Inclusive Education: Classrooms for All

As every person has valuable skills, experiences, and ideas to contribute to society, it is important to provide every person with equal access to education resources. Education not only valuable for a person’s development as an individual, it is a necessary key to access opportunities and jobs in a society. The World Report on Disability estimates that there are “between 93 and 150 million school-aged children with disabilities globally” (UNESCO 9). Children with physical or mental disabilities are being excluded from classrooms around the world, limiting their opportunities and putting them behind the starting line from a young age.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that “up to 35 percent of students in OECD countries require some form of special support to meet their individual learning needs during their school careers” (UNESCO 10). As many teachers around the world do not have training on how to identify students with disabilities, the students are often left out classroom lessons or sometimes even punished if teachers do not understand the disability. We need more worldwide trainings on ways to identify and include children with disabilities in the classroom, so that everyone has the opportunity to learn on a level playing field. Each learner should be able to maximize their full potential and celebrate their own special gifts.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) will be an essential element to developing inclusive education systems. ICTs allow all students to learn based on their individual learning needs. ICTs include online classrooms and digital learning environments, communication aids such as screen readers and alternative keyboards, and accessible media formats (UNESCO 11). A “one size fits all” teaching method does not work because we do not have just one kind of student – every person has methods that work better for them. Inclusive technologies account for different learning needs, give students the tools they need to succeed, and remove the barriers put into place by only having one teaching method.

To incorporate ICTs in classrooms around the world, there needs to be a greater emphasis on policy changes and increased funding for inclusive education. Policy objectives include the learner level, organization level, and system level. At the learner level, ICTs should be included not only in traditional educational settings, but also in lifelong learning and social spaces (UNESCO 22). At the organization level, educational organizations should be working with ICTs to increase participation learning opportunities (UNESCO 22). At the system level, ICT stakeholders must agree that technology is effective in creating more inclusive learning spaces, active dialogue must be present, and effective data must be present to continue policy support (UNESCO 22). Funding should be secured from a variety of budgets, including health, education, social affairs, and information society sectors (UNESCO 42).

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares education as a human right for all. Inclusive education is the cornerstone to the human right to education, as every person has the right to have their education meet their learning needs. As we strive to make education inclusive for all learning needs, we will see learners growing both inside and outside of the classroom. If all learners are able to grow to their full potential, the world will grow too, as we will see the full impact of combining every person’s skills and ideas.