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The concept of inclusion and its importance

The concept of inclusion and its importance

This course aims to develop educators and school staff understanding about disability, impairment, special needs and inclusion.

By the end of this lesson the educator trainee will be able to :

  • Understand the importance of inclusive education for people of determination.
  • Understand the importance of inclusive teaching and learning approaches in facilitating access to education for people of determination.

Inclusion’s Origins in Special Education: The Shift from Integration to Inclusion

Inclusion as we know it today has its origins in Special Education. The development of the field of special education has involved a series of stages during which education systems have explored different ways of responding to children with disabilities, and to students who experience difficulties in learning. In some cases, Special education has been pro-vided as a supplement to general education provision; in other cases it has been entirely separate. In recent years, the appropriateness of separate systems of education has been challenged, both from a human rights perspective and from the point of view of effective-ness.

Special education practices were moved into the mainstream through an approach known as “integration”. The main challenge with integration is that “mainstreaming” had not been accompanied by changes in the organisation of the ordinary school, its curriculum and teaching and learning strategies. This lack of organisational change has proved to be one of the major barriers to the implementation of inclusive education policies. Revised thinking has thus led to a re-conceptualisation of “special needs”. This view implies that progress is more likely if we recognize that difficulties experienced by pupils result from the ways in which schools are currently organized and from rigid teaching methods. It has been argued that schools need to be reformed and pedagogy needs to be improved in ways that will lead them to respond positively to pupil diversity – seeing individual differences not as problems to be fixed, but as opportunities for enriching learning.

2    How Inclusion relates to Education for All?

The issue of inclusion has to be framed within the context of the wider international dis-cussions around the United Nations organisations’ agenda of “Education for All” (EFA), stimulated by the 1990 Jomtien Declaration.

“The Salamanca Statement on Principles, Policy and Practice in Special Needs Edu-cation” (UNESCO 1994) provides a framework for thinking about how to move policy and practice forward. Indeed, this Statement, and the accompanying Framework for Action, is 9 arguably the most significant international document that has ever appeared in special edu-cation. It argues that regular schools with an inclusive orientation are:

“…the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.”

In the early documentation on EFA, there was a rather token mention of “special needs”

This has been gradually replaced by recognition that the inclusion agenda should be seen as an essential element of the whole EFA movement. In taking an inclusive ap-proach we must not lose sight of its origins in special needs discourse as well as the fact that children with disabilities remain the largest group of children out of school.

Education for All means ensuring that all children have access to basic education of good quality. This implies creating an environment in schools and in basic education programmes in which children are both able and enabled to learn. Such an environment must be inclusive of children, effective with children, friendly and welcoming to children, healthy and protective for children and gender sensitive. The development of such child-friendly learning environments is an essential part of the overall efforts by countries around the world to increase access to, and improve the quality of, their schools.”

Why Inclusion? – Rationale & Rights 

Exclusion from meaningful participation in the economic, social, and cultural life of communities is one of the greatest problems facing individuals in our society today. Such societies are neither efficient nor desirable.

Despite encouraging developments, there are still an estimated 115-130 million children not attending school. Ninety percent of them live in low and lower middle income coun-tries, and over 80 million of these children live in Africa. As alarming are the countless others within the school system being excluded from quality education. Among those who do enrol in primary school, large numbers drop out before completing their primary education.

Current strategies and programmes have not been sufficient to meet the needs of children and youth who are vulnerable to marginalisation or exclusion. In the past, efforts have consisted of specialized programmes, institutions and specialist educators. The un-fortunate consequence of such differentiation, although well intended, has often been fur-ther exclusion. Education must be viewed as a facilitator in everyone’s human development and functionality, regardless of barriers of any kind, physical or otherwise. Therefore, disability of any kind (physical, social and/or emotional) cannot be a disqualifier. Inclusion, thus, in-volves adopting a broad vision of Education for All by addressing the spectrum of needs of all learners, including those who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion.

1 Inclusion in Education– a human right

UNESCO views inclusion as “a dynamic approach of responding positively to pupil diversity and of seeing individual differences not as problems, but as opportunities for enriching learning.” Therefore, the move towards inclusion is not simply a technical or organizational change but also a movement with a clear philosophy. In order for inclusion to be implemented effectively, countries need to define a set of inclusive principles together with practical ideas to guide the transition towards policies addressing inclusion in education. The principles of inclusion that are set out in various international declarations can be used as a foundation. These then can be interpreted and adapted to the context of individual countries.

