INTRODUCTION TO INCLUSIVE EDUCATION One of the major features that will characterise classrooms of the new century is learner diversity. This will be a notable advance from past practices and indicates an awareness of the important role inclusive education has to play in the future. In order to give all learners access to quality education, a dramatic shift from exclusivity to inclusivity is required. At the Salamanca Conference held in Spain from 7 to 10 June 1994, more than 300 representatives from 92 governments and 25 international organisations, committed themselves to promoting Inclusive Education. The Salamanca Conference Statement reaffirms the right to education of every individual, as stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and renews the pledge made by the world community at the 1990 World Conference on Education for All. This framework stems from the messages of the Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (1990) and was reaffirmed in the Dakar Framework for Action (2000): “… In order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups, education systems should respond flexibly… Education systems must be inclusive, actively seeking out children who are not enrolled, and responding flexibly to the circumstances and needs of all learners…” (Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments. Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework for Action, Para 33) UNESCO's action in the field of inclusive education has been set explicitly within the 'inclusive education' framework adopted at the Salamanca Conference: "... Schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions." (Article 3, Salamanca Framework for Action) "Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system." (Article 2, Salamanca Statement) In South Africa, these contexts, the 1997 reports of the National Commission on Special Needs in Education and Training (NCSNET) and the National Committee on Education Support Services (NCESS), formed the conceptual framework for the National Education White Papers on Special Needs Education, but more specifically, the Education White Paper 6 – “Building an Inclusive Education and Training System”. Education White Paper 6 (EWP6), outlines the framework and strategies for an inclusive education and training system for South Africa that should be phased in over a period of twenty years. The principle of inclusion is in accord with international perspectives and it acknowledges that learners who are experiencing barriers to learning should not be excluded from the education system. What is Inclusive Education? Many definitions of inclusive education have evolved around the world. It ranges from ‟extending the scope of ordinary schools so that they can include a greater diversity of children‟ (Clark et al.,1995) to a „set of principles which ensures that the student with a disability is viewed as a valued and needed member of the community in every respect‟ (Uditsky, 1993, p88). Some definitions focus on human interaction, e.g. Forest and Pearpoint (1992) who see inclusion as a way of dealing with difference, while Ballard (1995), Clark et al. (1995) and Rouse and Florian (1996), adopt an institutional perspective and focus on organisational arrangements and school improvement. The following South African definitions of Inclusive Education are the perspectives of the reference committees and consultative bodies that were commissioned to investigate the future of Special Education. „Inclusive Education is defined as a learning environment that promotes the full personal, academic and professional development of all learners irrespective of race, class, gender, disability, religion, culture, sexual preference, learning styles and language.‟ [NCSNET/ NCESS 1998] In Education White Paper 6 (2001) on Special Education Needs, Inclusive Education is defined as: Acknowledging that all children and youth can learn and that all children and youth need support. Enabling education structures, systems and learning methodologies to meet the needs of all learners. Acknowledging and respecting differences in learners, whether due to age, gender, ethnicity, language, class, disability, HIV or other infectious diseases. Broader than formal schooling and acknowledging that learning also occurs in the home and community, and within formal and informal settings and structures. Changing attitudes, behaviour, teaching methods, curricula and environment to meet the needs of all learners. Maximising the participation of all learners in the culture and the curriculum of educational institutions and uncovering and minimising barriers to learning. Inclusive Education therefore addresses the fundamental principles of the South African Constitution of Human rights and Social Justice by addressing the imbalances of the past and striving for EQUITY, REDRESS and ACCESS. In addressing these social injustices, the move should be from segregation to inclusion. How societies construct and respond to disabilities, gender, race, and cultural differences are of utmost importance to the implementation of the Education White Paper 6. The pursuit of an inclusive society involves a demanding and difficult struggle against past prejudices, labeling and stigmatisation. Children, whatever their barrier to learning, have a part to play in society and need to be included within societies from an early age. Adults, who have been educated within the special school system, often identify early segregation as the key factor in creating conditions that lead to prejudice and barriers encountered in later life. Inclusion is, therefore, not just at an educational level, but is also concerned with fostering mutually sustaining relationships between schools and communities. In Inclusive Education we strive to adapt the environment, our attitudes, the curriculum and teaching methods in such a way that both the external and internal barriers to learning can be minimised. Inclusion is in the heart and minds of society What are the benefits of Inclusive Education? The Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education [CSIE, 1996] has identified ten reasons for inclusion. TEN REASONS FOR INCLUSION Inclusive Education is a human right, it’s good education and it makes good social sense. HUMAN RIGHTS 1. All children have the right to learn together. 