Inclusive education recognizes that all students need and deserve access to a high quality education. It is a fundamental human right. Yet, many students with disabilities have been excluded from school or have not had their needs met in the general education classroom. This brief will provide an overview of inclusive practices and provide you with resources to learn more about this topic.
Inclusive education is about recognizing that everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and engage with society. It begins with the fundamental belief that all children have the right to be included in their local schools and to receive an equal, high-quality education in their communities alongside their peers.
It’s important to note that the term “inclusive education” is relatively new, and has only been widely used since the 1980s. In the past, students with disabilities were often placed in separate classrooms or schools designed specifically for them. While this approach was intended to help these students get the extra support they needed, it also perpetuated segregation. Not only did this deny these students a full educational experience, research also shows that it actually made it more difficult for them to integrate into society later on. Today, educators have learned that inclusion is not only beneficial for disabled children—it’s beneficial for all children.
Inclusive education is the practice of educating students with disabilities in regular classrooms alongside their non-disabled peers. As opposed to the traditional practice of removing students with disabilities from regular classes, inclusive education aims to create an environment that fosters both academic and social growth through collaborative learning.
For many years, disabled children were separated from their non-disabled peers and placed in special education settings. Teachers in those settings struggled to provide specialized instruction for each student with a disability because they were spread so thin among many different classrooms. Today, it is becoming increasingly clear that inclusive education is a better solution for all students, including those with disabilities, who are now provided access to a more diverse environment where they can learn from one another as well as their teachers.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a free appropriate public education is defined as “specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” This specially designed instruction is called special education and is often provided in special classrooms or schools.
Special education services are delivered through an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. An IEP is a document that outlines the support and services needed for a student to access their educational environment.
The goal of special education is to help students achieve success in school by removing barriers that prevent them from learning. Special education services are determined by the student’s IEP team on an annual basis, based on his or her current assessment data and goals.
Inclusive classrooms provide support and modification within the general education setting. In inclusive settings, students typically spend more than 80% of their instructional time with their non-disabled peers. An inclusive classroom supports both students who receive special education services and those who do not.
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. This article offers a basic definition of inclusive education and provides an overview of the history and current status of inclusive education as an international movement.