Inclusive education: Definitions, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of inclusive education

Inclusive education is an educational system that describes how all students can be valued equally, treated with respect, and given equal learning opportunities.

Inclusive Education | Image: UNICEF
Inclusive Education | Image: UNICEF

Table of Contents

Introduction to inclusive education

According to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), "Inclusive education is the most effective way to give all children a fair chance to go to school, learn and develop the skills they need to thrive."

Quality education is the right for every child throughout the world whether they are boys or girls, born to a rich family or poor family, normal or with disabilities; in providing education, even we cannot discriminate against children by their religions and races. All children have the right to take the same education in the same classroom. There is a modern term called 'inclusive education' that allows children to take the same education in the same classrooms. Sharing the same classrooms by all of the children and taking the same education in schools means real learning opportunities for traditionally excluded groups, including not only children with disabilities, but also speakers of minority languages.

Inclusive and Inclusion

The word 'inclusive' comes from a Latin word 'includere', the Medieval Latin of the word was 'inclusivus' that changed into 'inclusive' in the time of late sixteenth century. Inclusive means allowing and accommodating people who have historically been excluded because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability.

Inclusive is such a quality of action that allows equal access to opportunities and resources for people who would otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those with physical or mental disabilities or members of other minority groups. And the process of inclusiveness is called inclusion. Ninan & Essandoh (2020) defines, "Inclusion is the means by which individuals from all backgrounds are engaged, integrated, motivated, and valued".

Inclusion in education refers to all students having equal access to and opportunities for education and learning. The term 'inclusion' often refers to 'inclusive education' by the westerns.

What is inclusive education?

Inclusive education means a system of providing education that welcomes all children in a shared learning environment. According to UNICEF, Inclusive education means all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools and real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded. UNICEF further says, inclusive education is not only for children with disabilities, but also for speakers of minority languages.

Educationists consider the idea of inclusive education as similar as integrated and mainstreaming, but the concept of inclusive education is a different concept from the concept of integrated and mainstreaming (Chauhan, 2018).

Definitions of inclusive education by different authors

Dr. Neelam Chauhan (2018) compiles some definitions of inclusive education by different authors from different sources; six of them are mentioned below—

  1. According to Stephan and Blackhurst, “Inclusive Education is a set of values, principles and practices that seeks more effective and meaningful education for all students, regardless of whether they have exceptionality labels or not.” 

  2. Stainback and Stainback claim, “Inclusive Education is the implementation of policy and process that allows all children to participate in all programmes. Policy means that disabled children should be accepted without any restrictions in all the educational programmes meant for other children. The process of inclusion denotes the ways in the system  makes itself welcoming to all. Inclusive Education is nothing but making the programme for disabled children as an integral part of the general educational system rather than a system within general education.” 

  3. According to M. Manivannan, “Inclusive Education implies bringing together the educational needs of the normal children and the educational requirements of the children with special needs, so as to evolve a common curriculum with a view to provide education to all in regular schools itself. It is a flexible and individualized support system for children and young people with special educational needs. It provides an integral component of the overall education system and is provided in regular schools committed in an appropriate education for all.”

  4. According to Uppal and Dey, “Inclusive Education aims to provide a favorable setting for achieving equal opportunity and full participation for all, thus bringing children with special needs well within the preview of mainstream education. It recognizes the diverse needs of the students and ensures equality education to all through appropriate curricula, teaching strategies, support services and partnership with a community and parents. In simple words, it means that all children with or without disabilities learn together.” 

  5. Advani and Chadha claim, “Inclusive Education describes the restructuring of special education to permit all or most students to be integrated in mainstream classes through reorganization and instruction innovations (e.g., cooperative learning, collaborative consultation and team teaching)”

We can say— Inclusive education refers to such an education system that keeps normal students spending most of their time in school with a differently-abled student. Inclusive education is often called inclusion.

Characteristics of inclusive education

  1. Every child has the right to education and has the right to participate equally in mainstream education; inclusive education permits all the children to be admitted in the same schools and attend the same classrooms.

  2. Inclusive education is a responsive process to individual learning needs by providing sufficient levels of support and applying student-centred teaching practices and principles.

  3. Inclusive education enables each student to fully participate in the learning environment that is designed for all students and is shared with peers in the chosen educational setting.

  4. Target of inclusive education is ensuring full participation and educational attainment of every child, not just school-enrollment.

  5. In an inclusive environment principal or headteacher, teachers, parents and others have to work together to determine the most effective ways of providing a quality education to the students.

  6. Education goals are set and developed according to each student's needs and abilities.

  7. All of the children do not need to have the same education goals in order to learn together in regular classes.

  8. Providing a positive response to children's diversity and differences is one of the major characteristics of inclusive education.

