Education is one of the basic values for the human society as far as it ensures the proper preparation of the future generations to the complexity of the human relations. However, the equality of access to education and of all other rights is also paramount for the society. Therefore, people discriminated according to any factor, whether it is their complexion, race, religion, sex, or physical and mental abilities, need considerable support and defense of their rights. Inclusive education is one of the means to provide people with disabilities with the equal opportunities in getting education in the general classes and without being excluded to form special needs groups (Baker, & Donelly, 71). Inclusive education classrooms are beneficial to all students, including those without disabilities when implemented properly. The aim of this paper is to consider the strong and weak points of the inclusive education in order to see its actual use for the human society.
Starting with the main points that the policies of the inclusive education presuppose, it is necessary to mention that their leitmotif is that all the students are equal in their educational opportunities, irrespective of their physical or mental abilities, cognitive abilities and academic performance levels: “What right does a disabled child have to share a classroom with kids who have no disabilities? The answer is simple: Every right in the world. Literally.” (Henderson, 2008) Drawing from this, the inclusive education supporters, including the United Nations Organization and such scholars as Pivik, Mccomas, & Laflamme (2002), Zoller, Ramanathan, and Yu (1999), etc. defend the rights of the typically discriminated minorities of students having either physical or mental disabilities, or both.
The major idea of the inclusive education is the one that children with disabilities are not to be separated in special groups but have the right to study in general education schools in the classes with the students having no disabilities. Teachers are to be specially trained for such classes, especially in respect of differentiated instruction, i. e. the phenomenon of the individual approach to the needs, abilities, and performance level of every student without any harm to the academic success of the class as a whole (Baker, & Donelly, 71). Specialists also state the possibility of reverse integration as a process when students with no disabilities are introduced to study in the class of the children having some. These are both appropriate approaches to the issue that show that the inclusive education is effective.
In Canada, this issue has special importance as according to the 2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS), there are 181, 000 of children aging 0 to 14 having various disabilities in Canada, which constitutes a substantial 3.3% part of the Canadian population of that age. 57.4% have mild disabilities while the resting 42.6% suffer from severe disabilities. At the same time, only one disability is the problem for 28.1% of Canadian children aging 5 to 14, while 10.6% have six or more disabilities which deprive them of the opportunities for the normal living in case if people having no disabilities turn their backs on them (Statistics Canada, 2001). Separated in special classes for students with disabilities, these children cannot get the same level of instruction as they could studying in general schools, and this fact could leave them behind their peers in cognitive development (Cook, Swain, & French, 295). Inclusive education, as a phenomenon that does not bring harm to any social group, allows children with disabilities to develop their skills and talents on an adequate level together with those having no disabilities. As a result, students with disabilities can overcome them and live normal lives having the high enough educational level to be employed and to earn their living (Cook, Swain, & French, 295). Nevertheless, the inclusive education has its positive and negative points, whose consideration is vital for this study.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As Henderson (2008) argues, “This is not about whether inclusion is a good idea or not. The UN convention commits us to providing access. The question is: How are we doing? Are we fulfilling our obligations?” (Henderson, 2008). If present, these questions still leave the space for the discussion of the positive and negative influences the inclusive education can have of children with disabilities and on the society as a whole. First of all, it is evident that the inclusive education is beneficial for all students irrespective of their having disabilities or not. Being brought up in the atmosphere of the mutual assistance, students from the inclusive educational classes become richer in the moral sense (Cook, Swain, & French, 295). There is no threat that growing up they would treat the people with disabilities in a discriminatory way, refuse them of doing something, etc. Thus, the inclusive education is the basis upon which the moral and tolerant society of the future can be made (Baker, & Donelly, 71). Moreover, the children with disabilities receive both respectful attitudes of their peers and the opportunity to study on the general level that will allow them being equal to their peer with no disabilities in educational levels and cognitive abilities.
