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Article

Inclusive education is a widely accepted pedagogical and policy principle, but its genesis has been long and, at times, difficult. For example, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights included statements about rights and freedoms that have, over the decades, been used to promote inclusive educational practices. Article 26 of the Declaration stated that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This declaration later helped some parent groups and educators to advocate for equal access to schooling in regular settings, and for parental choice about where their child would be educated. Following the widespread influence of the human rights-based principle of normalization, the concept of inclusive education received major impetus from the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in the United States in 1975, the United Nations (UN) International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A major focus of the UN initiatives has been the right of people with a disability to participate fully in society. This focus has obvious consequences for the way education is provided to students with a disability or other additional educational needs. For many years, up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the major focus for such students was on the provision of separate specialized services, with limited attention to the concept of full participation in society. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there has been increasing acceptance, through parental action, systemic policy, and government legislation, of inclusivity as a basic philosophical principle. Both the type of instruction that should be provided to students with a disability and the location of that instruction in regular or specialized settings have been topics for advocacy and research, sometimes with mixed and/or controversial conclusions.

Article

Ann Cheryl Armstrong and Derrick Armstrong

The Pacific island countries occupy over 1000 islands in the world’s largest ocean. Their histories and traditions have created bonds between nations that run deep in the cultures of the region. Yet, across this vast ocean, the cultures of the region also differ significantly. The introduction of Western forms of education have often ignored these cultures. Currently, “inclusive education” programs are being promoted in the region, particularly by outside agencies and funding bodies. The disability-inclusion model that underpins many of these initiatives comes from outside the region, and attempts to engage with the cultures of the region in promoting these initiatives have tended to be very limited. Often the initiatives promote an agenda that draws its direction and purpose from the donor countries rather than those of aid-recipient countries. Interaction between cultures over different perspectives and priorities is very healthy but the process of implementation can also easily be detached from the experience and worldviews of the recipients of these programs. Engaging with cultures and the social experience of the citizens of the island countries of the Pacific should be the starting point for the development of educational policy and practice so that the disempowerment of external imposition is avoided. In this chapter we argue that the inclusive education narrative of the Pacific island countries is often subsumed by, and therefore becomes ‘lost’ within, the broader context of the Asia-Pacific which is much larger and includes the world’s most populous countries. We conclude by advocating that research needs to be conducted on issues and cultures in the Pacific region that can contribute to the development of more meaningful and contextual approaches to inclusive education.

Article

In the last decade, inclusive education policies have been one of the priorities within the pedagogical and social agendas of different South American countries. However, the great complexity and enormous diversity of both concepts (inclusive education and South America) demand a detailed analysis of what it means to strive for educational progress throughout such an extensive territory. On the one hand, inclusive education encompasses both traditional special education as well as other key issues that are closely linked: equity, quality, diversity, universality, access, participation, intersectionality, rights, individualization, and so on. On the other hand, South America is a real, complex, multifaceted territory in which different countries with very different political, economic, and social situations coexist (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela). As such, it is necessary to begin with comparative education and educational policy in order to understand the different educational priorities of each region as well as the organizations and stakeholders that have an impact. The development of inclusive education has not been uniform. Indeed, because there is no consensus regarding what inclusion means and represents, though there have been correlations, its evolution has been unequal throughout different countries. A study of both national and transnational inclusive educational policies will allow us to better understand and approximate this complex reality, as well as to anticipate forthcoming educational challenges.

Article

The Italian education system has gained prominence worldwide thanks to its pioneering history in initiating the process of mainstreaming students with disabilities, in providing educational plans tailored to students’ needs, and in the gradual broadening of the vision of inclusion as a means to guarantee quality education for all. At the same time, teacher education programs have reinvigorated their key role in preparing and supporting teachers who are inclusive of all students. Several factors over the past 50 years have been fundamental in shaping the way inclusion is perceived in the 21st century. First, the theoretical frameworks underpinning pedagogy and teaching practices have undergone a complete paradigm shift from an individualized-medical model to a biopsychosocial model, bringing about a new challenge for all stakeholders involved. Second, in line with this evolution, latest reforms and ministerial provisions in initial teacher education and continuous professional development are evidence of the change in perspective regarding the teachers’ pivotal role in promoting and facilitating inclusive practices. However, this shift has not only called for a rethinking of the teachers’ pedagogical and didactic stances. It has also entailed a reconsideration of the necessary professional competencies, understood as a complex interplay of pedagogical knowledge, values, attitudes, and skills to be able to implement effective teaching methods and strategies that favor inclusion. Thus, it has placed a heavy responsibility on teacher education institutions to ensure that current and future teachers are ready, willing, and able to face the complexity characterizing 21st-century classrooms. Italian schools have also been doing their utmost to ensure better school experiences for all their students. An array of projects, both ministerially funded and school-based schemes, have been designed and implemented to create universally functional curricula to meet all the students’ learning styles and promote inclusion. One of the most important lessons to be learned from these intricate developments and initiatives is that collaboration among all stakeholders on micro, meso, and macro levels lies at the heart of effective and sustainable inclusive education.