  9. Inclusive education is programmed for such a teaching-learning environment where instruction is designed to be delivered to students of mixed ability and with their peer group in the community school, while being responsive to their individual needs as a learner, and used for the majority of the students’ regular instruction hours.

  10. Inclusive education focuses on meeting the educational needs of all children through quality development of teaching-learning activities.

  11. Through the inclusive education all students receive an education that addresses their individual needs and no student is excluded based on type or degree of disability 

  12. Inclusive education enables all of the members of a school e.g. administration, staff, students, and parents to promote cooperative and collaborative teaching arrangements.

Advantages of inclusive education

The advantages of providing inclusive education to all children have been becoming so important for any nation in the world. Why the inclusive education is important is mentioned below—

  1. In an inclusive education programme, all children/students of a country are able to be part of their community, this  participation of them helps to develop a sense of belonging and become better prepared for life in the community as children and adults.

  2. Inclusive education provides better opportunities for all types of learners' learning.

  3. In the system of inclusive education children with various abilities are often better motivated when they learn in classes surrounded by other children.

  4. Inclusive education allows children to work on their individual goals.

  5. Inclusive education encourages parents or guardians to join in the process of their children's education and the activities at schools.

  6. One of the most important benefits of  inclusive education is it fosters a culture of respect and belonging.

  7. Inclusive education also provides the opportunity to learn about and accept individual differences.

  8. Inclusive education provides all children with opportunities to develop friendships with one another that provides role models and opportunities for education

  9. Inclusive education helps children believe in themselves and have a sense of belonging hence  boosting their self-esteem.

  10. Inclusive education improves the possibility of teachers and students to adopt different teaching and learning styles in many ways.

  11. Inclusive education can bring about understanding and tolerance among the children with disabilities and those without.

  12. Expectations to succeed are high hence providing a healthy competition and learning from each other.

Disadvantages of inclusive education

The advantages of inclusion are numerous. However, regardless of intent, there are drawbacks to inclusive education. Some of the disadvantages of inclusive education are mentioned below—

  1. Teachers may feel they are not equipped or trained to work with special needs children.

  2. It may slow down the pace of learning as the teacher has to attend both children with and without disabilities

  3. Children with disabilities may be subjected to bullying by the other children as they may find it difficult to form social relationships.

  4. Some children may feel inadequate next to their non-disabled children hence lowering their self-esteem which would make it hard for them to concentrate.

  5. Students who require special education services may require additional accommodations to get through the school day. It can be difficult for a teacher in an inclusive education classroom to provide these accommodations to a student with special needs without distracting the other students.

  6. In an inclusive education system, special needs students need classroom settings adapted to meet their needs, which is a core disadvantage.

  7. Children with learning disabilities lag behind when receiving instructions in an inclusive classroom.

  8. The situation of inclusive education slows down normal students, who are not with disabilities, in their learning since the teacher must constantly ensure the students with learning  disabilities are at par with the regular students by repeating concepts.

  9. The teachers, who are always dedicated to the students, have to focus especially on the special needs children in the classroom, and they also have to take care of the normal children; this makes the teachers overworked, and they may not be able to conduct the class properly.

  10. Inclusive education may bring about unfair treatment of children.

  11. The system of inclusive education may create segregation among the students, as some students might fail to understand why those with special needs receive less criticism, less homework or more attention.

  12. Cost of inclusive education is higher than that of general education.

Conclusion

We all believe that Inclusive education definitely works to identify all barriers to education and remove them and covers everything from curricula to pedagogy and teaching. The system of inclusive education has many advantages with specific and unavoidable disadvantages; if the authority can cope with the disadvantages and if they can reduce the disadvantages only then it can pay off, otherwise not.

References

  1. Chauhan, N. (2018). Inclusive Education: Need Of The Day. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention (IJHSSI). 7(10).

  2. Hayes, A. M. & Bulat, J. (2017). Disabilities Inclusive Education Systems and Policies Guide for Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Research Triangle Institute. https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.2017.op.0043.1707

  3. Inclusive Education, Canada. What Is Inclusive Education?. https://inclusiveeducation.ca/about/what-is-ie/Com

  4. Ninan, Emilie R. & Essandoh, Virginia G. (2020). 10 Characteristics of Inclusive Leadership. The American Bar Association. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law/publications/blt/2020/05/inclusive-leadership/

  5. Margeviča-Grinberga, I. & Šūmane, I. (2021). THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF FUTURE TEACHERS. Proceedings of the International Scientific Conference. Volume I. May 28th-29th, 2021. 432-441. https://doi.org/10.17770/sie2021vol1.6352

  6. The New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL). Inclusive Education and its Benefits. https://nbacl.nb.ca/module-pages/inclusive-education-and-its-benefits/

  7. UNICEF. Inclusive education: Every child has the right to quality education and learning. https://www.unicef.org/education/inclusive-education

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