“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” – By Audre Lorde
This inability, that civil rights activist Audre Lorde is talking about, has even affected our education systems. Maybe that’s the reason why for as long as we can remember, we could see discrimination and exclusion in learning environments. Students belonging to minority groups, different cultural backgrounds, or socio-economic statuses often feel out of place in the classroom environment. Not only them, but students with disabilities also find themselves in a special ed classroom, where they do not get a chance to mingle with other children.
As times are changing for the better, people are realizing the importance of diversity and inclusion. And thankfully, we can now observe a changed perspective in education departments across the globe as more and more schools are willing to embrace inclusive education and are working to build welcoming inclusive classrooms for all students in the community.
Before diving into the characteristics of inclusive education, let us gather more knowledge on what inclusive education entails.
Inclusive education: What it is and why is it important?
Inclusive education is based on five important principles of equality, respect, human rights, justice, and mutual responsibility. It involves creating a common learning environment where students of different backgrounds and capabilities come together to learn and develop. They are all provided with the right support to help them grow and become well-rounded individuals.
Switching to inclusive education requires schools to develop a plan that covers strategies the school will adopt to fulfill its educational goals and find effective ways to provide quality education to all students depending on their individual needs.
Inclusive education is important because it helps avoid discrimination which is one of the main reasons for exclusion. Inclusive education means that all students in a neighborhood attend the same local school and are part of the same class, depending on their grade level. It gives every child an opportunity to benefit from education and prepare themselves for life.
Characteristics of inclusive education
1. Values all children
Inclusive education acknowledges the fact that all students are valuable and deserve the same quality of education. It believes that their differences should not come in the way that leads them to receive a quality education.
2. Acknowledges every child’s right to education
Every child has the right to education. But often it is observed that children with disabilities find themselves out of school because schools are not equipped with the right knowledge and expertise to attend to their needs. Inclusive education acknowledges student rights and works to provide quality education to every student.
3. Embraces diversity
Inclusive education believes in crushing social and cultural barriers that hinder people from coming together. By bringing children from varied backgrounds and abilities under one roof, it teaches students to embrace diversity and respect each other.
4. Provides least restrictive learning opportunity
By creating a least restrictive learning environment, inclusive education ensures students with varying levels of ability can learn and develop just like other children. As they are not made to sit in special ed classrooms, they too feel a part of the community.
5. Encourages student participation
It is often found that students who feel out of place in their classrooms do not participate as much as they should due to their insecurities. Inclusive education encourages student participation through relevant student-centric activities where every child gets a chance to participate and feel included.
6. Addresses individual student needs within the same classroom
Inclusive education is not about including differently-abled students in regular classrooms just for 1-2 hours. In fact, it is about providing the support they need within the premises of a regular classroom. Instruction is designed and delivered to suit students with different abilities. Of course, it needs a lot of preparation on the part of the school, but that is what inclusive education is all about.
7. Aims to boost self-confidence in children
When all students are given the opportunity to study and interact in the same classroom, they develop a sense of belongingness, which boosts their self-confidence. Having kids of all backgrounds in the same classroom promotes cross-cultural friendships and bring all kids closer.
8. Promotes collaborative teaching
Principals, teachers, special education teachers, and paraprofessionals all have a role to play in inclusive education. All these professionals come together to devise effective plans and strategies for student learning. Through their collaborative teaching efforts, they ensure quality education for their students.
9. Has a responsive approach to student needs
In an inclusive classroom, teachers have a responsive approach to the learning needs of every student. They utilize appropriate teaching practices and provide tailored support to meet individual student’s needs so they can comprehend lessons in a better way.
10. Seating arrangements allow students to interact with one another
In an inclusive classroom, teachers make seating arrangements in a way that students get a chance to mingle with each other. This is usually achieved by grouping students and making them sit together. It allows students to bond and form long-lasting friendships.
11. Uses assistive technology
Assistive technologies are very useful in an inclusive classroom. It provides the necessary support students need to learn and thrive in school. Tools like color overlays, adaptive pencil grips, and interactive applications make learning more viable for students who need a little extra support.
12. Encourages parent involvement
A positive teacher-parent partnership is essential for providing the best quality education to students. As parents are better aware of their child’s learning challenges and needs, they can provide valuable feedback. Inclusive education welcomes parents to suggest strategies that can help teachers in assisting their children in the classroom.
To achieve the maximum benefits of inclusive education, teachers must be well-trained and equipped with the right knowledge to teach in an inclusive classroom. They must also be provided with relevant tools to conduct their classes with ease.
Inclusive education is the way to go in today’s world. It is essential for creating positive learning environments where children are not identified based on their race, color, or abilities, but are considered as valuable assets that must be nurtured equally, so they can achieve their academic, social, and personal goals. It also teaches students a vital life lesson, which is, developing genuine friendships with one another no matter how different they are.