This assignment will discuss the notion of inclusive education within the United Kingdom, the European Union and also some international and global aspects. Inclusion will be explained using a variety of sources as there does not appear to be a definitive definition of the term 'inclusive education'. Educational inclusion does appear to have some limitations both national and internationally, mainly due to funding and a lack of resources and specially trained staff. There have been many national international and global frameworks and policies put in place in an attempt to ensure an education for all. Some of these policies are considered in this assignment. Although the majority of the population would seem to favour inclusive education there are others who fear that it can be detrimental to the educational attainment of others. This leads to the positive and negatives of an inclusive education being considered. Inclusive education is the way forward, this assignment will also discuss various ways in which groups of children that are at risk of exclusion due to their disability or other special educational need can be catered for within a mainstream setting. Finally, after discussing inclusive education at a national level, this assignment will review the inclusive education systems in Albania and Serbia. Both are very poor countries, with a history of conflict. The educational system and provision for children with special educational needs will also be discussed.
What is meant by the term inclusion?
There are many definitions for the term 'inclusion' and for this essay specifically the term 'inclusive education'. The National Centre on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion (1995) developed this statement for the definition of inclusive education;
"Providing to all students, including those with significant
disabilities, equitable opportunities to receive effective educational
services, with the needed supplementary aids and support services,
in age appropriate classrooms in their neighbourhood schools, in
order to prepare students for productive lives as full members of society".
However, it seems that inclusive education is far more complex and involves a wide variety or resources to ensure all children who are educated in main streams schools are fully included in the classroom. The following definition was developed at a participatory seminar in Agra, India, 1998 and is published on the Enabling Education Network Website (EENET's definition of inclusive education, 1998);
acknowledges that all children can learn
acknowledges and respects differences (age, gender,ethnicity,language,disability, HIV status, etc)
enables education structures, systems and methodologies to meet the needs of all children
is part of a wider strategy to promote an inclusive society
is a dynamic process which is constantly evolving
need not be restricted by large class sizes or shortage of material resources.
Limitations of inclusive education
Although these definitions appear to cover all aspects of inclusive education it seems that it may not always be as easy to implement the changes needed for each and every school to become a fully inclusive place of education. In the Salamanca Report, Better education for all: when we're included too ( 2009, p: 24), the World Federation for the Deaf states that;
"inclusion as a simple placement in a regular school without meaningful interaction with classmates and professionals at all times, is tantamount to exclusion."
This definition seems to indicate that there are instances of children with disabilities or other special educational needs, that are being placed in classrooms without the professional help and support which they need to be fully included in mainstream schools. Therefore, even though the child is included in the mainstream school they are in effect excluded from the day to day classroom activities and social interactions due to lack of resources and support for their particular need.
For example; if a deaf child who cannot read due to their age or ability is placed in a classroom with no specialist provision, such as a sign language interpreter, that child is in effect excluded due to there disability. A similar scenario is found with children who do not have english as their first language. This is discussed further under the heading 'How children are included in primary schools.
Therefore children with disabilities and other special educational needs along with their parents, should be given a choice, depending on their particular needs, as to whether they attend a mainstream school or into a specialist school which caters for their particular medical and educational needs. However, due to policies on inclusion many special schools have closed and therefore choices are limited.
Policies for inclusive education are not limited to the United Kingdom. There are global policies in place to encourage and help even the poorest countries to provide an education for all of the members of their society. In the Salamanca Report ( 2009 p: 25) the International Policy on Education:
"promotes the goal of full inclusionand guarantees the right of every child to attend regular school with the support they require".
However, Armstrong et al (2010) argue that inclusive education policies are underpinned by 'a complex and contested process of social change'. They suggest that although policies promote inclusion the reality is one of exclusion and that the so called solution of inclusion masks many sins.
Inclusion has been a global issue since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into force in 1948. This bill endevoured to ensure that all children had a right to a free, compulsory education. In 1989 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child put measures in place that would ensure all children had a right to receive an education without discrimination on any grounds. This was followed in 1990 by the World Declaration on Education for all. There have been other specific measures and frameworks put in place in the following years that build on these (see fig 1.1) (UNESCO, 2005).
UNESCO(2005) have produced a very interesting image depicting their interpretation of how denial leads to exclusion whereas knowledge leads to inclusion and therefore education for all (see fig 2.2).
