Since 1994 the Salamanca Statement has been pivotal in encouraging nations to move toward inclusive education. Much progress has been made, yet the question must be asked if inclusive education has now plateaued. Inclusive education can be compared to a bicycle, where momentum powers it forward and it must continually move in order to stay upright. Along with movement, there also needs to be a clear direction of travel. Movement for the sake of movement will not bode well. If full inclusion is to succeed as a universal reality, not just an admirable goal, then it must become clear how to push the majority of countries forward, thus achieving full inclusion for most rather than a few. In many countries the reality of the principles of inclusive education are not reflected in everyday schooling. There have been many successes in inclusive education over many years in many countries, and these should be celebrated. Many consider full inclusion to be an over-reach by inclusivists, with most countries not achieving full inclusion; however, others argue that it is still attainable. From this point, where can the inclusion movement go? Has it, in effect, reached the end of its journey—like a bicycle with no rider, which eventually will fall over?
Christopher Boyle and Joanna Anderson
Barbara Pazey and Bertina Combes
The United States and other developed countries have acknowledged and supported the rights of students with disabilities to receive an appropriate education for decades. The role of the principal and school leader in overseeing educational programs and ensuring these entitlements become a reality for students with disabilities has taken center stage. Discussions related to principals and school leaders fulfilling the roles of leader and manager on behalf of students with disabilities linked the complementary disciplines of general and special education leadership. The leadership approach they adopted led to debates surrounding the concept of inclusion and the provision of an inclusive education on behalf of students with disabilities. Current definitions of inclusive education are typically linked to concepts of equity, social justice, and recognition of the student’s civil right to be granted full membership in all aspects of the educational enterprise. The processes involved in creating an inclusive school environment require principals and school leaders to examine the values and beliefs that influence their own thinking and behaviors before they can communicate a vision of inclusion. Principals and school leaders must be willing to act in concert with others to create the type of school culture that unanimously and positively responds to difference so every student can achieve full membership and feel welcomed and valued.
Fraser Lauchlan and Christopher Boyle
The use of labels in inclusive education is a complex issue. Some have argued that labels are a necessary evil in the allocation of limited resources in order to support children with specific additional support needs, and others argue that they bring comfort and relief for children and their families and lead to an intervention program that will improve children’s educational opportunities. Further arguments about the use of labels have included that they lead to a wider and better understanding of certain needs that children may have, and thus there is more tolerance and less stigmatization among the general public. However, counterarguments can be made for each of these issues as to whether the use of labels can truly be considered a valuable practice in the sphere of inclusive education.
Jayanthi Narayan and Nibedita Patnaik
Education is a fundamental right of all children, including those with special educational needs. Efforts to achieve education for all has resulted in the focused attention of governments around the world, thereby improving the quality of education in schools and leading to dignified social status for students previously marginalized and/or denied admission to schools. This worldwide movement following various international conventions and mandates has resulted in local efforts to reach rural remote areas, with education provided by the government in most countries. Though there has been significant progress in reaching children, it has not been uniform. There are still many barriers for children in rural and tribal areas or in remote parts of the country that prevent them from receiving equitable education. The essence of inclusive education is to build the capacity to reach out to all children, thereby promoting equity. In the 1990s, special needs education was a focus, and integrating it into the overall educational system led to reforms in mainstream schools which resulted in inclusive education that addressed the diverse learning needs of children. How successful have we been in these efforts particularly in the remote and rural areas? There are various models and practices for special and inclusive education in rural and remote areas, but reaching children with special educational needs in such areas is still a challenge. Though there are schools in these areas, not all are sufficiently equipped to address the education of children with special needs. Furthermore, teachers working in rural areas in many countries are not adequately trained to teach those with special needs, nor are there the technological support systems that we find available in urban areas. Yet, interestingly, in some rural/tribal communities, the teachers are naturally at ease with children with diverse needs. The schools in such areas tend to have heterogeneous classes with one teacher providing instruction to combined groups at different grade levels. Evidence shows that rural teachers are less resistant to including children with special needs compared to urban teachers. Because of their homogeneous lifestyle, community supports in rural areas offer another supportive factor toward smooth inclusion. Though primary education is ensured in most rural and remote areas, children have to travel long distances to semi-urban/urban areas for secondary and higher education; such travel is further complicated when the child has a disability. In many rural areas, children with special needs tend to learn the traditional job skills naturally associated with that area, though such skills are not always blended into the school curriculum. Preparing teachers to provide education in rural areas with the latest technological developments and a focus on vocation is bound to make that education more meaningful and naturally inclusive.