions for indigenous people:
·         Developing guidelines for indigenous/tribal people relevant to their needs and aspirations, accommodating their culture, language and learning styles.
·         Supporting reflection and action to render curricula and teaching methodologies sensitive to indigenous peoples’ rights, perspectives, experiences and aspirations, notably by involving indigenous peoples in the work carried out in this area.
·         Developing educational and training programmes for indigenous people in relation to indigenous people's rights, techniques of negotiation, and leadership skills.
Rural People
Rural children, Jamaica
©UNESCO/Gary Masters

Rural children, Jamaica
Rural populations represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor and 72 per cent of the population of the least developed countries. Rural/urban inequalities are a major obstacle to sustainable development. Rural areas comprise human settlements of less than 10,000 people and the rural space is dominated by farms, forests, water, mountains and/or desert.
Typically, rural people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods as farmers, nomadic herders, or fishermen; they deal with animal production, transformation and marketing of food and non-food agricultural products and services. Rural communities are diverse culturally, socially and economically.
Their labour is cheap because gainful employment options are limited. Usually rural people lack access to adequate basic social services because they lack a political voice and rural areas have a low national priority.
The FAO/UNESCO Education for Rural People (ERP) flagship calls for collaborative action to address rural-urban disparities by targeting the educational needs of rural people.
Some areas of interventions for people living in rural areas:   
·         Educational assistance for the poor and needy (scholarships, free uniforms, relief from school fees, etc).
·         Distance-learning through the use of Community Multimedia Centers and ICT.
·         Addressing cultural values that limit educational opportunities for girls through schemes such as take-home rations and community daycare.
·         Streamlining curricula to focus on the main priorities and combine core and local content and teach it using community/human/material resources to promote active learning.
·         Providing better pay/incentive for teachers, especially for rural areas and establish national recognition awards for teachers in rural/remote areas.
·         Developing innovative support systems at the school and classroom level to help teachers use active learning techniques.
·         Encouraging adequate data collection focusing on the issues affecting target groups.

The  Constitution of India does not explicitly include children with disabilities in the provisions made
for education , but Article 41 does  mention people with disabilities  and says in part “the State shall
within the limits of its economic development make effective provisions for securing the right to work ,
to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment ,old age, sickness ,disablement and in
other cases of undesired want”. It does not mandate the free and compulsory education as a
fundamental right and is merely a directive principle  to guide state policy but  Article 45 does rectify
this by stating that   free and compulsory education should be provided for ALL  children until they
complete the age of 14” The ALL is never specifically explained.
But the most recent   93rd
 amendment to the Indian Constitution   passed in December 2001, affirms
the Government’s commitment to (EFA) or Education for All.  In Sanskrit it is Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
(SSA) .The preamble explicitly states that this includes children with disabilities. This policy aims at all
children in the 6 to 14 age group being ale to complete eight years of schooling by the year 2010. The
SSA gives importance to early childhood care and education and appropriate intervention for children
with special needs and also and makes special reference to the education of the girl   child. The
positive factor is the change incorporated in the Education Act by adding a pertinent clause which
clarifies that “ALL ” includes children with disabilities.  
On the 21st
  of  March  2005, the Hon. Minister of Human Resource Development in the Rajya
Sabha presented a comprehensive statement on the subject of inclusive education of children with
disabilities .
Policy perspectives:


AUGUST 20, 2005



  • The last decade has seen the passing of  three major  legislations on disability by the Government of India.  The Rehabilitation Council of India Act(1992), Persons with Disability Act (1995), and the National Trust Act (1999) have been  enacted and implemented at both the Central and State level.
  • Education of children with disability has been part of the the National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 and the Programme of Action (1992)
  • Currently education provisions for children with disabilities are covered by ‘special schools’ and integrated mainstream schools..
  • Over 1.24 lakh children with disabilities have been integrated in over 20,000 mainstream schools under the Integrated Education for Disabled Children Scheme of the Ministry of HRD.
  • At the elementary level, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, over 14 lakh children with disabilities have been enrolled.
  • However despite efforts over the past three decades by the government and the non-government sector, educational facilities need to be made available to a substantial proportion of persons with disability need to be covered.
  • Compared to a National literacy figure of around 65 percent the percentage of literacy levels of the disabled population is only  49 percent
  • Literacy rates for the female disabled population is around 37 percent compared to national average of over 54 percent for the female population.
  • Literacy rates for the male disabled population is 58.14 percent compared to 75.85 percent for males.
  • According to NSSO 2002 figures, of the literate disabled population only 9 percent completed secondary and above education


There has been a considerable shift in the understanding of disability, from earlier medical interpretations of seeing disability as a deficit within the individual to that of viewing it in the context of a Human Rights issue.

The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 and the Programme of Action (1992) gives the basic policy framework for education, emphasizing the correcting of existing inequalities.  It stresses on reducing dropout rates, improving learning achievements and expanding access to students who have not had an easy opportunity to be a part of the mainstream system.  The NPE, 1986 envisaged measures for   integrating the physically and mentally handicapped with the general community as equal partners, to prepare them for normal growth and to enable them to face life with courage and confidence. 

The 93rd Amendment of the Constitution of India has made education a fundamental human right for children in the 6-14 years age group thereby making it mandatory for all children to be brought under the fold of education. This includes children with disability.

India is a signatory to the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (1994) that emphasizes access to quality education for all.  The Statement endorses the need for fundamental policy shifts required to promote the approach to inclusive education, namely enabling schools to serve all children, particularly those with special educational needs by implementing practical and strategic changes.

The Government of India has enacted the legislation Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (PWD Act) to achieve amongst other things, the goal of providing access to free education in an appropriate environment to all learners with disabilities till s/he attains the age of eighteen years.  The Act endeavours to promote the integration of learners with disabilities in mainstream schools.

The National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCERT, 2000) has recommended inclusive schools for learners with special educational needs by making appropriate modifications in the content, presentation and transaction strategies, preparing teachers and developing learning friendly evaluation procedures.

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