However, even with all these measures in place Armstrong et al (2010) argue that within the countries of Europe "despite the rhetoric of social and educational inclusion, levels of segregation stay either unchangeable or even increase". This point is discussed further under the heading 'Inclusive education in Alabania and Serbia'.
Positives and Negatives
Even with all of these frameworks, policies and measures in place there are certain situations which mean that not all children can be included in mainstream schools and there are those that argue that inclusion is detrimental to other students education. For example children with severe behavioral difficulties can cause dispruption in the classroom. The teacher is then only able to attend to that child meaning that he or she is unable to teach and the majority of the class are therefore unable to learn. It has been suggested that inclusion lowers educational standards overall as it puts more emphasis on the aspect of socialization rather than education. There is also the fact that class teachers are not trained in the specialist care and support that would be needed to ensure they are able to provide for every individual special needs case which may come into their classroom(McCarty, 2006).
However, there are many positive aspects to inclusive education. Inclusion can benefit both children with special educational needs as well as the general school population. Inclusion promotes tolerance and understanding of those who appear or behave differently to the 'norm'. Therefore inclusion can hopefully help towards lessoning prejudice and ignorance in adulthood. Inclusion can help build a more caring society where people are happy to offer help and understanding to those who are physically or mentally impaired or a different colour or ethnic background to themselves.
With positive attitudes and forward thinking schools can adapt their classrooms and teaching to enable the majority of children with special educational needs to be included in the mainstream classroom.
Ways in which primary schools include children.
There are many ways in which schools need to adapt to ensure that all pupils who wish to are able to attend mainsteam classrooms. Many children need additional help, resources and support to guarantee this. The child with physical or mental impairment usually have their 'special educational need' assesed on a statement of needs undertaken by the local education authority. However there are other children who are at risk of not being included in some way based on their social class, gender, race and ethnicity. Each of these require particular specialist resources or support. For example; a child with a physical disability could need adaptations such as wheelchair ramps, accessible toilet facilities, widened doors and flat playground surfaces to ensure that they would be fully included in the day to day life of a mainstream school. However, this is not always possible in older school buildings. Many are two stories high and it would be impracticle or too expensive to introduce lifts into the buildings or to widen what may be a hundred or more doorways in a building. Having said this, many new school buildings have been specially designed to ensure that they are accessible to everyone.
Children who have been diagnosed with things such as autism or dyslexia would have different needs to those who are physically disable. They may need specialist teaching assistants who have the knowledge to help and support the child to achieve to the best of their ability.
Sensory and visual impairment can also be a cause for children to feel excluded in the mainstream classroom if their special educational needs are not catered for. To ensure full inclusion the school would need to supply specialist resources such as books in braille or teaching assistants with a knowledge of sign language.
A more recent addition to the category of children with special educational needs are those children who do not speak English as their first language. The daily mail reports that one in six children of primary school age do not speak English as their first language. It is suggested that this causes significant pressure to teaching staff. Therefore, the government needs to ensure that suffient funding is available for training and support and also to make bi-lingual resources available so as to fully include these children in mainstream school. However the same report also highlights one school where 76 different languages are spoken by the pupils enrolled there. It is difficult to imagine how any local education authority would have the funding or resources available to cater for this level of lingistic diversity (Clark, 2010).
Inclusive education in Albania and Serbia
As stated earlier, there are global and international policies and frameworks in place to try and help countries to provide an adequate education for children of all abilities.The United Kingdom appears to be making considerable headway in ensuring education for all by way of inclusion. However, there are some countries where education for all is at present seemingly an unattainable goal. Albania and Serbia are two such countries. Their histories have been peppered with wars, violence and invasions. Sanctions have been imposed and the economy collapsed. Albania is now classed as Europe's poorest country and therefore a large number of international agencies are present in the country in a bid to assist and influence development. As is the case in many countries who are in or have been in conflict, children and their education suffer, particularly those with special educational needs. Closs et al (2005) state that 'neither country is certain of the numbers of their children with special needs nor of where they live'.
A report by the Albanian Disability Rights Federation (ADRF 1998) found that although some children had a supportive extended family and there was goodwill from an official point of view, there was also 'substantial public prejudice against children and adults with special needs'. There was also found to be an extremely inadequate health, education and social service, for those with diasabilities.
A report commissioned by Save the Children and undertaken by Closs et al (2003) found that from the children with disabilities that they had identified ( it is probable that there are many more unaccounted for) that Albania had 235 children in institutions classed as residential care, however, this number has been reduced since the publication of the report in 2003. They also identified around 1000 children who were placed in special day care centers, special schools and classes and orphanages. A very small number of children with mild disabilities were found to attend mainstream schools (ADRF 2002/Nano 2002 cited in Closs et al 2005).
