Inclusive Education: Where there are few resources

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This book aims to provide a background and critical overview of key issues, concepts and strategies in relation to inclusive education, that are relevant to situations where economic resources and access to information is limited .

The importance of proper resourcing for inclusion is highlighted in the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and other disability documents. There is still a long

way to go before Education for All becomes a reality, and it will not work unless there is more grassroots participation and effective allocation of resources

Inclusive education has diverse origins and influences, which include: communities; activists and advocates; professional-based movements (quality education, school improvement, school effectiveness, special needs); international governmental and non-governmental agencies; and the realities of the world situation and practical experience. Some influences are stronger than others. All have a contribution to make, though they rarely work together. Grassroots perspectives always need to be sought, but community and activist voices are often insufficiently listened to.

Debates about the definition of inclusive education are important. There are many different understandings and interpretations which can affect whether or not outcomes are successful and sustainable. The key issue is that inclusive education is based on a rights and social model; the system should adapt to the child, not the child to the system. The ‘twin-track’ approach is also important, focusing both on changing the system and supporting learners who are vulnerable to exclusion. A rights-based framework can be useful for pulling together key components of quality education for all, but also has its challenges and tensions.

There is still confusion about terms such as special, integrated and inclusive education, mainstreaming and small units. These terms have different underlying values and beliefs, and thus different consequences in practice. Chapter 3 addresses common misunderstandings.

Lessons learned from poorer countries in the South emphasise that inclusive education is not just about schools; it is much broader, encompassing a wide range of community initiatives and alternatives to formal schooling, from birth throughout life. It can be seen as a movement that upholds key values, beliefs and principles in relation to children, the essence of education, diversity and discrimination, participatory processes, and resources. Many of these challenge the status quo, but are necessary if society and development as a whole are to become inclusive, and benefit all citizens. Inclusive education is an evolving concept. In the past it has focused on learners’ characteristics or the location of learning, but is now moving towards concepts of participation and power.

Putting inclusive education into practice is often thought to be just about introducing specific techniques and methods to enable individual children to learn. These methods have their place and can provoke a deeper debate about inclusive education. But on their own, they will not lead to appropriate, sustainable inclusive education programmes. Three key ‘ingredients’ are proposed for developing inclusive education that can adapt, grow and survive in a range of contexts: a strong framework – the skeleton (values, beliefs, principles and indicators of success) implementation within the local context and culture – the flesh (taking account of the practical situation, resource use, and cultural factors) on-going participation and self-critical reflection – the life-blood (who should be involved, how, what and when).Together these three ingredients can produce a strong, locally appropriate, flexible and sustainable education system that includes all children.

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