At the core of inclusive education is the human right to education, pronounced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 which states,

“Everyone has the right to education… Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” (art.26 – Universal Declara-tion of Human Rights)

Equally important are the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN, 1989), such as the right of children not to be discriminated against, stated in Article 2 and Article 23. Article 23 stipulates that children with disabilities should have:

effective access to and receive education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services,preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development.” (Article 23)

(Article 29 on the “Aims of education,”) expresses that the educational development of the individual is the central aims and that education should allow children to reach their fullest potential in terms of cognitive, emotional and creative capacities. In addition, the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) are other key international human rights treaties that not only emphasize the prohibition but also the active elimination of discrimination. A logical consequence of these rights is that all children have the right to receive the kind of education that does not discriminate on any grounds such as caste, ethnicity, religion, economic status, refugee status, language, gender, disability etc. and that specific measures be taken by the State to implement these rights in all learning environments.

A rights-based approach to education is founded upon three principles:

  • Access to free and compulsory education
  • Equality, inclusion and non-discrimination
  • The right to quality education, content and processes

The move towards inclusion has involved a series of changes at the societal and classroom level that have been accompanied by the elaboration of numerous legal instruments at the international level. Inclusion has been implicitly advocated since the Univer-sal Declaration in 1948 and it has been mentioned at all stages in a number of key UN Dec-larations and Conventions. (As seen in the following Figure 1.1: The Rights Framework for Inclusion)

While there are also very important human, economic, social and political reasons for pursuing a policy and approach of inclusive education, it is also a means of bringing about personal development and building relationships among individuals, groups and nations. The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (1994) asserts that:

Regular schools with inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discrimination, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.” (Salamanca Statement, Art. 2)

The Jomtien World Conference on Education for All (1990) set the goal of Education for All (EFA). UNESCO, along with other UN agencies, international development agencies and a number of international and national non-governmental organisations, has been working towards achieving this goal – adding to the efforts made at the country level.

All children and young people of the world, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, with their hopes and expectations, have the right to education. It is not our education systems that have a right to certain types of children. Therefore, it is the school system of a country that must be adjusted to meet the needs of all children.” (B. Lindqvist, UN-Rapporteur, 1994)

It is thus imperative that schools and local authorities take the responsibility to ensure that this right is implemented. Concretely this involves:

  • Initiating debates around how the community understands human rights;
  • Generating collective thinking and identifying practical solutions such as how human rights can be made part of the local school curriculum;
  • Linking the Human Rights movement with educational access;
  • Fostering grassroots action and strengthening its ties to the policy level in order to promote protection;
  • Encouraging the creation of community and children’s councils where issues of access can be discussed; and
  • Developing community-school mechanism to identify children not in school as well as develop activities to ensure that children enroll in school and learn.

Furthermore, adequate resources must be matched with political will, and constitu-ent pressure maintained on governments to live up to their obligations. Ultimately, how-ever, success will be judged by the quality of basic education provided to all learners. In the following sections we discuss how inclusion is defined and what practical steps are required to make inclusion in education a reality.

2    How is inclusion defined?

Inclusion is seen 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. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children.

Figure 1.1: The Rights Framework for Inclusion

 

Salamanca Statement & Framework for Action on Special Needs Education“… 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 marginalised areas or groups.” (para 3)

Inclusion is concerned with providing appropriate responses to the broad spectrum of learning needs in formal and nonformal educational settings. Rather than being a marginal issue on how some learners can be integrated in mainstream education, inclusive education is an approach that looks into how to transform education systems and other learning environments in order to respond to the diversity of learners. It aims towards enabling teachers and learners both to feel comfortable with diversity and to see it as a challenge and enrichment of the learning environment, rather than a problem. Inclusion emphasizes providing opportunities for equal participation of persons with disabilities (physical, social and/or emotional) whenever possible into general education, but leaves open the possibility of personal choice and options for special assistance and facilities for those who need it.

In defining inclusion, it is important to highlight the following elements:

Inclusion IS about:

welcoming diversity

benefiting all learners, not only targeting the excluded

children in school who may feel excluded

providing equal access to education or making certain provisions for certain categories of children without excluding them

Inclusion is NOT about:

reforms of special education alone, but reform of both the formal and nonformal education system

responding only to diversity, but also improving the quality of education for all learners

special schools but perhaps additional support to students within the regular school system

meeting the needs of children with disabilities only

meeting one child’s needs at the expense of another child

In particular, four key elements have tended to feature strongly in the conceptualisation of inclusion. The four elements are as follows:

