November 30, 2012
What is inclusive education?
Inclusive education means that all students, including children with disabilities, are taught in regular classrooms alongside other children of their own age without disabilities. It means that children with disabilities are provided with the same learning opportunities as children without disabilities. They go to the same schools, are in the same classrooms, and are involved in the same activities and exercises (academic and social) as children without disabilities. Inclusive education provides the basis for the social, emotional and intellectual development of children with disabilities; ensuring development to the child’s fullest potential and ensuring that they develop the skills that will require in their lifetimes. The Canadian Association for Community Living describes inclusive education as “children go to their community or neighbourhood school and receive instruction in a regular class setting with non-disabled peers who are the same age. This approach is the only way we can provide education to a diverse population in a way that respects the complex fabric of our society in the 21st century. Inclusion is now a Canadian value that needs to be practiced in our schools” (CACL). Inclusive education brings together all students of the same age group in one classroom (regardless of disability). It provides students with learning opportunities in a supportive learning environment, helping to ensure that children with disabilities reach their full potential. Inclusive education is about ensuring that each and every student receives a quality education regardless of their disability (this could be extended to age, gender, race, etc. and not simply disabilities) (Porter, 2008). It builds on the strengths of all students; maximizing their potential and providing the same learning opportunities without discrimination. Inclusive education is based on the premise that all students have the right to knowledge, skills, and information that will help them to be contributing members of society and the community. Inclusive education can help to change societies’ perception of the disabled. All people must be provided with the opportunities to develop and live life to their fullest potential (CACL). The Canadian educational system has changed a great deal in the past few decades. Education has often been considered as a privilege and many children did not benefit from the public school system. This situation was worse for children with disabilities; at best they were separated out within the school system. At worst, they did not attend school at all. Provincial education systems developed all sorts of segregated special education programs, with little or no consistency across the country. Segregated schools for children with disabilities were the rule until the early 1980s when there was a strong push from advocates for children with disabilities to include all children (both able bodied and disabled) in regular schools and classrooms. The end of segregation in the educational system was supported by equality provisions of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into force in 1985. First came the demand for integration of students with disabilities and, later the demand was for inclusion. Inclusion is now an element of Canada’s educational system (Porter, 2008). Integration was a first step towards inclusion. Integration increases the opportunities for the participation of a child who has a disability within the educational system of a school; whereas, inclusion is the full participation of a child who has a disability within the educational system of a school (Advocacy for Inclusion Inc.). The difference between integration and inclusion is illustrated by the two diagrams below.
The right to have children with disabilities included in the regular school system and the classroom has slowly developed over the...