Nevertheless, such seemingly harmless classes can have their negative impact upon the students, especially the ones with disabilities (Cook, Swain, & French, 295). For example, such students, if improperly introduced to the general school classes, are subject to the discriminatory treatment of peers. They often suffer more from this than from lack of access to education, and teachers who are unable to control the class, can contribute nothing positive to the development of students with disabilities in the general education classes (Cherubini, 364). Trying to solve these issues, scholars like Zoller, Ramanathan, and Yu (1999) “explored the elements of climate and culture in a school considered a model for inclusive practices. Using qualitative methods these authors concluded that a successful inclusive school climate depended on the attitudes and actions of the principal, a supportive school community, and shared values and language.” (Zoller, Ramanathan, and Yu, 160). The most important conclusion made by these author states that teacher training to work in the inclusive classes with both students having disabilities and having none. This practice, according to Zoller, Ramanathan, and Yu (1999), facilitates both the confidence of the teachers and, what is the most important, the adjustment levels of children with disabilities in general educational classes.
Further on, the National Institute for Urban School Improvement (2000) provides the parents of children with disabilities with special guides for them to find out whether the school they plan to send their child to is focused on the educational inclusion or not: “For example, the guides suggest examining the school’s mission statement, the school’s structural layout, the curriculum, teaching practices, and the methods used to evaluate both students and teachers.” (Pivik, Mccomas, & Laflamme, 2002, p. 97). These guides are effective means of avoiding the negative influences of the inclusive education. They allow parents consider the variants before the actual start of the study process to ensure the adequate inclusion of their child into the general school class and protect him or her from any discriminatory attitudes.
Legislative and Public Support
Another type of the anti-discriminatory protection of the students with disabilities is the legislative initiative. In other words, the current attentive attitude of the authorities to the issue is a positive sign for those struggling for the equality of educational opportunities for the students with disabilities: “Progressive nations such as Canada and the United States have civil rights laws protecting their citizens embedded in their national policies” (Pivik, Mccomas, & Laflamme, 2002, p. 97). To focus specifically on the issues of the students with disabilities, Canada has developed the program that enhances their opportunities in the sphere of education and, at the same time, encourages schools for implementing the inclusive education classes. Adopted in 1970, the CELDIC Report by the Commission on Emotional and Learning Disorders endorses “the integration of students with “exceptionalities” into the general education system” (Pivik, Mccomas, & Laflamme, 2002, p. 97). Thus, inclusive education is supported in Canada on the state level and its development is controlled by the central Government. At the same time, the proliferation of the inclusive education on the local level is based upon the concerns of the local governments, which supports and explains the provincial differences observed in this respect in Canada.
Moreover, the international attention is also focused on this issue as far as the United Nations Organization has developed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whose Article 24 (Education) is specifically concerned with the rights of people with disabilities for educational access, inclusion in general classes, etc (United Nations, 2006). The major point of this Convention demands the countries to “recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education” and “ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and life long learning” (United Nations, 2006), thus stating the educational equality of all people irrespective of their mental and physical abilities at the international level. The UN consideration are rather significant for the international focus on this problem, and the overall coverage that UN documents have allows hoping for the further development of the equality in education.
To make the respective conclusion, inclusive education classrooms are beneficial to all students, including those without disabilities when implemented properly. The use of this type of education for any social group is evident as far as the people with disabilities obtain the equal educational opportunities with those who have no disabilities, while the latter are taught the basics of respect and tolerant treatment of those who need special facilities and instruction to get educated and develop their personalities and talents to the largest extent possible. The legislatively admitted necessity of the equal educational opportunities and the international acceptance of this equality are the good signs that allow people to hope for the further improvements in the position of the people with disabilities as rightful members of the human society.
Baker, K., & Donelly, M. (2001). The social experience of children with disability and the influence of environment: A framework for intervention. Disability & Society, 16(1), 71-85.
Cherubini, L (Ed.). (2006). Contextualizing Pedagogical Practice Canada: Pearson Custom Publishing, 364.
Cook, T., Swain, J., & French, S. (2001). Voices from segregated schooling: Toward an inclusive education system. Disability & Society, 16, 293-310.
Henderson, H. (2008, May 31). Opening up the learning curves, Toronto Star.
Pivik, J., Mccomas, J., & Laflamme, M. (2002). Barriers and Facilitators to Inclusive Education. Exceptional Children, 69(1), 97+.
Statistics Canada. (2001). Profile of Disability in Canada, 2001: Profile of disability among children. Web.
United Nations (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 24: United Nations. The Geneva Convention. Web.
Zoller, N. J., Ramanathan, A. K., & Yu, M. (1999). The relationship between school culture and inclusion: How an inclusive culture supports inclusive education. Qualitative Studies in Education, 12(2), 157-174.