What is inclusive education?
Inclusive education is concerned with the education and accommodation of ALL children in society, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, or linguistic deficits. Inclusion should also include children from disadvantaged groups, of all races and cultures as well as the gifted and the disabled (UNESCO, 2003). Inclusion tries to reduce exclusion within the education system by tackling, responding to and meeting the different needs of all learners (Booth, 1996). It involves changing the education system so that it can accommodate the unique styles and way of learning of each learner and ensure that there is quality education for all through the use of proper resources, suitable curricula, appropriate teaching strategies and partnerships within the community (UNESCO, 1994). Inclusion will not happen instantaneously but requires careful planning and thinking, positive attitudes and behaviour and utilising the necessary specialised support, accommodations and adaptations to ensure all children become part of the school (Burstein, Sears, Wilcoxen, Cabello & Spagna, 2004), actively participate in the education system and later become fully contributing members of society (Department of Education, 2001).
Inclusive education is about ensuring that schools can meet the needs of all learners. It is thus the responsibility of an inclusive school to embrace the diversity and special needs of all its learners, (Flem, Moen & Gudmundsdottir, 2004) identify and minimise the barriers to learning (Department of Education, 2001) and create a tolerant and respectful atmosphere in which people are valued and stigmatisation is minimised (Carrington & Robinson, 2004). All children thus need to be given the support they need so they can achieve success, feel a sense of security and belong to a community (Iarskaia-Smirnova, & Loshakova, 2004; Burke & Sutherland, 2004). Inclusive education also recognises that learning occurs both at home and in the community and therefore the support of parents, family and the community is vital (Department of Education, 2001). Truly inclusive schools understand the uniqueness of every child, that all children can learn and that all children have different gifts, strengths learning styles and needs. These schools then provide the appropriate means and support through which these needs can be met (UNESO, 2003)
The necessity for making schools and classrooms inclusive in South Africa
Inclusion has become a necessity in South Africa as South Africa has a history of violence and the education system has always been politicised and used by the ruling class as a way of marginalising and stigmatising various groups in society (De Lange, 1989). Inequalities in our society, lack of access to basic services and poverty are prevailing historical factors that place our children at risk and still lead to severe exclusion of children with barriers to learning (whether it be economic, social,...