What is Inclusive Education ?

Inclusive education is a transformative approach that recognizes and celebrates the diverse range of abilities, backgrounds, and learning styles that students bring to the classroom.

Typewriter with a paper inserted. On the paper, the word inclusivity is written.
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Inclusive education is a transformative approach that recognizes and celebrates the diverse range of abilities, backgrounds, and learning styles that students bring to the classroom. This article delves into the world of inclusive education, exploring its meaning, dissect the differentiated instruction and universal design for learning arguments and summarize 4 major components of inclusive education.

💡 Lessons learnt: When every learner is included and catered for, we all win.

Understanding Inclusive Education.

Inclusive education is a philosophy that fosters the full participation of all students, including those with disabilities or special educational needs, in mainstream classrooms. The definition of inclusion in the Statement is quite broad and goes beyond the concept of disability to include ‘Education for All’ (EFA), a target specified by many regional and international organizations in various initiatives. The fundamental concept behind inclusion is that every student should have the opportunity to learn together whenever feasible, and mainstream schools should cater to the varying needs of individual students. For this purpose, schools should receive the necessary support and services. At present a well defined framework hasn't been agreed on. While several ideas have surfaced, one undeniable discovery is that the sense of being part of a school community is strongly associated with increased life satisfaction and improved academic performance. (Kurowski et al, 2022).

Differentiated Instruction and Universal Design for Learning

Differentiated instruction is an instructional approach that recognizes the diversity of learners in a classroom and aims to cater to their unique needs, abilities, and learning styles. According to Tomlinson and Allan (2000), differentiated instruction emphasizes flexibility and adaptability in teaching. It involves a variety of strategies, including modifying the curriculum, providing alternative assessments, and offering different pathways for students to access and interact with the content. One article by a university professor cited a study in Estonia argued that while children with physical disabilities might fit into inclusive education, it's problematic for those raised with vastly different principles or significant cognitive disabilities. He suggested that true inclusive education would require highly homogeneous societies with uniform child-rearing practices and family values, as differences in children's behaviors and needs could make it challenging for all to learn together without anyone suffering. Thus, he concluded that different environments are needed for different children. (Ali et al 2021)

In contrast to those who propose creating different educational settings for various children, advocates for inclusive education, including scholars, policymakers, teachers, and parents, emphasize that all children in a society should have an equal right to receive adequate opportunities for developing their well-being, agency, identities, and competences. This is crucial for them to participate fully and equally in society. Inspired by social - constructivist learning approaches, educators supporting inclusion argue that child development is shaped not only by inherent abilities but also by shared social values, access to education, technology (including assistive tech), and other social resources. Quality support and equal participation in a community are seen as essential components of child development, and achieving this objective is unlikely if some children are educated in segregated contexts. (Ali et al 2021)

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) underscores that inclusive education is a fundamental human right for every child with a disability, defining it as a system accommodating all students regardless of their abilities or needs, across all educational levels. This stance is supported by several factors: educationally, inclusive systems promote more effective learning for all children; socially, they contribute to more inclusive societies; and economically, they are cost-effective. However, not all countries fully endorse Article 24 of the CRPD; for instance, the United Kingdom government, while ratifying the UNCRPD, has specific reservations related to preserving parents' rights to choose special school education, a policy in place for over a decade, with widespread support from the public for parents to choose between mainstream and special schools. (Norwich 2022)

Major Components of Inclusive Education

While a number of different approaches have been taken by different countries and schools in ensuring every student is given the opportunity to learn, the following components remain prevalent in these different approaches, each contributing to the creation of an inclusive learning environment:

1. Curricular Inclusion: This involves adapting the curriculum to accommodate diverse learning needs. It may include modifying instructional materials, offering alternative assessments, or providing additional support.

2. Physical Inclusion: Physical inclusion ensures that schools are physically accessible to all students. This encompasses wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms, and other facilities that enable students with physical disabilities to navigate the school environment.

3. Social Inclusion: Social inclusion focuses on fostering a sense of belonging among all students. Activities such as peer mentoring and inclusive extracurricular programs promote positive social interactions.

4. Family and Community Engagement: Inclusive education extends beyond the classroom. Engaging families and the broader community creates a network of support that enhances the educational experience for all students.


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Kurowski M., Černý M., Trapl F. (2022) ‘A review study of research articles on the barriers to inclusive education in primary schools’, Journal on Efficiency and Responsibility in Education and Science, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 116-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.7160/eriesj.2022.150206

Tomlinson, C. A., & Allan, S. D. (2000). Leadership for Differentiating Schools and Classrooms. ASCD.

Leijen, Ä., Arcidiacono, F., & Baucal, A. (2021). The Dilemma of Inclusive Education: Inclusion for Some or Inclusion for All. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.633066

Norwich, B. (2022). Research about inclusive education: Are the scope, reach, and limits empirical and methodological and/or conceptual and evaluative? Frontiers in Education, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2022.937929

UNESCO. (2009). Policy Guidelines on Inclusion in Education. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000185909

Friend, M., & Bursuck, W. D. (2018). Including Students with Special Needs: A Practical Guide for Classroom Teachers. Pearson.

Pijl, S. J., Frostad, P., & Mjaavatn, P. E. (2014). Inclusive Education in Europe: Different Countries, Different Approaches. Routledge.

Slee, R. (2011). The Irregular School: Exclusion, Schooling, and Inclusive Education. Routledge.