  • Inclusion is a process. That is to say, inclusion has to be seen as a never-ending search to find better ways of responding to diversity. It is about learning how to live with difference and learning how to learn from difference. In this way differences come to be seen more positively as a stimulus for fostering learn ing, amongst children and adults.
  • Inclusion is concerned with the identification and removal of barriers. Consequently, it involves collecting, collating and evaluating information from a wide variety of sources in order to plan for improvements in policy and practice. It is about using evidence of various kinds to stimulate creativity and problem-solving.
  • Inclusion is about the presence, participation and achievement of all students. “Presence” is concerned with where children are educated, and how reliably and punctually they attend; “participation” relates to the quality of their experiences whilst they are there and, therefore, must incorporate the views of the learners themselves; and “achievement” is about the outcomes of learning across the curriculum, not merely test or examination results.
  • Inclusion involves a particular emphasis on those groups of learners who may be at risk of marginalization, exclusion or underachievement. This indicates the moral responsibility to ensure that those groups that are statistically most “at risk” are carefully monitored, and that, where necessary, steps are taken to ensure their presence, participation and achievement in the education system.

It is important to highlight that a holistic view of the education system, encompassing both the private and public system, must be taken when considering adopting an inclusive approach. Increasingly the world over, privatisation of education is on the rise. It is becoming evident that the private system of education in many countries is “competing” with the Government system. In some cases, government schools are closing because children are increasingly attending private schools. This trend could inadvertently lead to planners only planning for schools catering to poorer communities; this would inevitably be counterproductive to promoting principles of inclusion. Furthermore, in many countries the public system is generally considered lower in terms of quality of education being provided as compared to private schools. Thus, poorer children tend to be limited to the public system. It is imperative, therefore, that education planners consider both the public and the private system in planning in order to effectively address the needs of all learners and combat exclusion.

The move towards inclusion is a gradual one that should be based on clearly articulated principles, which address system-wide development. If barriers are to be reduced, as we will discuss later in this paper, policy-makers, educational personnel and other stake-holders need to take certain steps which must involve all members of the local community, including political and religious leaders, local education offices and the media. Some of these actions include:

  • Mobilizing opinion
  • Building consensus
  • Carrying out local situation analyses
  • Supporting local projects

In short, promoting inclusion is about improving educational and social frameworks to cope with new trends in educational structures and governance. It involves improving inputs, processes and environments to foster learning both at the level of the learner in his/ her learning environment as well as at the level of the system which supports the learning experience. In the following section we will look at how inclusion and quality are related.

Inclusion – how does it relate to quality?

According to the 2005 Global Monitoring Report, “Education should allow children to reach their fullest potential in terms of cognitive, emotional and creative capacities.”

An inclusive approach to education is one that strives to promote quality in the class-room. In order to move towards quality in education, changes are required at several levels. Human variations and differences are a naturally occurring and valuable part of society and should be reflected in schools. Schools should be able to offer opportunities for a range of 16 working methods and individualized learning in order that no pupil is obliged to stand outside the fellowship of and participation in the school.

An inclusive school for all must put flexibility and variation at the centre, structurally as well as in terms of content, with the goal of offering every individual a relevant education and optimal opportunities for development.

Characteristics of “a school for all” include exercising flexibility with regard to the individual pupil’s capabilities and placing his/her needs and interests at the core. The school for all is therefore a coherent, but differentiated learning environment. All knowledge and experience about the development of children says that this can best take place in an environment where self-esteem and positive conception of oneself are strong, i.e. an environment where real participation and fellowship are experienced and actively promoted.

Placing the pupil at the centre does not imply that students need to be taught and will learn subject matter and content separately. Within the framework of the classroom, individual adaptations can be made. Furthermore, it involves pupils supporting one another according to their abilities and strengths. It is about seeing differences as opportunities for learning.

Nonetheless, quality in education is often perceived and measured as the academic results attained by the pupils through the successful completion of final exams and other quantitative measures. In some cases, privatized systems of education focus on provisions of good infrastructure, technology and facilities aiming at assuring “comfort” to students. These therefore become parameters of quality rather than “content and value” of education. Quality, however, is more than this and entails a school system where all children are welcome and where diversity and flexibility are seen as important ingredients for the development and personal growth of all learners. Educational planners must bear these issues in mind when generating discussions among receivers and providers in order to remove disparities in “quality” of education in the public and private systems.

