Inclusive education is an education system that caters to the needs of all students, regardless of ability or accommodation needs, ensuring that no student is excluded. Implementation of inclusive education programs requires teachers, curriculum, school facilities, classrooms, playgrounds, transportation, and other interactive learning programs to be appropriate for all children. In other words, there is neither discrimination nor segregation, considering that the adverse effects of separating children with disabilities from their non-disabled peers outweigh any potential benefits.
Providing an educational environment that is safe, accessible, and inclusive are essential building blocks needed for a child's future. Inclusive education fosters a satisfactory standard of living and integration into an individual's community, legal system, and labor force − equipping children with disabilities for a future where they can work and contribute to their communities (both economically and socially).
Inclusive education also promotes understanding, reduces prejudice, and strengthens social integration.
UNICEF has created a checklist of actions governments must take to make inclusive education a reality, including:
- Commit all government departments to work towards inclusion
- Introduce laws and policies to end discrimination and guarantee the right to inclusive education
- Make a plan of action and timetable for introducing inclusive education
- Make money and resources available to enable the transition to inclusion
- Collect information and measure progress
- Bring an end to institutions for children with disabilities
- Provide early childhood care and education
- Provide teacher training for inclusive education
- Introduce inclusive testing and assessment
- Introduce complaints procedures
Five principles of inclusive education according to Monash
Monash Education, an organization that is rated number 1 in Australia and 15th in the world for education and has ranked as "above world standard" in research, has published what it believes are the five principles of inclusive education, including:
- Principle 1: Diversity in the classroom enriches and strengthens education − understanding that diversity in schools is a given and asking teachers how to create more welcoming and challenging environments for all learners.
- Principle 2: A strength-based and personalized curriculum− recognizing each students' strengths and building a curriculum that improves student engagement and academic outcomes.
- Principle 3: Student engagement, agency, and voice − seeking students' perspectives and facilitating ways to be heard. Student agency promotes an environment in which students can make a meaningful contribution to their education.
- Principle 4: Engaging with all your critical stakeholders − providing students and caregivers accurate information about their progress and providing processes for turning areas of improvement into positive experiences.
- Principle 5: Inclusive teachers need commitment, knowledge, and practical skills − facilitating educational experiences in which teachers have the appropriate tools and skills to assess, tutor, and commit to cooperative learning.
In addition to facilitating inclusive learning environments for their students, Monash also provides consultation and evaluation services for educators.
MCIE's essential services of inclusive education providers
The Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education (MCIE), founded in 1988, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the success of all children and youth in their school communities through meaningful and successful inclusion.
MCIE's student-centered learning process incorporates feedback from caregivers and school staff to create action plans using the MAPS process (Making Action Plans). It also provides training and technical assistance for school staff.
The MCIE offers essential services for its community, including:
- Individual Advocacy for families that want less restrictive placements for their child in the educational system. Families receive general information, referrals, consultations, and legal representation.
- Administrative Advocacy that promotes and encourages different rules, procedures, and standard practices at the federal, state, and local levels so that students with disabilities can have the right to improved accessibility and inclusivity at school.
- Training and support for schools, including education regarding students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), to ensure that students with ASD have access to the best education that fits their needs.
MCIE's services range from individual teacher coaching, grade-level training sessions, and workshops tailored to unique needs in the classroom.
Inclusive education is about more than the desegregation of the general student body population and students with special needs. In many ways, inclusive education embraces the Independent Living Philosophy, which says that every person, regardless of disability, has the potential and the right to exercise individual self-determination. Incorporating all students' needs and abilities and providing a platform in which students play a role in their education ensures that all learners have equal opportunity to participate and contribute to their communities in a meaningful and self-determining environment.