The campaign for inclusive education has been going on since Mann’s proposition of “common schools” in the early 19th century.
The current American society is more heterogeneous hence, the rationale for inclusionary education practices. Nevertheless, what is inclusive education? Inclusion refers to a community of learners, which involves a variety of races, cultures, religion, and level of learners in terms of different learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, physical and cognitive disabilities (Miller and Katz, p. 20). Inclusion thus creates a friendly learning environment that grants learners an experience of the heterogeneity in the society. Inclusion means educating students with disabilities in the regular classrooms as well as mixing students from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds under one classroom (Hastings and Oakford, p. 87). This provides a free and appropriate public education system for all children irrespective of their race, culture, financial background, and capabilities.
Hence, inclusion promises success for the disadvantaged child. Inclusionary practices provide a vehicle for realizing federal and state mandates such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that require educators to grant all children an equal opportunity to education. Further, putting students with disabilities and other limiting factors in a regular classroom provides an opportunity for the less fortunate children to experience their full potential in an inclusive community and hence have a sense of belonging both in school and in the community. Inclusive education in practice is more complicated hence requires certain strategies for its success. For inclusive education to be successful, all parties must share the values of inclusion.
This means that everyone involved in the education system must be aware of the importance of mixing all types of students irrespective of their race, culture, financial background, disabilities and so on in one classroom. This will go a long way towards ensuring that learners do not feel left out and discriminated against. Consequently, children will develop a sense of belonging and will be able to perform to their full potential academically.
Children with cognitive limitations may think and reason at a much slower rate than ordinary children. Putting them in a class with students who have a higher IQ helps them in that their minds are triggered to work almost as fast as their counterparts do. Such children should be encouraged to be able to cope in the classroom. Hence, it is important for teachers and students to value these individuals and appreciate their differences (Hastings and Oakford, p. 90).
As Shafik Abu-Tahir states, “Inclusion is recognizing that we are one even though we are not the same” (Dattilo, p.26) One of the major barriers to inclusion is negative attitude. Students and teachers have a tendency of developing bad attitudes towards students who are not of their race, or because they come from a poor background. Teachers may not want to include them in school activities such as school trips and symposiums. This may make such students feel unwanted and left out and eventually develop a low self-esteem.
As a result, such students may become rebellious, and register poor academic performance, anti-social behavior and other unruly traits. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers and students understand and appreciate each other regardless of their different backgrounds. In conclusion, inclusion is the solution to the problems our schools face due to increased social heterogeneity in the society. Once students from various backgrounds, including those with disabilities and other limitations develop a sense of belonging, their self-esteem will rise and their interest in school will be at its peak. Hence, students will be able to realize their full potential because of the equal opportunities granted to them.
Dattilo, John. Inclusive Leisure Services: Responding to the Rights of People with Disabilities. 2nd ed. State college: PA Venture Publishing, 2002. Print. Hastings, Richard, P.
and Oakford, Suzanna. Student Teachers’ Attitudes towards the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs. Educational Psychology 23.1 (2003): 87-94. Print.
Miller, Frederick and Katz, Judith. The Inclusion Breakthrough: Unleashing the Real Power of Diversity. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002. Print.