Inclusive Classrooms

Education is the first space in which discrimination can occur. Regardless of whether it is because of race, gender, or disability individuals can be subjected to exclusion and fall behind. Amartya Sen notes education as a key as to development and therefore the freedom to choose. Those who lack education are unfortunately penalized in the global economy and this disproportionately affects minorities more than any other group. It should be noted that currently there are 745 million adults worldwide who are illiterate and 114 million young people lack these basic skills as well.

            Inclusive education is an approach to development that emphasizes equal access and opportunities in an educational space. This can come in many forms, from making the spaces physical more inclusive with technology and modifications; cognitively more inclusive by providing adjustments for learning styles; or emotionally more inclusive through support systems and counseling. In some sense, almost every student has some challenge in the classroom as even the most physically and cognitively capable students learn and function in different manners.

ITCs are a unique tool that can help blur the barriers of exclusion for all students. This can involve virtual classroom experiences, oral or listening tools, and handheld devices. Furthermore, these tools can increase engagement and learning as they can cater to a wide variety of needs. ITCs can benefit the educational experience for all student, regardless of the disabilities. However, there are numerous drawbacks to these instruments. For one, ITCs are not widely accessible in developing countries. For schools that lack teachers, clean water for students, or electricity, it will be difficult to institute ITCs to increase inclusion when they can barely trust their standing infrastructure. Additionally, since there are such a wide variety of physical and learning disabilities how do schools know what to prioritize as it cannot be assumed that all ITC tools will aid all students.

Nevertheless, the use of technology to increase education inclusion has proven useful and possible. Duolingo, an app designed to help individuals learn a language through a game style platform, as over 300 million users.  The company’s next goal is to help tackle illiteracy through a similar platform. In a podcast by The Economist the founder of Duolingo, Luis Von Ahn, explained the concept of increasing literacy through this platform. He notes that almost everyone has access to the smartphone and that through this they can increase literacy. Even such a simple tool like a smartphone can help equalize educational opportunities for those with physical or learning disabilities. Furthermore, if more apps and simple tools are created to break down classroom walls and bring education to all then inevitably education will become more inclusive.