2. Children should not be devalued or discriminated against by being excluded or sent away because of their disability or learning difficulty. 3. Disabled adults, describing themselves as special school survivors, are demanding an end to segregation. 4. There are no legitimate reasons to separate children for their education. Children belong together – with advantages and benefits for everyone. They do not need to be protected from each other. GOOD EDUCATION 5. Research shows children do better academically and socially in inclusive settings. 6. There is no teaching or care in a segregated school that cannot take place in an ordinary school. 7. Given commitment and support, inclusive education is a more efficient use of educational resources. GOOD SOCIAL SENSE 8. Segregation teaches children to be fearful and ignorant, and breeds prejudice. 9. All children need an education that will help them develop relationships and prepare them for life in society. 10. Only inclusion has the potential to reduce fear and to build friendships, respect and understanding. Most people would agree with the human rights position or the aim of working towards a more tolerant society, but there are many educationalists and communities who would still need to be convinced that learners with learning barriers could be placed in a general classroom. According to the National Inclusive Education Directorate and DSSA, Inclusive Education has a range of benefits and all role-players are on the receiving end. ROLE –PLAYERS BENEFITS Children experiencing They can learn new skills through imitation. barriers to learning They are with peers from whom they can learn new social and real life skills that will equip them to live in their communities. They have an opportunity to develop friendships with typically developing children. They get access to education in their communities instead of being sent away to special schools or staying at home. All other children They are able to learn more realistic and accurate views about children experiencing barriers to learning. They can develop positive attitudes towards those different from them. They can learn from others who successfully achieve despite challenges in their way. Both slow and gifted learners can benefit from the inclusion of learners needing support to learn. Families of children They will feel less isolated from the rest of the who experience community. barriers to learning They will develop relationships with other families who can provide them with support. They can enjoy having their children at home during their school years without the need to send them away to special schools or hostels. Families of the other Will develop relationships with families with children children with disabilities and be able to make a contribution. Will be able to teach their children about individual differences and the need to accept those who are different. Communities They can economise by providing one program for all children rather than separate programmes. People experiencing barriers to learning who have developed their full potential through effective education no longer are a burden to society but can make a contribution. Communities will learn to appreciate diversity in their midst. What then are the reasons for the shift from Special Needs Education to Inclusive Education? Prior to 1994, Special Needs Education in South Africa excluded many learners from mainstream education. Du Toit (1995) summarised the Special Needs Education prior to 1994 as follows: A fragmented specialised education system based on ethnic separation and discrimination on the basis of race and colour Duplication and disproportionate allocation and utilisation of facilities, professionals and services Separate schools for children with different categories of disabilities Unequal access to specialised education within the different education departments A strong medical focus with clinically described admission criteria Extreme disparities between specialised education in urban and rural areas It is against this backdrop of inequalities, inaccessibility, exclusion, labeling, duplication of services and limited access to resources that a concerted effort was made in EWP6 to move away from the imbalances of the past towards an Inclusive Education system. Inequalities Equalities Inaccessibility Accessibility Exclusion TO Inclusion FROM Labeling/ Human Rights and Stigmatisation social justice Duplication of Redistribution of services services Limited access to Redistribution of resources resources When is all this going to happen? How long do we have to wait? In EWP6, the strategy and the 20-year time frame for the implementation are clearly spelt out. TIME FRAME 2001- 2021 SHORT TERM MEDIUM TERM LONG TERM 2001- 2003 2004- 2008 2009- 2021 Advocacy and Higher Education Expanding provision orientation and Training to 380 resource [Provincial- EMDCs Institutions offering centres and and schools] INSET and PRESET 500 full service Audit of facilities at Expansion of schools and Special Schools resource centres colleges Pilot Project – and full service Expansion of the Establishment of schools District Support resource centres Establishment of Teams and full service District Support Establishment of the schools in the nodal Teams final Outreach areas Expansion of the Programme to Establishment of Outreach target the 280,000 District Support Programme to target Youth At Risk Teams the Youth At Risk Early identification of learning barriers [Foundation