3. International Perspectives – School Without Walls

3

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

Special school, integrated school, and now inclusive education—all these terms in education have emerged with regard to education of children with disabilities. Historically, children with disabilities have been receiving education in segregated schools called special schools. Separate schools were opened for different disabilities. It has, however, been advocated in recent years that such children be educated in mainstream schools in the company of their non-disabled peers. Such schools are commonly referred to as integrated schools. While there is not much debate on the distinction between special schools and integrated schools, the principle and strategies of inclusive education and inclusive schools have remained conceptually contested. It has been generally regarded as an extension of special or integrated education. Many people refer to both the terms interchangeably. Many schools giving admission to children with disabilities perceive they are furthering inclusive education. The Oxford dictionary defines ‘integrate’ as ‘combine (parts) into a whole, complete by addition of the parts, bring or come into equal membership of society, a school etc., desegregate, esp. racially (a school etc.)’; and ‘include’ as ‘comprise or reckon in as part of a whole’.

CHARITY AND HUMANITARIAN APPROACH

Perspectives on the disabled and their education have been changing. Many people believed, and some still do, that disability is some sort of a disease. It can be diagnosed and cured by medical practitioners, educational psychologists or other such professionals. Disability causes defect or deficiency within a child, which ought to be rectified and their schooling requires professional organisation. And so, educational services justify the establishment of special schools for different types of disabilities in segregated environments. Such lay perceptions arising mostly from the medical explanation of disability lead to ‘fear, prejudice, pity, ignorance, misplaced patronage and resentment resulting in social practices which are blatantly discriminatory’ (Fulcher, 1999). It also brings in sympathy, charity and a humanitarian approach towards the disabled and their education leading to the creation of the special school system. This theory has, however, been contested, particularly in the West. In Indian culture helping others is considered an extension of self-help.

Tomlinson (1982) has contested the charity and humanitarian theory for establishing special schools in Britain, and finds ‘the economic and commercial interests of a developing industrial society’ as the factor behind the promotion of special education. Besides, she argues, the ‘vested interests of professional groups, particularly medical men’ encouraged special education of the handicapped before the large-scale interventions by the state, and since then ‘other professional vested interests became more important.’ Many Western commentators agree with Tomlinson's sociological response and analysis of special education.

However, those favouring special education point out its advantages. Jenkinson (1997) has listed three benefits of the system of separate education for the disabled. First, the economics of organising aid and equipment worked well if students with a specific disability are congregated in one place rather than spread over many schools. Some ancillary services such as speech therapy and physiotherapy could also be provided more conveniently at one centre, rather than shuttling the students between the centre and the schools. Second, in special schools, students with disabilities can attend smaller classes with more personal and one-to-one attention. It was perceived as less threatening and more supportive to the disabled. There would be no occasion to compare them with the achievements of non-disabled students. Third, the placement of students with disabilities will put extra demand on resources and teachers in regular schools, placing non-disabled students at a disadvantage. Using these arguments, therefore, more and more students who had previously been primarily in the care of the health services, were admitted into special schools in the West in the 1960s and beyond.

RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE PERSPECTIVE

The medical or diagnostic approach to disability, treating it as an individual problem and looking at it from the angle of charity and benevolence, started being questioned in a democratic society and polity, and questions of human rights, equity and social justice were raised. The charity and humanitarian approach was replaced by the entitlement of equal opportunities for the disabled and nation states were called upon to provide them for the disabled as they would for the non-disabled. Disability, instead of being regarded as an individual problem, was considered something constructed by the social order and societal arrangements. The rights movement got an impetus with a number of United Nations conventions and charters, some of which are listed here.

UN WORLD PROGRAMME OF ACTION CONCERNING DISABLED PERSONS (1983)

Member states should adopt policies which recognize the rights of disabled persons to equal educational opportunities with others. The education of the disabled should as far as possible take place in the general education system…(Article 120).

UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (1989)

State Parties…[should] ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services…in a manner conducive to the child's fullest possible social integration…(Article 23.1/3).

WORLD DECLARATION ON EDUCATION FOR ALL (1990)

The learning needs of the disabled demand special attention. Steps need to be taken to provide equal access to education to every category of disabled persons as an integral part of the education system…(Article 3.5).

UN STANDARD RULES (1993)

They [persons with disabilities] should receive the support they need within the ordinary structures of education, health, employment and social services. (Introduction, Article 26). States should recognize the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities, in integrated settings. They should ensure that the education of persons with disabilities is an integral part of the education system (Rule 6).

WORLD CONFERENCE ON SEN: ACCESS AND EQUITY (1994)

Every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning.

THE WORLD EDUCATION FORUM, DAKAR (2000)

There is no specific mention of education for the disabled or for children with special needs. However, Goal ii of the ‘Framework for Action’ refers to ‘children in difficult circumstances’ and ‘commits’ to the attainment of ‘free and compulsory primary education of good quality’ for them, among others, by 2015. The document also notes under Paragraph 32:

No one should be denied the opportunity to complete a good quality primary education because it is unaffordable. Child labour must not stand in the way of education. The inclusion of children with special needs, from disadvantaged ethnic minorities, from remote and isolated communities and from urban and others excluded from education must be an integral part of strategies to achieve UPE by 2015 (UNESCO, 2000, p. 15).

Such developments at the international level and demands upon the regular school system created a situation whereby the school opened its door to the disabled and wanted them to ‘fit-in’ or get integrated without making any significant changes in its policy or curriculum. However, advocates of the rights movement do not favour the idea of ‘mainstreaming’ or ‘assimilation’ and education in regular schools as an entitlement or the lack of proper integration as the denial of opportunity. They are also not impressed with the argument of the appropriateness of curriculum and the capacity of regular schools to respond to the ‘needs’ of the disabled, and feel that once society takes a lead in accepting the disabled in the general school system, as opposed to their segregation in special schools, formal schools would necessarily reorient their curriculum and pedagogy, and the technical debates on disability and needs would become irrelevant (Bayliss, 1996; Thomas, 1997; Dyson, 1999; Armstrong et al., 2000).

Rights arguments leading to the placement of children with disabilities in regular schools do not get confirmation by some who use the same argument for separate school placement. For example, Cohen (1994) argues that placement of disabled children in special schools may contribute to some positive developments. In fact, instead of using the term segregation or special he uses the term ‘alternative settings’, and observes that complete placement of the disabled in regular schools may amount to denying them the right ‘to attend school in alternative settings.’ He further says, ‘to treat all children as though they are the same is not democracy; it is injustice.’ The danger against ‘sameness’ to achieve equality has been cautioned by Daniels and Garner (1994) as well. They observe that sameness in treatment may be detrimental to the interests of the disabled and those who have special needs in education. Therefore, they do not dismiss entirely the role of special schools in the inclusion process. Making a fine distinction between ‘equality through difference’ as opposed to ‘equality through sameness’, they argue that treating people equally does not necessarily mean that they should be treated exactly the same way. The policies and practices should be based on ‘promoting equity through difference’.

In India, a Supreme Court judgement relating to the constitutional right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, made significant observations about equality and discrimination:

It is well said that in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently…Equality of opportunity for unequals can only mean aggravation of inequality. Equality of opportunity admits discrimination with reason and prohibits discrimination without reason. Discrimination with reasons means rational classification for differential treatment having nexus to the constitutionally permissible objects.’1

The decision about ‘reason’ remains problematic. In a society based on hierarchy, power and interest groups, ‘reason’ is mostly decided by professionals and bureaucrats. This is best demonstrated in the argument by Farrell (2000) against universal placement of children with disabilities in regular schools.

