The management of inclusion is a source of enormous challenge to many schools across the globe. Developed countries in particular are faced with the mounting challenge of ensuring that every child is educated up to adequate standards (Ainscow 1995). Similarly, families that have children with special needs are seeking institutions that can provide their children with the standard level of education received by other children. Educational Institutions are also in a similar boat, continually faced with the mounting challenge of accepting and responding to the diversity that each child brings to the classroom. While many definitions of inclusion are pervasive, it remains widely accepted that the notion of inclusion involves welcoming and encouraging diversity amongst all learners.
Inclusive education can be viewed from different perspectives. Different educational settings and social communities have differing perceptions of what it means. Most literature however start with the general notion that education is a basic human right that forms the foundation of every just and fair society. However, the basic elements of its meaning can be categorized into four. Ainscow (2005) suggests the first element involves seeing inclusion as a process – a continuous process that analyzes and recommends improved ways of responding to diversity by accepting and learning from peoples’ differences. Every one’s difference is seen as an asset which can be used to ensure learning takes place under varied and flexible circumstances.
Ainscow (2005) also refers to the second element of inclusion as identifying and removing barriers. The teachers or managers of the inclusion process should be actively involved in collecting, analyzing and managing information from diverse sources which can be applied to policy refinements and modifications. The third element is centered on enforcing active participation and goal achievement for each student. The fourth element highlighted by Ainscow (2005) is the need for teachers or those in charge of learning to place an increased emphasis on those who are at greater risk of being marginalized or who are less able to benefit from the current modes and aspects of learning.
In summary, Ainscow (2005) suggests that the practices that are pervasive in most organizations today is a reflection of present culture and norms. Learners may be impeded from learning optimally under certain conditions due to over learned behaviour imposed by social institutions and their thinking patterns. Consequently, Ainscow (1999) suggests that the development of inclusive practices should focus on reforming the way actors think in order to be able to realize the full potential of inclusive education and make its practice more reinforced in schools across the world.
Armstrong (2003) describes inclusion as a set of principles, values and practices that are executed to initiate a revolution of education systems and communities. It seeks to challenge thinking that is conditioned to assume that certain pupils need to be dealt with in a particular way (Armstrong 2003).
According to (CSIE 2010) Inclusive education has a long history but centers on the need for equality and human rights. It is based on a moral perspective that values and respects every person while welcoming diversity. Schools are becoming more open to people of different abilities, backgrounds, ethnic and cultural histories. Consequently, there’s an extensive need for schools to fend for different learners.
According to CSIE (2010), inclusion in education has a large number of connotations and the basic ones include:
· The need for schools to value everyone including staff and students equally.
· The participation of all students in cultures and learning communities, while reducing barriers to their learning and the inclusion of students, even though categorized as having special educational needs
· Revamping school’s practices and policies so that they are responsive to the variety of students within the region
· Learning from attempts at inclusive education and implementing the changes more widely
· Acknowledging the basic right of every child to a fair education and recognizing that inclusion in education is paramount to inclusion in society.
· Emphasizing the role of schools in community development, sustaining relationships and adjusting the resources of the schools to support learning.
According to CSIE (2010), the world is changing and stereotypical thinking needs to be nipped in the bud. Valuing some people over others is deemed unethical; people should not be prevented from participating in culture and curricula and neither should segregated schooling be used for children with special needs since it violates their right to education without any form of discrimination (Ainscow 1994). Academic achievements should not be the sole aim of schooling – there is also the moral and personal development that every child should have a right to. Also, isolating schools and communities from each other deprives students of rich and multifaceted experiences that can enhance their learning.
The right to an inclusive education is in Article 24 (Education) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2006). Even though the idea of inclusive education is generally accepted, some schools have reservations to it and claim that they do not have the resources to cater for all categories of children. It is unclear whether this problem is persistent due to funding, personal reservations or a lack of resources.
In addition, inclusive education can be seen as an educational practice that emphasizes that students who can learn normally, without any learning inhibitions, spend time with those who have special educational needs which may be of any form. This type of inclusion emphasizes the child’s right to participate while schools are also inclined to accept the child as they would any other normal child. This principle rejects the use of special, isolated classrooms and learning environments for students with disabilities. The social, civil and participatory rights of students are emphasized and form the heart of any inclusive education strategy. It is a collective form of education in which all types of children can sit and learn together and it proposes the need to emphasize diverse learning approaches to handling children with varying educations and academic limits.
With inclusive education, children who were previously excluded may now spend time with other children, which would not have been possible earlier. The use of segregated schooling is however still pervasive and one must bear in mind that Inclusive education does not apply only to disabled children but to everyone (CSIE 2010).
The Benefits of Inclusive Education
There are a number of ways to analyze the benefits of inclusive education. This section will start off by examining the benefits to disabled children. There are many aspects to inclusive education that can benefit disabled children as well as the normal children.
Children with special needs would have the chance to learn in the same environment as normal children; they are thus subjected to the same learning environment and resources which will on the long run, ensure that they also have the opportunity to learn at the same pace as the normal children. Inclusive education may also nip in the bud, future psychological problems that a child may have when they eventually become aware that they have special needs. Inclusive education helps them to mix with other children thereby reducing possible issues of inferiority complex that may arise in the future.
With inclusive education, schools can become flexible to adapting to the needs of the children, and not the other way round. The differences between the students can also serve as a means of achieving diversity and variety – the educational facilities and teachers would then have to develop unique responses to deal with each child (Ainscow 1999).
In terms of society, the benefits are multi-fold. Inclusive education can help in forming stronger links between schools and communities. This on the long run will lead to stronger societies, partnering, consolidation and the forging of self respect for every individual in the society. For developing countries, the benefits are extensive. Education is one of the hallmarks of any progressive society and as such should not be taken lightly. Inclusive education would give every child the right to fair education and a chance of a bright future.
Inclusive education should be central to the educational polcies of any country claiming to be democratic. When countries embrace this ideal, it promotes a culture of fairness, comraderie and may nip societal ills such as racism and discrimination in the bud.