An inclusive perspective on quality education is concerned with the need to ensure that learning opportunities contribute to effective inclusion of individual and groups into the wider fabric of society. Quality education is therefore education that is inclusive as it aims at the full participation of all learners. We have learned from constructive and trans-actional theories that the quality of learning can be enhanced by the diversity of student involvement. Teacher attitudes and tolerance are the vehicles for the construction of an inclusive and participatory society. Focusing on quality education for enhanced inclusion implies identifying strategies for overcoming or eliminating the barriers to full participation for individuals and groups which experience discrimination, marginalization and exclusion or which are particularly vulnerable.

4    Inclusion and cost effectiveness

According to a recent World Bank study and a growing body of global research, Inclusive Education is not only cost-efficient but also cost-effective and “equity is way to excel-lence” This research likewise points to increased achievement and performance for all learners. Furthermore, within education, “countries are increasingly realizing the inefficiency of multiple systems of administration, organisational structures and services and the financially unrealistic option of special schools.”

One area where efficiency can be improved to yield results is in the realm of school health. UNESCO along with its partners, WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank joined forces 17 in the development of the FRESH initiative aimed at raising the education sector’s awareness of the value of implementing an effective school health, hygiene and nutrition programmes as one of its major strategies to achieve Education for All. According to recent findings cited by the FRESH initiative, as a result of universal basic education strategies, some of the most disadvantaged children – girls, the rural poor, children with disabilities – are for the first time having access to school. However, their ability to attend school and to learn while there is compromised by poor health. These are the children who will benefit most from health interventions, since they are likely to show the greatest improvements in attendance and learning achievement. School health programmes can thus help modify the effects of socio-economic and gender- related inequities.” They also help create learning-friendly environments which ensure greater equity and better educational outcomes. Furthermore, school health pro-grammes help link resources of the health, education, nutrition and sanitation centers in an infrastructure – the school – that is already in place is persuasive and sustained. The effectiveness of this is measurable not only in terms of educational outcomes, reduced wastage less repetition but generally enhanced returns on educational investment.

Inclusive education is about improving learning environments but also about pro-viding opportunities for all learners to become successful in their learning experiences. A range of resources (e.g. teaching materials, special equipment, additional personnel, new teaching approaches or other learners) can provide support in the task of learning. “Support” refers to all of these resources and, in particular, those resources beyond what the teacher can provide.

The cost of education is a critical issue to all school systems, especially when creating education facilities for all learners. Often questions are raised about the costs of education for traditionally excluded groups. It is falsely perceived as being costly when it is often only about making minor adjustments to accommodate all learners. Furthermore, there is a risk that with privatisation, education is becoming more of a “commercial” venture. This may in turn lead to “cost-cutting” in areas that are essential for educational access for all.

If we adopt a holistic perspective of society, it is more relevant to ask about the costs to society when it does not provide education for all children. In such a context, it is clear that the most cost effective solution is to offer education to all children. Education is the fundamental basis upon which the survival of the human race and development of a nation depend; it is an important investment where no compromises should be made. Therefore, systems need to consider minimizing wastage of resources and using resources optimally in making education cost effective, rather than focusing on cost cut-ting measures.

One example that illustrates this is that schools with high repetition rates often fail to work in preventive ways, which in the long term is both inefficient and costly. The expenditure incurred by schools that have high rates of repetition in many cases would be better used to provide additional support to learners who encounter difficulties in education. Such preventive activities could minimize repetition and be less costly than the expenditure incurred by learners, for instance, who require seven or eight years to complete a four or five-year cycle of education.

A recent study entitled, “Investing in the Future: Financing the Expansion of  Educational Opportunity in Latin America and the Caribbean”, looked at the role that repetition plays in the number and share of expected primary and secondary school years.

It shows that repetition accounts for more than one-quarter of the total number of school years in Brazil. Other countries where repetition accounts for a large share of the total volume of school years are Uruguay (10.5%), Costa Rica (8.7%) and Peru (6.8%).

Such unnecessary repetition is detrimental to those students themselves, as they often fall behind, drop-out of school and require additional support when they resume their studies. Repetition impacts negatively on students who could benefit from additional support in the classroom rather than having such resources utilized in the same way, without success, ostensibly for their benefit.

Several cost-effective measures to promote Inclusive Education have been developed in countries with scarce resources. These include: (a) trainer-of-trainer models for professional development; (b) linking university students in pre-service training institutions with schools for their clinical experiences; (c) converting special needs education schools into resource centers to provide expertise and support to clusters of general education schools; building capacity of parents and linking with community resources; utilizing children themselves in peer programs.

In short, providing education for all learners in schools and offering extra support to those encountering difficulties should reduce the need of costly repetition in schools and considerably reduce societal costs of supporting these individuals later on in life.

