Monday, April 15, 2024

Inclusive Education: 10 Definitions of Inclusive Education by Authors and Organizations

Inclusive education is a complex and multifaceted concept that encompasses a broad range of ideas and approaches.

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Education is a fundamental right that every individual should have access to. However, historically, the education system has been exclusionary towards certain groups of people, including those with disabilities, those from marginalized communities, and those from low-income families. Inclusive education aims to address this issue by creating a learning environment that is welcoming and accessible to all students, regardless of their background or ability.

There are various definitions of inclusive education, and different authors and organizations have presented their views on what it means. In this article, we will discuss ten definitions of inclusive education by different authors and organizations, along with their explanations.

#1 UNESCO’s Definition of Inclusive Education

According to UNESCO, inclusive education is “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education” (UNESCO, 2009).

UNESCO emphasizes that inclusive education is not just about including students with disabilities but also about ensuring that students from all backgrounds and abilities have equal opportunities to learn and participate in their school communities.

#2 John Hattie’s Definition of Inclusive Education

John Hattie, a prominent education researcher, defines inclusive education as “an approach to schooling that aims to increase access and engagement in learning for all students by identifying and removing barriers that may prevent some students from participating fully” (Hattie, 2012).

Hattie stresses that inclusive education is not just about accommodating students with disabilities but also about recognizing and addressing other barriers to learning, such as poverty, cultural differences, and language barriers.

#3 Mel Ainscow’s Definition of Inclusive Education

Mel Ainscow, a leading researcher in inclusive education, defines it as “a process of increasing the participation of all students in schools and other learning environments, reducing their exclusion from these settings, and responding to their diverse needs” (Ainscow, 2005).

Ainscow argues that inclusive education requires a shift from a focus on the individual student to a focus on the entire school community. This means that schools must not only provide support to individual students with disabilities but also create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students.

#4 Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Definition of Inclusive Education

Leonard Cheshire Disability, a UK-based disability charity, defines inclusive education as “education that is accessible to all, regardless of their background or ability, and that recognizes and responds to the diverse needs of all learners” (Leonard Cheshire Disability, n.d.).

The organization emphasizes that inclusive education is not just about accommodating students with disabilities but also about addressing the broader societal barriers that may prevent some students from accessing education.

#5 Nancy Fraser’s Definition of Inclusive Education

Nancy Fraser, a philosopher and social theorist, defines inclusive education as “a project of social justice that aims to overcome systemic exclusions and subordinations in educational institutions and practices, in order to enable all individuals to participate as full and equal members of society” (Fraser, 2009).

Fraser argues that inclusive education is not just about addressing individual needs but also about challenging the societal structures that perpetuate inequalities in education. This requires a fundamental shift in the way we approach education, towards a more equitable and just system.

#6 Association for Childhood Education International’s Definition of Inclusive Education:

The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) defines inclusive education as “an approach to education that values diversity and the unique contributions each student brings to the classroom, and that seeks to create a learning environment where all students feel valued, supported, and included” (ACEI, 2016).

ACEI emphasizes that inclusive education is not just about accommodating students with disabilities but also about recognizing and valuing the diversity of all students, including their cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds.

#7 World Health Organization’s Definition of Inclusive Education

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines inclusive education as “a strategy to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, have access to quality education that meets their diverse learning needs and prepares them for life, work, and citizenship” (WHO, 2021).

WHO highlights the importance of providing quality education that is tailored to the individual needs of each student, including those with disabilities. Inclusive education, according to WHO, is not just about providing access to education but also about ensuring that students are prepared for life beyond the classroom.

#8 Australian Government’s Definition of Inclusive Education

The Australian Government’s Department of Education defines inclusive education as “a philosophy that values diversity and recognizes the rights of all students to have access to quality education that is responsive to their individual needs” (Australian Government, 2021).

The government emphasizes the importance of providing support to all students, including those with disabilities, to enable them to participate fully in education. Inclusive education, according to the Australian government, requires a whole-school approach that values diversity and promotes equity.

#9 European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education’s Definition of Inclusive Education:

The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education defines inclusive education as “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners, by increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities, and reducing exclusion from education” (European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, 2014).

The agency emphasizes the importance of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, regardless of their background or ability. Inclusive education, according to the agency, requires a holistic approach that addresses the individual needs of each student and the broader social and cultural context in which they learn.

#10 National Association of Special Education Teachers’ Definition of Inclusive Education:

The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) defines inclusive education as “a comprehensive approach to educating students with disabilities that emphasizes their full inclusion in the general education classroom and their access to the general education curriculum” (NASET, 2021).

NASET emphasizes the importance of providing support to students with disabilities in the general education classroom, rather than segregating them into special education classrooms. Inclusive education, according to NASET, requires collaboration between general and special education teachers to provide an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all students.

Conclusion

Inclusive education is a complex and multifaceted concept that encompasses a broad range of ideas and approaches. Each of the definitions presented in this article offers a unique perspective on what inclusive education means and how it can be achieved. Common themes across these definitions include the importance of valuing diversity, providing support to all students, tailoring education to individual needs, promoting equity and social justice, and creating a welcoming and inclusive learning environment. While there is no single definition of inclusive education that captures all of its nuances and complexities, the various perspectives presented in this article offer valuable insights into how we can create a more inclusive and equitable education system.

As we continue to strive towards a more inclusive education system, it is essential to keep these diverse perspectives in mind and work collaboratively to promote access, equity, and excellence for all learners.

Bibliography

  • ACEI. (2016). Inclusive Education: What it Means, Proven Strategies, and a Case Study. Association for Childhood Education International. https://www.acei.org/inclusive-education-what-it-means-proven-strategies-and-a-case-study/
  • Ainscow, M. (2005). Developing inclusive education systems: What are the levers for change? Journal of Educational Change, 6(2), 109-124.
  • Australian Government. (2021). Inclusive Education. Department of Education, Skills and Employment. https://www.education.gov.au/inclusive
  • European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. (2014). Key principles for promoting quality in inclusive education: Recommendations for practice. https://www.european-agency.org/resources/publications/key-principles-for-promoting-quality-in-inclusive-education
  • Kugelmass, J. W., & Hall, T. E. (2021). Inclusive Education. In R. Mayer & P. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Learning Disabilities (pp. 601-617). Springer.
  • National Association of Special Education Teachers. (2021). Inclusive Education: The Benefits and the Obstacles. https://www.naset.org/754.0.html
  • UNESCO. (1994). The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. http://www.unesco.org/education/pdf/SALAMA_E.PDF
  • UNESCO. (2015). Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/incheon-framework-for-action.pdf
  • World Health Organization. (2021). Inclusive education. https://www.who.int/disabilities/policies/inclusive-education/en/

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