Inclusive education: what it is and how it has transformed the school

Formal education is one of the most effective methods of socialization that we have built in Western societies. This is why their theories, models and practices have been constantly modified and in response to the social, political and economic events of each era.

During this journey, and especially since education began to be conceived as a universal right, a paradigm has emerged which argues that we should all have access to formal education regardless of our gender, ethnicity, our disability or our socio-economic condition. This paradigm is that of educational inclusion or inclusive education.

Below, we will explain in more detail, albeit in an introductory way, what inclusive education is, where it comes from and what its scope and challenges are.

    What is inclusive education? Origins, proposals

    A UNESCO conference was held in Thailand in 1990, bringing together several countries (including Anglo-Saxons) and proposed the idea of ​​”a school for all”.

    They specifically wanted to complement and expand the scope of what was previously called ‘special education’, but they did not limit themselves to discussing the conditions of exclusion in which people with disabilities found themselves, but recognized many other contexts of vulnerability in which many people are found.

    Four years later, at the Salamanca Conference, 88 countries agreed that education should have an inclusive orientation, that is, it should not be limited to ensuring access to education. , but also he must ensure that this education is effective and efficient.

    In other words, inclusion is a social phenomenon which has been at the center of the debate on education for almost three decades, which has generated and developed a whole inclusive movement, which is not limited to the improvement of quality of life for people with disabilities, but it has change the model of care and rehabilitation to one of accessibility in the management of disability, where the problems are no longer sought in the person but in the conditions of the environment.

    In short, inclusive education is the implementation of the inclusion paradigm in all areas related to formal education (for example and mainly in schools, but also with governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions involved) . Such as public policies).

      Inclusive education or educational inclusion?

      Both concepts refer to the same process. The difference is that the term inclusive education refers to the theoretical approach or modelThat is, the organized set of ideas that promote equal conditions of access to effective education, while the term inclusive education makes a more specific reference to practice; for example, when a school implements specific strategies to promote inclusion and accessibility.

      Difference between special education and inclusive education

      The main difference is in the underlying paradigm of each of them. Special education has emerged as a tool to ensure that people with disabilities, in certain contexts called people with special needs, can access formal education.

      It is called “special education” because it is taken for granted that there are people who have special problems or needs that general (non-special) education does not have the capacity to meet. therefore becomes necessary to create a different way of educating and meeting those needs.

      For its part, inclusive education does not consider that the problem comes from people, but from education itself, which hardly recognizes the diversity of functioning modes that coexist between human beings, therefore what was needed. to do was not a “special education” for “special people,” but a unique education capable of recognizing and assess differences and respond to them on an equal footing.

      In other words, education for all, or inclusive education, is not about expecting all of us to be equal, let alone forcing children to have the same skills, interests, concerns, rhythms, etc. on the contrary, it is about making an educational model that in practice allows us to recognize that we are very different, both in the way we work and in the way we process or transmit information, so we must create diverse and flexible strategies, programs and policies.

      Finally, although inclusive education is often directly associated with the intention to integrate people with disabilities into education systems, it is more about recognizing barriers to learning and barriers to learning. for reasons not only of disability, but of gender, cultural, socio-economic, religious, etc.

      From agreements to actions

      So what can we do to make education inclusive? first barriers to learning and participation need to be detected. For example, performing qualitative assessments that allow for a broad and in-depth understanding of the particular educational context, i.e. the characteristics, needs, facilities and conflicts of a particular school.

      Thus to evaluate the possibilities of action while being realistic and to sensitize the educational community (teachers, parents, children, administrators) in order to promote a change of paradigm and not only a politically correct discourse.

      Another example is that of adaptations or curricular support within the class which are made after having detected the special needs of boys and girls like teaching staff. A lot of it is about being empathetic and receptive and having the willingness to analyze phenomena not just at the micro level.

        Some challenges of this project

        Although this is a very committed human rights project with very good intentions and many successes, the reality is that it is still a complicated process.

        One of the problems is that this is a proposition to which “developed countries” aspire, and under unequal conditions of “developing countries”, which means that its impact could not be generalized in all countries and socio-economic contexts.

        In addition, the barriers to learning and participation are difficult to detect because the teaching activity is often centered on the needs of the teacher (on the time available to teach, on the number of students, etc. .)), and the problems are child-centered, which, in many contexts, further favors an excess of psychopathological diagnoses (eg, overdiagnosis of ADHD).

        Inclusive education is then a project that gives us very good forecasts for the future, especially since the children who live together and recognize diversity, are the future adults who have created accessible societies (not only in terms of space but also in terms of learning and knowledge), but it is also the result of a very complex process which it depends not only on professionals or a large part of children, but also on educational policies and models, Resource allocation and other macro-policy factors that also need to be questioned.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Guzmán, G. (2017). “Articulations between education and psychopathology: reflections on psychopedagogical strategies based on bodies.” Palobra Magazine, Faculty of Social Sciences and Education, University of Cartagena, (17) 1, pp. 316-325.
        • López, MF, Arellano, A. and Gaeta, ML (2015). Perception of the quality of life of families with children with intellectual disabilities included in ordinary schools. Paper presented at the IX International Scientific Conference on Research on People with Disabilities, INICO University of Salamanca.
        • Escudero, J. and Martínez, B. (2011). Inclusive education and school change. Ibero-American Journal of Education, 55: 85-105.
        • Parrilla, A. (2002). On the origin and meaning of inclusive education. Education magazine. 327: 11-28.

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