According to Verma & Bagley, “Equality has long been a major goal of education around the world. As early as 1948, Article 26 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “everyone has the right to education” and “education shall be free, at least at the elementary and fundamental stages” (2007, p. 3). In relation to this statement, most governments who are members of the United Nation have made substantial efforts geared towards the realization of this Universal Declaration of Human rights.
There is a credible evidence to suggest that educational investment on an individual not only benefit the individual personally; in terms of their earnings, but the society as a whole in both economic and social areas ( Verma, & Bagley, 2007). Inclusion is a philosophy that focuses on the process of adjusting the home, school and the larger society to accommodate persons with diverse needs. All individuals regardless of their differences are accorded the opportunity to interact, play, learn, work and experience the feeling of belonging.
Besides, they are also allowed to develop in accordance with their potential and abilities. Inclusion therefore, calls for various persons to be fully involved in all aspects of life which include: education, employment, access to information, decision making process, community and domestic activities, recreational and social activities, and access to consumer goods and services such as electricity and clean water supply (Hegarty, 1993).
Inclusion is about the following: welcoming diversity, benefiting all (learners) with or without special needs, children in or out of school who may feel excluded, providing equal access to education to all learners, continuous search to finding better ways of responding to diversity, identification and removal of barriers to education, stimulating creativity and problem solving by all, learners who risk marginalization, exclusion and/or underachievement of all learners, reforming schools and other institutions to ensure that every child receives quality and appropriate education within these schools, and having a positive mind set and start seeing the possibilities rather than impossibilities, and finally it is about improving learning environment and providing opportunities for all learners to become successful in their learning experiences (Hegarty, 1993). Inclusive education is a philosophy that ensures that, schools, centres of learning and other educational settings and systems are open to all children. This enables the learners to be included in all aspects of school-life. According to UNESCO (2001), Inclusive Education takes the Education For All agenda foreword. This is done by finding the ways of enabling schools to serve all learners in their communities as part of an Inclusive Education.
Therefore, an inclusive school includes learners with various diversities and differentiates educational experiences to cater for the various diversities (UNESCO, 2001). The benefits of Inclusive Education include, all learners learn and grow in the environment that they will eventually live and work. As participation of those who are “different” takes root, all learners and teachers gain the virtues of being accommodating, accepting, patient and co-operative. Other children gain some valuable virtues such as being considerate, patient and humble as they support their peers with special needs. It should also be remembered that some children with special needs are as well gifted and therefore other children or learners can as well benefit form them thus, it is not only the other way round.
Besides, Inclusive Education offers to the teachers, an opportunity to share ideas and knowledge with each other, parent, and significant others, thus making education a meaningful aspect of everyday life. The also develop their skills and abilities when working as a team to address the challenges. This may also boost their status in the community. In addition, Inclusive Education creates a school for all, where everybody benefits resulting to an inclusive society. Further, the self-esteem of children who have special needs in education is improved. Inclusive Education is cost effective and gives equal opportunities to all children, thus promoting the right to all to education.
Some of the concerns from the educators about barrier to inclusion frequently include: the school factors which include classroom factors like poor classroom arrangement, student factors like negative attitudes of learner with or without special needs towards each other, teacher factor which might range from negative attitude towards learners with special needs to inadequate training on various aspects of Inclusive Education. According to Loreman, Deppeler & Harvey, “Secondary teachers in Victoria, Australia, were found to lack the skills required to modify curriculum for children with diverse abilities and were reported to be in urgent need of training in this area in a study conducted by Grbich and Sykes. ” (2005, p. 6).
Curriculum factor which, often, is mostly rigid and some teachers lack the ability or knowhow to modify it; therefore, do not take into consideration the needs of the diverse learners. There are sub- standard government schools, negative attitude on the part of policy makers towards education of children with special needs, special education is at times planned on disability levels rather than on ability levels, there is a correlation between disability and extreme poverty levels (Hegarty & Alur, 2002). The other major concern is the support services and resource factors. Learners with special needs require basic support servicers for learning to be effective in an inclusive setting which are usually lacking in most inclusive setting.
Examples of support services that can be made available to these learners include the following: resource rooms which should be adequately resourced, itinerant services, provision of educational resources relevant to their needs, parental support is also very paramount, technical support such as sign language interpreters and Braille transcribers, teacher-aides, peer support, physiotherapy, guidance and counselling, occupational therapies, community support and finally, provision of required equipment ( Daniels & Garner, 1999). “One of the major stumbling blocks to inclusion lies in the financial arrangement currently in place. Funding arrangements do not encourage inclusion, and the problem is not unique to England and Wales. The situation is similar in USA” ( Daniels & Garner 1999 p. 70). Collaboration and community involvement is very important. Lack of the same often hinders the process of inclusion. Collaboration and community involvement can be done through parental involvement, community involvement, partnership and networking, school management involvement, interactive relationships among the various stakeholders and home based programmes (Hornby, 1995).
Some of the best practices that might alleviate the challenges faced in the practice of Inclusive Education may be adopted from the principles of Inclusive Education. These are principles that govern the practice of Inclusive Education. It calls for equalization of opportunities for all learners to experience normal mainstream activities, while making deliberate and appropriate measures to ensure quality education for all. Besides, Inclusive Education calls for a child centred curriculum and the learner to attend the school that he would naturally go to in his community if he had no special needs. In addition, it advocates for accessibility to the learning process and curriculum by all learners by differentiating the learning and assessment process according to the learner’s needs (Mitchell, 2007).
Furthermore, Inclusive Education addresses the needs of all learners with visible or invisible learning difficulties such as visual, hearing, physical, intellectual, communication, emotional and behavioural, bereavement from HIV and AIDs, child abuse, poverty, racism, malnourishment, emotional effects of war, divorce, family separation and living on streets. It also recognises and caters for individual differences in race, religion, abilities, disabilities or circumstances are not seen as challenges but as resources. Inclusive Education also plans for positive learning opportunities with support to learners with special needs as an integral part of the ordinary school.
Even further, Inclusive Education requires change of negative attitude, negative behaviours, teaching methodologies, curricula, and environments to meet the needs of all learners, hence overcoming barriers to learning and development and finally, Inclusive Education calls on special needs education service providers to work closely with others within the community such as health and social worker emphasizing prevention and early intervention strategies to minimize the occurrence and the impact of disabilities in the community. Conclusion In Inclusive Education, we endeavour to provide a comprehensive educational plan that modifies the mainstream curriculum to give maximum opportunity to children with special needs, children who are marginalised, and children who are vulnerable as well as those who are neglected; in order for them to become productive members of the society.
Developing positive attitude in parents, teachers, peers and the community at large towards the various categories of children with special needs (Mitchell, 2007). Providing equal opportunities to all children to share knowledge, resources and experiences. Suggesting approaches and teaching methodologies to accommodate all children in regular classes regardless of their diversities or disabilities. Developing and implementing a curriculum that is all inclusive or flexible and accessible. Reaching the unreached children and youths within the regular education. Facilitating inclusion of children in all aspects of life. Identifying and minimizing if not eradicating all barriers to learning and development, and finally, minimizing the effects of disabilities on the child (Smith, 1998).