Inclusive education is about looking at the ways our schools, classrooms, programs and lessons are designed so that all children can participate and learn. Inclusion is also about finding different ways of teaching so that classrooms actively involve all children. It also means finding ways to develop friendships, relationships and mutual respect between all children, and between children and teachers in the school.
Inclusive education is not just for some children. Being included is not something that a child must be ready for. All children are at all times ready to attend regular schools and classrooms. Their participation is not something that must be earned.
Inclusive education is a way of thinking about how to be creative to make our schools a place where all children can participate. Creativity may mean teachers learning to teach in different ways or designing their lessons so that all children can be involved.
As a value, inclusive education reflects the expectation that we want all of our children to be appreciated and accepted throughout life.
Beliefs and Principles
- All children can learn
- All children attend age appropriate regular classrooms in their local schools
- All children receive appropriate educational programs
- All children receive a curriculum relevant to their needs
- All children participate in co-curricular and extracurricular activities
- All children benefit from cooperation, collaboration among home, among school, among community
From Best Practices for Inclusion, New Brunswick Department of Education, 1994
Does Inclusive Education Mean That All Children Should Never Leave Their Regular Classrooms?
Inclusive education means that all children are educated in regular classrooms. It does not, however, mean that individual children cannot leave the classroom for specific reasons. For example, a child may require one-on-one assistance in a particular subject. This may or may not be happening during regular class time. Once schools are inclusive, serious thought is given to how often a child may be out of regular classroom and the reasons that this may be happening It does not mean that children with certain characteristics (for example, those who have disabilities) are grouped together in separate classrooms for all or part of the school day.
Key Features of Inclusive Education
- Generally, inclusive education will be successful if these important features and practices are followed:
- Accepting unconditionally all children into regular classes and the life of the school.
- Providing as much support to children, teachers and classrooms as necessary to ensure that all children can participate in their schools and classes.
- Looking at all children at what they can do rather then what they cannot do.
- Teachers and parents have high expectations of all children.
- Developing education goals according to each child’s abilities. This means that children do not need to have the same education goals in order to learn together in regular classes.
- Designing schools and classes in ways that help children learn and achieve to their fullest potential (for example, by developing class time tables for allowing more individual attention for all students).
- Having strong leadership for inclusion from school principals and other administrators.
- Having teachers who have knowledge about different ways of teaching so that children with various abilities and strengths can learn together.
- Having principals, teachers, parents and others work together to determine the most affective ways of providing a quality education in an inclusive environment.
The Benefits of Inclusive Education
Over the years, the benefits of providing an inclusive education to all children have been shown. Inclusive education (when practiced well) is very important because:
- All children are able to be part of their community and develop a sense of belonging and become better prepared for life in the community as children and adults.
- It provides better opportunities for learning. Children with varying abilities are often better motivated when they learn in classes surrounded by other children.
- The expectations of all the children are higher. Successful inclusion attempts to develop an individual’s strengths and gifts.
- It allows children to work on individual goals while being with other students their own age.
- It encourages the involvement of parents in the education of their children and the activities of their local schools.
- It fosters a culture of respect and belonging. It also provides the opportunity to learn about and accept individual differences.
- It provides all children with opportunities to develop friendships with one another. Friendships provide role models and opportunities for growth.