Article

Marta Caballeros, Jeannette Bran, and Gabriela Castro

Inclusive education, as stated in declarations and human development goals, features in the educational policies being implemented in Central American and Caribbean (CA-DR) countries (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic). The policies seek to give the entire population of each country permanent access to quality education services, and they have a particular focus on people with disabilities. However, there are considerable challenges to be overcome, caused by a combination of historical factors and the sociopolitical and economic context. Some of the countries still have significant levels of poverty and inequity, both of which hinder the development of inclusive education. At the same time, inclusive education is expected to help eradicate social exclusion and facilitate social mobility. This paradigm began as an effort to secure disabled people’s right to education, and countries have since been working to offer disabled people access to regular schools. Nevertheless, segregated education services or services with an integration aim still persist. Moreover, poverty causes many students to drop out of school, or never to enroll at all. Each country has vulnerable or marginalized groups in its population. The work being done, from an inclusive perspective, follows two main routes: reorienting education systems toward inclusivity; and offering these groups affirmative actions to ensure their regular attendance at mainstream schools that have quality programs for all. If CA-DR countries are to achieve inclusive education, they must fulfill two requirements. Firstly, they must develop intersectorial interventions that revert causes of exclusion—education policies in isolation are unable to do that. Secondly, they must take action to ensure that inclusive education is achieved in practice in the classroom. There are advances toward inclusion, but more work is needed to answer the question of how CA-DR countries can develop inclusive societies, based on social protection and quality education services for all, that give proper attention to diversity, practice equity, and promote social mobility. Bottom-up strategies are valuable in the effort to achieve inclusive education.

Article

The development of inclusive educational practices and their current practices differ significantly between the North American nations of Canada and the United States. Although these countries do share similarities in both theoretical underpinnings and educational programming, the current differences in policy oversight nationally and at the provincial and state levels promote a wider range of policy and programmatic differences across Canada than in the United States. Governance structures, the resulting policies, and their similarities and differences between and within these countries serve as foundations that underpin innovative inclusive educational programming in each country. The interplay between legislation and activism has both reflected and provoked the movement away from special education and toward inclusive education to varying degrees in both Canada and the United States.

Article

International agreements that aim to achieve universal primary education for all children, regardless of need or ability, have ensured that governments around the world have considered policy development to support greater equity in education. Many of the world’s more economically advantaged countries have made significant progress to ensure that all children have opportunities to attend school. Progress has also been evident in countries which are less advantaged, though often this has been inhibited because of a lack of resources and expertise. The relationship between policy, provision, and practice in education is complex, and in responding to international agreements, governments have needed to take account of their own cultural and socio-economic circumstances. While many administrations have adopted models developed in other countries, the need to take account of existing practices and to build upon local expertise is apparent.

Article

Any analysis of inclusive and special education in Asia, past and present, must account for the immense variation in what constitutes Asia and recognize that finding patterns in the development of inclusive and special education across this vast continent is difficult. The variations relate to geographic topography, historical experiences, and cultural values, as well as to contemporary socio-economic and political conditions. For example, although both Oman and Timor Leste struggle with issues of accessibility and providing services in remote areas, Timor Leste’s mountainous terrain presents very different challenges from Oman’s desert conditions. Similarly, the different cultural influences of, say, Hinduism in Nepal, Islam in Jordan, and Buddhism in Cambodia have significant implications for attitudes towards disability, while differences in economic development between Japan and Bangladesh, for instance, have rendered the former a donor of international aid that sets the inclusive education agenda and the latter a recipient of both aid and agenda. While efforts to identify patterns in inclusive education globally have also attempted to define the nature of development in Asia, these analyses do not always account for the unique intra-continental variations. Overlooking these variations in socio-political and economic contexts becomes problematic when attempting to find solutions towards providing culturally responsive and culturally specific services appropriate to these unique circumstances. Additionally troubling is the more recent development of a geopolitical climate which assumes that inclusive and special education could and should, in fact, be the same, whether in Bangladesh or in Japan. Embodied by international aid agencies, such as the World Bank, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), these expectations have been captured within global policies, such as the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education, the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and more recently, the 2015 Millennium Sustainable Goals, and furthered through UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s curriculum packages and professional development training on inclusive education. There is a nascent body of scholars in some Asian countries that is beginning to identify indigenous alternatives, which, if allowed to thrive, could contribute to the development of an amalgamated structure of services that would be more appropriate to the individual contexts.

Article

The education of children and young people with disabilities and the appropriate form this should take is an issue with which countries across the world are grappling. This challenge has not been assisted by the diverse interpretations of “inclusion” within and between States. The international community, in the form of the United Nations (UN), its associated treaty bodies, and its related agencies have taken on an increasingly critical role in working with countries to develop some kind of global consensus on how inclusion should be defined, its core features, and what it should look like in practice. The conclusions of discussions on these issues have emerged in the form of declarations, treaties, general comments, and guidelines, which countries across the world are expected to adhere to, to varying extents. Together, these constitute a set of international policies and benchmarks on inclusion in an educational context, informing and shaping contemporary national policy and practice. At its core is the underlying principle that children and young people with disabilities have a fundamental right to education without discrimination. Examination of international discourse on inclusion indicates that its meaning, form, and content has become more refined, with increasing emphasis being placed on the quality of inclusive practice as opposed to merely questioning its merits.