Key elements in the shift towards inclusion

– Resource & Recourse

Incorporating inclusion as a guiding principle typically requires change in education systems, and this change process is frequently faced with several challenges. It involves important shifts and changes at the systems as well as the societal level.

To understand change at all levels, it is important to know what change looks like from different points of view. How the teacher, student, local and national government see change is vital to understand how individuals and groups act and, indeed, react to each other. Reforming school systems to become inclusive is not only about putting in place recently-developed inclusive policies that meet the needs of all learners, but also about changing the culture of classrooms, schools, districts and universities etc. It is important to note that these change processes towards inclusion often begin on a small scale and involve overcoming some obstacles such as:

  • Existing attitudes and values
  • Lack of understanding
  • Lack of necessary skills
  • Limited resources
  • Inappropriate organization

Accepting change is really about learning. It means that schools should foster environments where teachers learn from experience in the same way that they expect their pupils should learn from the tasks and activities in which they are engaged. Teachers who regard themselves as learners in the classroom as more likely to successfully facilitate the learning of their pupils. The sensitivity they acquire as a result of reflecting on their own attempts to learn new ideas or new ways of working is influential in terms of they way children are dealt with in their classes.

There are several important conceptual elements that contribute to successful change. These include:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Realistic goals
  • Motivation
  • Support
  • Resources
  • Evaluation

There are several levels and dimensions to the educational change process, some of which are intangible. “Good change processes develop trust, relevance and the desire to get better results. Accountability and improvement can be effectively interwoven, but it requires great sophistication.”8However, it is important to recognize that some dimensions of change can effectively be measured. Such measurements include:

  • Direct benefits to children
  • Wider impact on policies, practices, ideas and beliefs
  • Enhanced children’s participation
  • Reduced discrimination (e.g. gender, disability, caste, minority status, etc)
  • Strengthened partnerships and improved collaboration between ministries, at the national and local level of government and at the community level
  • Development and strengthening of the education system, technology and pedagogy to include all learners

The following sections will explore some of these additional barriers and supports to change. The theoretical ideas and examples below are useful when trying to understand the barriers to change when implementing inclusive policies and practices.

Key players in support of inclusion – who are they?

Teachers, parents, communities, school authorities, curriculum planners, training institutes and entrepreneurs in the business of education are among the actors that can serve as valuable resources in support of inclusion. Some (teachers, parents and communities) are more than just a valuable resource; they are the key to supporting all aspects of the inclusion process. This involves a willingness to accept and promote diversity and to take an active role in the lives of students, both in and out of school. The optimal learning environment for inclusion depends largely upon the relationship among teachers, parents, other students and society. Ideally, effective inclusion involves implementation both in school and in society at large.

However, it is only rarely that such a symbiosis exists between the school and society. Thus, it is the regular teacher who has the utmost responsibility for the pupils and their day-to-day learning. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to ensure that school-accessible and child-centered programmes are elaborated, implemented and evaluated. The outcome of such programmes and the results of their evaluation will facilitate new incentives and ideas for teaching.

The discussion of a pupil’s progress and difficulties should involve the pupil and the pupil’s parents. No matter how successfully a child is taught at school, participation of the family, and in some cases the community, is deemed indispensable if one aims at ensuring that the child’s school learning is applied at home and in other real-life daily settings.

Family members and communities can be important resources – when informed, stimulated, entrusted and prepared in effective ways. Efforts should not be spared when guiding and directing families in work that is supportive to their child. It is often a great challenge to get the families of the most marginalised learners involved.

Attitudes and values – how can they affect inclusion?

It has been shown that teachers’ positive attitudes towards inclusion depend strongly on their experience with learners who are perceived as “challenging”. Teacher education, the availability of support within the classroom, class size and overall workload are all factors which influence teachers’ attitudes. Several studies have revealed that negative attitudes of teachers and adults (parents and other family members) are the major barrier to inclusion; children do not have prejudices unless adults show them. Thus, introducing inclusion as a guiding principle in these different areas will have implications for teachers’ attitudes.

Shared values make cooperation possible, just as lack of them makes it difficult for people to work together. However, when common values are lacking, common interests, which are precursors to values, may substitute for them and in daily life are often a significant driving force. Changes in attitudes involve significant changes in conceptions and role behaviour. Among other factors, this is why change is so difficult to achieve.

