What is inclusion ? Inclusive education is concerned with the education and accommodation of all children within the classroom, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, or linguistic deficits. Inclusion should also include children from disadvantaged groups, of all races and cultures as well as the gifted and the disabled (UNESCO, 2003).
Inclusion tries to reduce exclusion within the education system by tackling, responding to and meeting the different needs of all learners (Booth, 1996). It involves changing the education system so that it can accommodate the unique styles and way of learning of each learner and ensure that there is quality education for all through the use of proper resources, appropriate teaching strategies and partnerships within the community (UNESCO, 2003).
Inclusion will not happen instantaneously but requires careful planning and thinking, positive attitudes and behaviour and utilising the necessary specialised support, accommodations and adaptations to ensure all children become part of the school (Burstein, Sears, Wilcoxen, Cabello & Spagna, 2004), actively participate in the education system and later become fully contributing members of society (Department of Education, 2001).
Inclusive education is about ensuring that schools can meet the needs of all learners. It is therefore the responsibility of an inclusive school to embrace the diversity and special needs of all its learners, (Flem, Moen & Gudmundsdottir, 2004) identify and minimise the barriers to learning (Department of Education, 2001) and create a tolerant and respectful atmosphere in which people are valued and stigmatisation is minimised (Carrington & Robinson, 2004).
All children thus need to be given the support they need so they can achieve success, feel a sense of security and belong to a community (Iarskaia-Smirnova, & Loshakova, 2004; Burke & Sutherland, 2004). Inclusive education also recognises that learning occurs both at home and in the community and therefore the support of parents, family and the community is vital (Department of Education, 2001). Truly inclusive schools understand the uniqueness of every child, that all children can learn and that all children have different gifts, strengths learning styles and needs.
These schools then provide the appropriate means and support through which these needs can be met (UNESO, 2003) The varying ability of children in the classroom means that in order for all to be educationally challenged, teachers should arrange activities and set learning intentions in certain ways to ensure the equal opportunities of learning for all children. By examining the work of theorists, such as Piaget (1961) and Vygotsky (1978), the importance of motivating all children by providing challenging tasks is extremely significant.
Of course these tasks must be differentiated to account for the range of ability in classrooms and it is therefore vital for teachers to acknowledge the level of individual children, so that appropriate tasks can be set to fulfil certain goals and enhance learning It is important to remember that differentiation can also be present in gender, social class, ethnicity and religion. Teachers should provide all children with equal opportunities to their right to a fair education, building and developing the child's individual needs.
Planning should accommodate for the differences in ability and performance of all children, 'including the more able and those with special educational needs' (DFES, 2004,) Teachers should provide attention and individual support to all children and when they are busy with a 'focus group' they should return to any other children who had problems when they can (DfES, S3. 2. 4). This essay has shown how inclusive education is not a straight forward process that can be implemented overnight. Rather it requires a lot of planning, support, resources and reviewing.
There is extensive research that South Africa can use to make inclusive education successful in South Africa. The major obstacle preventing the successful implementation of inclusion in South Africa is not our lack of resources but rather the teachers' lack of knowledge about children with special needs and how to accommodate them in regular classes. On-going intensive training, professional development and support are therefore needed so that teachers' attitudes can become positive and their willingness to promote inclusion can be maximised.
Teachers thus need to change their mindset, become more willing to try new and different curricular strategies, engage in more joint planning and cooperative learning strategies and believe that all children can learn (Schmidt ; Harriman, 1998). This can only be done however if teachers are equipped with the necessary skills needed to include all learners. Inclusion can become a practical process in South Africa as long as we look at what has made it successful in other countries and build on from there. Reference List 1. Allan, J. (2003). Productive pedagogies and the challenge of inclusion. " In British Journal of Special Education 30 (4): 175 - 179. 1. Ainscow, M, Booth, t & Dyson, A. (2004) "Understanding and developing inclusive practices in schools: a collaborative action research network. " In International Journal of Inclusive Education 8 (2): 125 - 139 1. Booth, T. (1996). "A Perspective on Inclusion from England. " In Cambridge Journal of Education 26 (1): 87 - 100. 1. Burke, K & Sutherland, C. (2004). "Attitudes toward Inclusion: Knowledge versus Experience. " In Education 125 (2): 163 - 172. . Burstein, N, Sears, S, Wilcoxen, A, Cabello, B, & Spagna, M. (2004). "Moving Toward Inclusive Practices. " In Remedial & Special Education 25 (2): 104 - 116. 1. Carrington, S & Robinson, R. (2004). "A case study of inclusive school development: a journey of learning. " In International Journal of Inclusive Education 8 (2): 141 - 153 1. Cross, A. F, Traub, E. K, Hutter-Pishgahi, L & Shelton, G. (2004). "Elements of Successful Inclusion for Children with Significant Disabilities. " In Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 24 (3): 169 - 183 1.
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