Phase] Establishment of an Outreach Programme targeting the disabled school youth To get all role-players and stakeholders on board, well-structured and coordinated Provincial Advocacy Campaigns for Education White Paper 6, „Building an Inclusive Education and Training System’ need to be designed. During the advocacy of EWP6, a strong emphasis should be placed on the management of diversity within our societies and education system. Our motto, Celebrate similarities and dignify diversity, stresses the important concept of diversity. Everybody is different and we should not see it as a problem but rather as a resource, as each individual makes a valuable contribution to society. How do we manage diversity? Diversity covers a range of important issues that are crucial to the successful implementation of inclusion: Issues of gender, race, culture, religion, age, class, socio-economic environments, language, disability and HIV status. The key to managing diversity is in dealing with change. We are working in a world of intensifying and rapid change - conditions that are increasingly unstable and uncertain, new technologies, large-scale restructuring and greater cultural diversity. People react to and deal with change in different ways. It could range from total resistance to acquiescence. When people deal with change they move along a continuum [undergo various stages] from uncertainty through to acceptance, adaptation and lastly, comfort. Any change is highly emotional and causes anxiety, fear and apprehension. People might feel threatened, be worried about losing competency, or be overwhelmed by the whole process. Change means leaving the „comfort zones‟ and things that are familiar and moving into unknown areas. Change could also mean the redistribution of power and authority. Some people find this extremely intimidating as they need to hold onto that power base for as long as possible. Another way of viewing the elements of change is indicated in the diagram. C H A N G E COMMUNICATION: VERBAL & NON VERBAL HABITS/HOW ATTITUDES/ANXIETY/ACCEPTANCE NETWORK/SUPPORT GAIN KNOWLEDGE EMPATHY The following are some of the questions that will need explicit answers to dispel all fears and stop unnecessary stress and anxiety: Do people understand what I am trying to communicate? Do I understand the reasons for these changes? How are these changes going to affect me? To what extent will it have an impact on what I am currently doing? What is my attitude towards the proposed changes? Do I have the knowledge and skills necessary to deal with these changes? Are the support structures and networks in place to mediate/facilitate individuals who require support? Do I have access to support structures and networks that will assist me in the transition process? Will I have access to Change Management Courses as part of my professional development? How do I feel about these changes? Am I sensitive to the needs of others? Successful change requires flexibility, energy, creativity and the commitment of everyone involved. Training is a key factor in how smoothly any transition goes, but many people lack the necessary skills. To start the process of managing diversity, one should focus on the important principles that underpin diversity, such as: Communication Interpersonal skills Attitudes Flexibility/adaptability policy practice COMMUNICATI ON INTERPERSONA ATTITUDE L DIVERSITY SKILLS FLEXIBILITY / ADAPTABILI TY In managing diversity, the four major components of communication, interpersonal skills, attitude and flexibility need to be considered, as each of these components plays a vital role while still being challenged by two external forces: policy and practice. The first two essential components in managing diversity are effective communication and interpersonal skills. One has to acknowledge that there is diversity in language as well. How well do you communicate with others? Do you … Use simple, ordinary language? Avoid unnecessary jargon? Speak clearly? Avoid being ambiguous? Avoid making snide remarks? Avoid being patronising or condescending? Watch your body language? Repeat the main points? Allow time for interpretation? Use open-ended questions for clarification or elaboration? Positive attitudes and flexibility or adaptability are also crucial elements of managing diversity within societies. One has to be sensitive to the needs of others, in a non-judgmental or non-threatening manner. In understanding others, we need to avoid stereotyping, generalising and labeling but should rather treat people with respect and dignity. Most educational discussions on inclusion focus on curriculum, attitudes, teaching methodologies, assessment practices and pastoral systems, but there is a further dimension to inclusion. The dimension of inclusion goes beyond the walls and boundaries of educational institutions and into the nucleus of all societies and communities. The most important needs of people who are perceived by society as being „different‟ are as follows: The need to be accepted as a human irrespective of physical, intellectual, societal or sensory differences The need to belong to a group; to be able to make a contribution and to be valued as a human. Social inclusion in education is, therefore, an important aspect for all learners, but more especially for learners experiencing barriers to learning. This is one of the key areas that would require a great deal of attention in the implementation of Inclusive Education in all institutions. As the education system is at the beginning of an inclusive paradigm, there can be no doubt that a non-segregated, anti-discriminatory environment for a diverse population of children and young people in schools will produce schools which are more sensitive and more people-orientated. It will also produce a younger generation that is more tolerant and accepting of difference.
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