One successful example of a first experience with inclusive schooling was in Burkina Faso through the “Inclusive schools and community support programmes” project which, according to those involved, “contributed to tackling the problem of education of children with special educational needs, marginalized for too long, as well as to changing attitudes regarding these children.” A genuine new awareness on the part of parents and students was created. The pupils themselves observed such changes. One of them indicated that, “He was afraid to approach his comrades with intellectual disabilities, because it was said that they were inhabited by spirits and could contaminate you.” Now, he concluded, “I know that is not true. Now, we work and play together and I’ve learned to understand them, to like them and to help them when necessary.”

Negative attitudes towards differences and resulting discrimination and prejudice in society manifests itself as a serious barrier to learning. However, it is a barrier that can be overcome through the practice of inclusion and is not a necessary precursor to the process.

There are many misconceptions surrounding inclusion that often serve as obstacles to adopting an inclusive approach at the policy level which will be discussed in greater de-tail in the last section. Among them are:

  • Inclusion is costly
  • Implementing inclusion needs societal change in attitudes first
  • Inclusion is a positive theoretical concept, but is not practical
  • Inclusion requires special skills and capacities that are difficult to develop
  • Inclusion is the responsibility of the Social Ministry and not of the Ministry of Education
  • Inclusion is a disability-specific issue

Overcoming these misconceptions about inclusion is one of the challenges to change. Furthermore, in the process of changes required for incorporating inclusion as a guiding principle, conflict and disagreement can occur. This is both inevitable and is fundamental to successful change. Individuals involved in a change process may require some pressure to change, but change will only be effective when they are able and allowed to react to form their own positions on the change process. In many cases, policymakers, parents, teachers and other stakeholders in the school need to realise that inclusion is a process which requires changes at both the level of the education system as well as the school level. This can be challenging to accept as it may involve readjusting conceptual understandings and may have multiple practical consequences. “Some deep changes are at stake when we realise that people’s basic conceptions of the school system are involved, i.e. their occupational identity and sense of competence.”

Inclusion and equity in education

 

Diversity People’s differences which may relate to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, religion, mental and physical ability, class, and immigration status.

Equity Ensuring that there is a concern with fairness, such that the education of all learners is seen as being of equal importance.

Gender equality The understanding that women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and for contributing to, and benefiting from, economic, social, cultural and political development.

Inclusion A process that helps to overcome barriers limiting the presence, participation and achievement of learners

Inclusive education        Process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners

Individual education plan Written plan/programme with input from the parents that specifies the student’s academic goals and the method to obtain these goals.

Integration Learners labelled as having ‘special educational needs’ are placed in mainstream education settings with some adaptations and resources, but on condition that they can fit in with pre-existing structures, attitudes and an unaltered environment.

Mainstreaming/Mainstream The practice of educating students with learning challenges in regular classes during specific time-periods based on their skills.

education

Special education

Classes or instruction designed for students categorized as having special educational needs.

Special educational needs

A term used in some countries to refer to children with impairments that are seen as requiring additional support.

Inclusion and equity in education

Inclusion and equity in development agendas

The right of all children to education is asserted in numerous international treaties and texts, and has been affirmed by both legally binding and non-binding instruments. States therefore have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right of all learners to education (UNESCO, 2014).

The last 15 years have seen significant progress globally in expanding access to education, particularly at the primary level. Nevertheless, UNESCO’s most recent figures indicate that some 263 million children and youth aged between6 and 17 years, most of them girls, are not in school today (Global Education Monitoring Report, 2016). Projections indicate that 25 million of these children will never set foot in a classroom. Significant gender disparities exist, with girls representing two-thirds of the total number of children out of school.

Compared with the richest children, the poorest children are four times more likely to be out of school and five times more likely not to complete primary education (Global Education Monitoring Report, 2016). While the situation is most acute in the developing world, growing inequalities are also present in many wealthier countries, compounded mainly by increasing globalization and international migration.

The Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the goals of Education for All (EFA) – the global movement to ensure quality basic education for all children, youth and adults – and are specific about the kind of education that is needed in today’s world. SDG 4 calls for countries to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action has been adopted by the global education community to advance progress towards SDG4 and its targets. The Framework stresses the need to address all forms of exclusion and marginalization. It specifically calls for addressing inequalities related to access, participation, and learning processes and outcomes, paying particular attention to gender equality. This includes efforts to enable education systems to serve all learners, with a particular focus on those who have traditionally been excluded from educational opportunities. Excluded learners include those from the poorest households, ethnic and linguistic minorities, indigenous people, and persons with special needs and disabilities.

