What is Difference?
The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (2010) defines difference as being “1. A way in which people or things are dissimilar. 2. The state or condition of being dissimilar.” The definition indicates how diversity can be viewed and constructed within the classroom, we are all different in some way, it’s what makes us an individual, but can also set us aside from ‘the norm.’ Ashman and Elkin (2009) built upon this aspect that difference is conformed through people acting, being or holding alternate capabilities, appearances, values, attitudes or beliefs to that of the dominant culture. Australian society today is shows an amplitude of difference, therefore we as educators of the future need to acknowledge, accept and celebrate diversity within our classroom contexts.
How has inclusive curriculum come about?
Inclusive curriculum had its foundations in USA, which dates back to 1975 with the creation of PL 94-142 (Education of all Handicapped Children Act). It was acknowledged here that all children with disabilities are entitled to “free appropriate public education.” Prior to this law, minimal research was conducted by Lucal, Cardon, Itard and Wolfensbergr to name a few. They essentially built the stepping stones to change the way society views diversity for generations to come.
Although this was in place in the USA, it wasn’t until 1992 that Australian legislation was introduced in the form of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). What I believe is essential to note here is, ‘Is this why we in Australia are still so far behind the U.S. in forms of opportunities and acceptance for people with disabilities?’ The key focuses were: “enrolment; participation; curriculum development, accreditation and delivery; student support services; and elimination of harassment and victimisation.” (Ashman and Elkin, 2009) From the introduction of this document Dempsey (2003) stated that the DDA allows for provisions of funding and resources to be distributed amongst students with disabilities. It was a positive step forward for inclusive curriculum, however many schools, teachers and bureaucrats tended to not conform to it completely through a lapse in section 22. (Dempsey and Foreman, 2002) The Act provided guidelines for Australia as a whole, but it was up to individual states and territories (which took more time) to provide ongoing policies for education. (This aspect is about to change with the introduction of the National Curriculum which will be discussed later).
In 1994 the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO) was created by 92 governments and 25 international organisations that aimed to show a more concerted effort to provide students with special needs in their least restrictive education environment possible. (Dempsey and Foreman, 2002)
Following UNESCO in Australia was the Adelaide Declaration (1999). This statement was developed by federal, state and territory governments (Groundwater-Smith, Mitchell and Mockler, 2007)...