Inclusive education is a topic that greatly interests me. It is an international strategy that was first advocated for in the 90’s in international documents. Inclusive education, while not a right in all countries, is an educational model that encourages the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. Its pedagogical approach hinges on the belief that students with disabilities can and should be included with students without disabilities and students with disabilities are capable of being held to the same academic standards. The push for inclusive education has been simultaneously successful and challenging. Countries are now encouraged to enroll students with disabilities in general public schools, so their enrollment rates are increasing.
However, once students with disabilities are inside the classroom, they face another battle for the quality of their education. It is difficult to include students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms because whether it is an intellectual or physical disability, they often need specialized and individualized instruction. This presents a very difficult situation for mainstream teachers. Many mainstream teachers are not trained in special education, differentiated teaching or individualized instruction, so they are often at a loss for ways to truly include students with disabilities in the classroom.
Additionally, some disability communities do not want inclusive education. As I mentioned in the efficacy of global frameworks piece, these global goals and strategies are not universal, nor are they effective for everyone. While inclusive education may be an excellent option for some disability communities, others are advocating for their own special schools. Recently in another class, I had two professors from Gallaudet University come and discuss education for deaf persons. Through personal experience, they testified that special schools for deaf students are often the most effective way for these students to obtain a high quality of education. Even though they are separated from mainstream students, they have a tight knit community and the resources to effectively educate their students.
While in a mainstream school, one of the professors shared his challenges with the quality of education. Without the money, resources or knowledge to provide materials for him to learn, he was left sitting by himself, unengaged in class with only his textbook to inform him. When he transferred to a school for the deaf, he was able to make friends, have classroom discussions and participate in after school activities. While this experience does not speak for all deaf communities, it is important to remember that inclusive education is not a blanket solution to education for persons with disabilities.