What Is Inclusive Education and How Will This Shape Your Teaching Practice?

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What is inclusive education and how will this shape your teaching practice?

3142/7278EBL – Assignment 1

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Introduction An inclusive education upholds the ideals of an equitable society where access to and successful participation in education are considered to be the right of every person in that society. This paper will argue that whilst some steps have been taken to ensure equity in education for all, there is still a long way to go before Australia can provide a truly inclusive educational experience for all participants. It will be shown that there are deficit based and systemic approaches to exclusion and that rather than promote inclusiveness; these approaches place the blame upon either individuals or institutions for exclusive practices. It will further be shown that for some equity groups, participation and successful outcomes are limited due to the socio-cultural nature of exclusivity experienced by these groups. In particular, education equity issues for Indigenous Australians will be examined. The role of government legislation and policy, and the nature of teaching practices that shape inclusivity will also be explored.

What is inclusive education? According to Thomas & Vaughan (2004, p. 17), an inclusive education is that which seeks to include all participants, regardless of “disability, poverty, gender or culture,” or as Kalantzis & Cope (2000, p. 36), describes it, the “relationship of diversity to access”. In modern Australian society socio-cultural factors have led to groups of people being disadvantaged in terms of access to and participation in education. These factors may include ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, impairment, language, literacy or numeracy needs, cultural differences, gender, disengagement, age, religion, remote locations, or a combination of several of these factors (Krause, Bochner & Duchesne, 2003, pp. 263-299).

To pretend that there are no differences between people would be absurd according to Tawney (cited in Thomas & Vaughan, 2004, p. 8), and these differences should be celebrated

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rather than neutralised. Tawney also believes that the society that places a high degree of value on equality will also value the differences in the character and intelligence of the individual and will seek to diminish economic and social differences between groups (p.9). In order to do this effectively the ‘hidden curriculum’ will need to be addressed (Krause, et al, 2003, p. 267). This curriculum is a system of beliefs held by the mainstream culture and conveyed implicitly to the learners. An example of hidden curriculum is knowing how to behave in an Australian classroom. For some, such as Indigenous or ethnic groups, learning practices may be very different in their own culture and they may not be aware of the expectations upon them in terms of behaviours and interactions with others. The inclusive teacher with awareness of hidden curriculum matters would endeavour to make all students aware of classroom expectations before commencing instruction, including using the students’ own cultures as part of the learning process; however the hidden curriculum can also manifest itself in class texts and resources as a reflection of the dominant culture (Krause, et al, 2003, p. 267).

Explanation for unequal outcomes. There are two main explanations of unequal outcomes. The first is the ‘deficit based’ approach which places the problem, or deficiency, with the student. Considine, Watson & Hall (2005), describe a similar theory, the ‘individual characteristics’ approach where the student fails to fit in with the educational system. Thomas & Vaughan (2004, p. 16), examine the American approach where learners may be described as having ‘learning disabilities’ and the British approach where learners may have ‘special needs’. Learning disability implies that the problem is with the person and that little can be done about it. The learner must adapt to the norm in order to...
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