Inclusion and equity in educational policy

The central message is simple: every learner matters and matters equally. The complexity arises, however, when we try to put this message into practice. Implementing this message will likely require changes in thinking and practice at every level of an education system, from classroom teachers and others who provide educational experiences directly, to those responsible for national policy.

Education policy can influence and support inclusive thinking and practices by establishing the equal right of every individual to education, and by outlining the forms of teaching, support and leadership that lay the foundation for quality education for all (UNESCO, 2015).

Inclusion and equity in education

Key terms:

Inclusion is a process that helps overcome barriers limiting the presence, participation and achievement of learners.

Equity is about ensuring that there is a concern with fairness, such that the education of all learners is seen as having equal importance.

Developing policies that are inclusive and equitable requires the recognition that students’ difficulties arise from aspects of the education system itself, including: the ways in which education systems are organized currently, the forms of teaching that are provided, the learning environment, and the ways in which students’ progress is supported and evaluated.

Even more important is translating this recognition into concrete reforms, seeing individual differences not as problems to be fixed, but as opportunities for democratizing and enriching learning. Differences can act as a catalyst for innovation that can benefit all learners, whatever their personal characteristics and home circumstances.

Integrating the principles of equity and inclusion into education policy involves:

Implementing changes effectively and monitoring them for impact, recognizing that building inclusion and equity in education is an ongoing process, rather than a one‑time effort.

Bringing the principles of equity and inclusion into education policy also requires engaging other sectors, such as health, social welfare and child protection services, to ensure a common administrative and legislative framework for inclusive and equitable education.

Inclusive education for children with disabilities

Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized and excluded groups of children; routinely, they are denied their right to quality education. Policies vary considerably worldwide, with some countries prioritizing education for these children in different settings: special schools and centres; special classes in integrated schools; or inclusive schools which work to identify and remove barriers, and to enable every learner to participate and achieve in mainstream settings. Establishing inclusive schools is widely regarded as desirable for equality and human rights, and it has educational, social and economic benefits.

— Valuing the presence, participation and achievement of all learners, regardless of their contexts and personal characteristics.

— Recognizing the benefits of student diversity, and how to live with, and learn from, difference.

— Collecting, collating and evaluating evidence on children’s barriers to education access, to participation and to achievement, with particular attention to learners who may be most at risk of underachievement, marginalization or exclusion.

— Building a common understanding that more inclusive and equitable education systems have the potential to promote gender equality, reduce inequalities, develop teacher and system capabilities, and encourage supportive learning environments. These various efforts will, in turn, contribute to overall improvements in educational quality.

— Engaging key education and community stakeholders to foster the conditions for inclusive learning, and to foster a broader understanding of the principles of inclusion and equity.

Many factors can work either to facilitate inclusive and equitable practices within education systems.

Some of those factors are: teacher skills infrastructure, pedagogical strategies and the curriculum.

These are all variables which education ministries either control directly, or over which they can considerable influence.

“The central message is simple: every learner matters and matters equally.”

Inclusion and equity in education

Inclusion and equity in development agendas

The right of all children to education is asserted in numerous international treaties and texts, and has been affirmed by both legally binding and non-binding instruments. States therefore have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right of all learners to education (UNESCO, 2014).

The last 15 years have seen significant progress globally in expanding access to education, particularly at the primary level. Nevertheless, UNESCO’s most recent figures indicate that some 263 million children and youth aged between6 and 17 years, most of them girls, are not in school today (Global Education Monitoring Report, 2016). Projections indicate that 25 million of these children will never set foot in a classroom. Significant gender disparities exist, with girls representing two-thirds of the total number of children out of school.

Compared with the richest children, the poorest children are four times more likely to be out of school and five times more likely not to complete primary education (Global Education Monitoring Report, 2016). While the situation is most acute in the developing world, growing inequalities are also present in many wealthier countries, compounded mainly by increasing globalization and international migration.

The Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the goals of Education for All (EFA) – the global movement to ensure quality basic education for all children, youth and adults – and are specific about the kind of education that is needed in today’s world. SDG 4 calls for countries to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action has been adopted by the global education community to advance progress towards SDG4 and its targets. The Framework stresses the need to address all forms of exclusion and marginalization. It specifically calls for addressing inequalities related to access, participation, and learning processes and outcomes, paying particular attention to gender equality. This includes efforts to enable education systems to serve all learners, with a particular focus on those who have traditionally been excluded from educational opportunities. Excluded learners include those from the poorest households, ethnic and linguistic minorities, indigenous people, and persons with special needs and disabilities.

