Inclusion; the way forward?
According to the World Health Organisation (2011), there are more than 1 billion people with disabilities in the world, with this number rising. Many of these people will be excluded from the regular situations we, ‘the ordinary’, experience in everyday life. One of these experiences is our right to education. Article 42 of the Irish Constitution states that the state shall provide for free primary education until the age of 18, but is this the right to the right education? Why should being born with a disability, something which is completely out of your control, automatically limit your chances of success and cut you off from the rest of society due to being deemed ‘weaker’ by people who have probably never met you? With approximately 15% of the world’s population having disabilities, how come society is unable to fully accept people with disabilities? In order to break this notion, we must begin with inclusion.
The EPSEN Act (2004) defines inclusion as the intention to provide people with special educational needs the same right to avail of, and benefit from, appropriate education as do their peers who do not have such needs. The idea of inclusion is far from new but is still struggling to find its feet in the Irish education system. It can be said however, with confidence that the segregation of normal students from special students is being wiped out, with there being a decline in special schools since the early 1990s (Pijl, Meijer, Hegarty 1997).
Inclusion has become increasingly important in education in recent years, with the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act being passed in 2004 to ensure equality in our system. In summary, inclusion is the idea of there being no child left behind, that the appropriate supports will be put in place to aid all students and their learning. There is also an increasing understanding that the types of children requiring additional supports goes beyond those traditionally thought of as having special educational needs, such travellers and other disadvantaged groups (Winter, O’Raw, NCSE, 2010). There are a vast numberof positives in favour of inclusion. However, our system at all levels is still developing a comprehensive understanding of disability/SEN and those in education may not be ready or trained to deal with such needs. For students to be given equal chances, this needs to be addressed.
Inclusion is the support of students through adapting how lessons are taught, using strategies specific to the students needs and in a mainstream setting where possible. Inclusion is the educator adapting their lesson to their students and their specific needs, rather than it being the student’s responsibility to adapt and keep up with the rest of the class. Inclusion is seeing a classroom of individuals as opposed to a group of students. Teachers, parents, professionals, the school and the students themselves should work collaboratively to find specific aims and...