In the early childhood education and care (ECEC) setting, we may come in contact with chidlren who have diverse educational needs that have or have not been indentified. Inclusive education is ratified by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and it is promoted throughout the government documentation such as; the early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki (MoE, 1996), Quality in Action (MoE, 1998), and others. This essay will explore 'labeling' through critial analysis of the languages being used. It will also endeavour to identify inclusive education, respectful practices and strategies to respond to all children's diverse needs.
“Inclusive education is 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” (p.7).
As the quote of UNESCO (2003) suggests, 'inclusive education' is all about recognising and valuing human diversity that everybody has the right to access and participate in quality education equally with appropriate support aids or services (Allen & Cowdery, 2009; Cullen, 2010; Mitchell, 2010). Human Rights Act 1993 and The National Advisory Committee on Special Education (1999) mandates to offer quality education for all the children while respecting diversity and the different needs and abilities, characteristics and learning expectations of the children and their families (MoE, 1996; 2000; W.Y.D. Production, 2000). It involves challenges in modifications, approaches, practices and strategies, at the same time it benefits all people involved; children, their families, community and the services (Palmer, 2001). Inclusive education in the ECEC sector is an ongoing process that is increasingly considered to be the provision of high quality and diverse learning environments for all; it is no longer seen as for the specific groups or targeted categories (Allen & Cowdery, 2009; MoE, 2000). The Health Survey found 7 per cent of childrn in early childhood in New Zealand have a long term illness or disability. One-third of those are reported impairments to hearing and sight (Bird & Drewery, 2003). As Te Whāriki (MoE, 1996) is designed to be inclusive and relevant for all children, it is mandatory for ECEC services in Aotearoa to provide the programme that fit to all children (Lyons, 2005; MoE, 2005). However, inclusive education is not to put everybody in the same boat. It is rather to provide the suitable type of the boat for the conditions in order to make everybody sail to the goal safely. In other words, it is not just to respond separately to the special needs but rather to respond to the diverse or unique 'characteristics' of each child (Cullen, 2010). Therefore, the settings must emphasise on flexibility to respond and to adjust to all the diverse needs rather than emphasis on diversity (MoE, 2000; Purdue, 2006 ). Without this vision, respect for diversity is disregarded, and exclusion, segregation, stigmatisation and labeling may occur as an implementation of inclusive practices (Allen & Cowdery, 2009; Palmer, 2001).
There are some arguments about the power of the langauge; the use and need of labeling...