Inclusion and equity in educational policy

The central message is simple: every learner matters and matters equally. The complexity arises, however, when we try to put this message into practice. Implementing this message will likely require changes in thinking and practice at every level of an education system, from classroom teachers and others who provide educational experiences directly, to those responsible for national policy.

Education policy can influence and support inclusive thinking and practices by establishing the equal right of every individual to education, and by outlining the forms of teaching, support and leadership that lay the foundation for quality education for all (UNESCO, 2015b).

Strategic Planning for Inclusion – Inclusion Matrix Worksheet

The worksheet which follows the Checklist Questions, is intended as a tool to help identify and analyze your current situation including your strengths (e.g., available resources that currently support inclusion; statement(s) on inclusion in your National /EFA Plan) and needs (e.g., resources that are needed to support inclusion, challenges that need to be overcome; gaps in your Plan or your system related to moving toward inclusion).

Checklist Questions

  1. Situation analysis
  2. Have studies, needs-based analyses, etc. been undertaken to identify and address the needs and challenges of the children missing out on education or at risk of dropping out? If so, what are the findings?
  3. Are any measures being taken with regard to data collection, indicators and statistics to ascertain the magnitude of marginalized and excluded children in the country?
  4. What accommodations in teaching are made to ensure access for children with disabilities, ethnic and language minorities?
  5. What capacity exists to build and strengthen community level involvement (eg. CBR, C-EMIS, ECCD initiatives)?
  6. Policy, goals, objectives
  7. Which are the main action programmes in regard to marginalized/excluded/vulnerable groups? Is there specific mention made of particular groups? Are children with disabilities and other groups specifically planned for?
  8. Are there specific policies/programmes/strategies in place to identify out-of-school children, provide speed-up and/or second chance educational opportunities? Are there specific family-based strategies to support them on a financial and/or emotional basis?
  9. What are the linkages between formal and non-formal education in the plans/pro grammes for more inclusive education?
  10. Do current educational policies favor particular groups at the expense of marginalized ones? If so, in which ways? Does this create obstacles to inclusion?
  11. Is there any policy statement with regard to excluded groups? Are any particular groups specified?
  12. Is there a policy statement regarding language of instruction?
  13. Is there language with negative connotations referring to excluded/marginalized groups? If so, how can this be changed?
  14. What kinds of priorities are reflected in the country’s objectives of education? Do these priorities stimulate or discourage inclusion?
  15. Does the plan include provisions or measures regarding access to the curriculum for all learners?
  • Does the plan include provisions or measures regarding physical access to school for all learners?
  • Is reference made to UN declarations, the Salamanca Statement, the Dakar Frame work of Action? The Convention on the Rights of the Child?
  • Are references made to quality of/in education?
  • Does the plan address required competence and quality of teachers in relation to inclusion?
  • What are the main objectives and targets for the education described in the plan?
  • Does the plan make reference to the EFA and/or Millennium Development Goals?
  1. Implementation
  2. Who are the partners/service providers in the provision of education (other Ministries, private, etc)? Does the responsibility of education for certain categories of children lie with other Ministries?
  3. How are education costs shared? Do parents/family have to assume direct and/or in-direct costs for the educational process of their children?
  4. Is education regarded as a Right for all children? Are there mechanisms to ensure that this right be fulfilled? Is there an Ombudsperson or mechanism for the imple-mentation of the Rights of the Child?
  5. Is the curriculum flexible enough to allow for appropriate adaptation? Does it alienate certain social and cultural groups? Does it permit progression and accreditation for all students?
  6. Do the plans reflect the readiness to deal with disasters or events that affect access to education?
  7. Monitoring and evaluation
  8. Is registration data collected on all children which would allow identification of those not in school?
  9. Are there mechanisms to identify children already in schools, but excluded from quality education?
  10. Does the plan establish a school-community mechanism to identify children not in schools, and are ways identified to ensure they enroll and learn? Are children encouraged to identify peers in the community not in school?
  11. Do the plans discuss flexibility in the assessment procedures to evaluate learning?
  12. Capacity-building/stakeholder involvement/participation
  13. Which stakeholders (parents, pupils, managers, etc) have been consulted in the elaboration of the plan?
  14. How do international conferences, research, etc. feed into policies and programming?
  15. In which ways are parents/communities expected to be involved? To what extent are parents/communities supported, how and by whom?
  16. Are there social mobilization and communication strategies/materials to support and create public awareness for inclusion?
  17. What resources are allocated for plans/programmes with regard to inclusion? What are additional sources of support for education (private sector, community, bilateral, etc)?
  18. Are pupil participation and cooperative learning encouraged?

 


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