Closs et al (2003) believe that there are at least 20,000 children with severe or significant disabilities in Albania who receive no support help or care from government or local agencies.
There are various reasons that Albania seem unable to adhere to the Education for All framework. Some of these reasons include a rigid, almost wholly academic curricullum, isolation, poor road networks and lack of a reliable public transport system, harsh weather conditions and a lack of commitment from local communities.There was also resistance from school staff who felt that themselves and the schools had had no preparation to help with the introduction of inclusive education.
However, measures have been taken to improve the Education for All status in Albania and this will be mentioned later in the assignment.
Serbia is in a similar situation to Albania. There are no official records detailing the number of children with special needs in Serbia. It is estimated to be anything from 47,000 to 282,000 children (Closs et al 2005). There are 85 special schools and six residential institutions which cater for children with special needs, however these are more medical rather than educational settings. Serbia is slowly working towards inclusive education with around 8,000 children identified as having mild learning difficulties being included in mainstream classrooms. However, children with moderate to severe special needs were found to either stay at home or they were placed in residential institutions that took care of their basic health needs but did not provide much in the way of an education. In Serbia the number of children placed in residential institutions continues to rise. This appears to be mainly due to severe poverty and families being unable to cope either financially, physically or emotionally for their disabled child (YCRC, 2001).
Although there are very few children in Serbia with diasabilities in main stream classrooms, the children in special schools and classrooms are catered for more adequatly than those in a similar situation in albania. Serbia have graduates who have trained as 'Defectologists'. These are teachers who are specifically qualified to teach children with special needs.
There are measures being implemented to improve the inclusive education practises in both Serbia and Albania. International agencies are present in both countries. These agencies such as UNICEF and Save the Children perform invaluable work and help to raise funds in order to promote inclusion for children with special needs. However, Closs et al(2005) state that; 'the need for investment in Serbia and Albania is huge'.
This investment is obviously needed in order for inclusive education to become the 'norm in Serbia and Albania. At this moment in time children with special needs are still placed in special schools or at worst stay at home with no facilities available to them at all (Closs et al 2005).
Inclusive education and Education for All should, in the 21st century,be a right for every child in the world. Many governments and outside agencies do their best to encourage and promote inclusion. Reports are commissioned and new policies put in place based on the results. However, without adequate funding, resources, training and community support it is, for some countries, extremely difficult and for some almost impossible to implement the Education for All framework.
The United Kingdom and other rich, developed countries continuously work towards upgrading facilities and improving their inclusive education policies and strategies to ensure an education for all for future generations. However, it may be many many years before third world countries and those countries divided by conflict and disaster can hope to fulfil and ensure an inclusive education for their children.
EENET's definition of inclusive education. (1998). Retrieved May 7, 2010, from Enabling Education Network: http://www.eenet.org.uk/EENET_def_of_IE.php
ADRF. (1998). The Albanian public opinion and persons with disability. Tirana: ADRF.
Armstrong, A. C., Armstrong, D., & Spandagou, I. (2010). Inclusive Education International Policy and Practise. Padstow: TJ International.
Clark, L. (2010, May 15). English is a second language for 1 in 6 primary school children. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1278130/English-language-ONE-MILLION-schoolchildren.html
Closs, A., Nano, V., & Ikonomi, E. (2003). I am like you - an investigation into the position of children with disabilities in Albania. Tirana: Save the Children.
Closs, A., Radoman, V., & Nano, V. (2005, August). Prospects for inclusive education in European countries emerging from economic and other trauma: Serbia and Abania. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Isec2005: http://www.isec2005.org.uk/isec/abstracts/papers_c/closs_a.shtml
International, I. (2009). Better Education for All:When we're included too. A Global Report. Salamanca: Instituto Universitario de Integración en la Comunidad (INICO).
McCarty, K. (2006). Full Inclusion:The Benefits and Disadvantages of Inclusive Schooling. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from eric.ed.gov: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/28/07/83.pdf
UNESCO. (2005). Guidelines for Inclusion; ensuring access to education for all. Fontenoy: UNESCO.
YCRC. (2001). The situation of children in institutions of social care in Serbia. Belgrade: YCRC.
York, T. C. (1995). National study of inclusive education. New York: The City University of New York.