There may well be examples where (this) basic right could only be met if a child was educated in a special school…by placing a child in such a school one is not, presumably, going to be accused of contravening a basic human right…the aim of education should be to help all children, including those with disabilities, to be fully included in society and to take an active part in it. However, there is no empirical reason why this basic ‘right’ cannot be attained through pupils being educated in special schools. Education is, after all, a means to an end, and special schools may for some children provide the most effective means towards achieving these ends (p. 155).

Farrell (ibid.) postulates another situation and asks,

What if a child with [disability] in a mainstream school seriously disrupts the education of other pupils? Surely they have a right to a good education as well? (p. 155)

He has also raised the issue of choice, and argues that parents should have the choice to keep their child in a special school or a regular school, and he fears that non-existence of special schools would limit such choice.

Apprehending such discourses centring around rights and ethics as ‘highly problematic’ and ‘giving rise to contradictions’, Armstrong et al. (2000) feel it may lead to the ‘reinforcement of, rather than resistance to, systems of exclusion and control’. According to them, the debate on the ‘rights of disabled people may lead to a situation where no serious challenge is made to the conditions under which discriminatory and exclusionary social practices operate. Therefore, the demands for mainstream schooling should concern not only the ‘rights’ of disabled children but it should also question what is ‘normal’. In the absence of such a critique, notions of ‘opportunities’ and ‘rights’ rest upon an understanding of ‘normality that reflect the partial self-interest of dominant social groups in our society, and these groups decide and claim to work for what is good for the child.’

Taking the discourses beyond the ‘fit-in’ approach of an integrated school, the new concept of inclusive education shifts the focus from the children to the school and form of schooling. Movement from disability as an individual problem, calling for segregated teaching, to an issue of ‘social construction’ that requires the disabled child to get ‘integrated’ into the system can best be captured from the following words: ‘Initially disability was perceived as an individual problem; it then came to be seen as a social construction and, finally, it is beginning to be perceived as a social creation’ (Clough and Corbett, 2000, p. 28).

This perspective on disability gives a foundation for the discovery of a new form of education that would neither require a child to get isolated from nor fit in the regular school system presumably not designed for him or her. But how is one to achieve that? Not without changing the school, perhaps. Hence the birth of the concept of inclusive education, where the school flexes to respond to the ability of a child.

SCHOOL REFORMS PERSPECTIVES

In simple terms, inclusive education means that all children, including those with disabilities, learn together in mainstream neighbourhood schools. This concept got an impetus since the adoption of the 1994 Salamanca statement by ninety-two governments and twenty-five international organisations in the ‘World Conference on Special Needs Education: Access and Quality’, organised by UNESCO in Salamanca, Spain. The conference officially adopted, for the first time at the international level, inclusive education as the most effective means of securing education for all (UNESCO, 1994), though the term had appeared earlier in American and Australian literature.2 The portion of the statement relating to inclusion reads:

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.

We call upon all governments and urge them to:

  • Give the highest policy and budgetary priority to improve their education systems to enable them to include all children regardless of individual differences or difficulties.
  • Adopt as a matter of law or policy the principle of inclusive education, enrolling all children in regular schools, unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise.

Inclusive education is different from integrated education in two ways. First, it expanded the scope to the education of all children in regular schools, which included children with disabilities. Second, it talked about the improvement of the education system so that it could include all children. It, however, left enough scope for interpretation and manipulation. For example, by putting the clause ‘unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise’ while advocating changes in law or policy to make education inclusive, it left the possibility for segregating children, and thereby the continuation of special schools for the education of children with disabilities. Secondly, it introduced the term ‘special educational needs’ and also suggested a pedagogy that would be ‘child-centred.’ The Salamanca statement on the principles of ‘special needs education’ also says,

We believe and proclaim that:

  • Every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning.
  • Every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs.
  • Education systems should be designed and educational programmes implemented to take into account the wide diversity of these characteristics and needs.
  • Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs (emphasis mine).

The principles of the statement thus underline the child's right to education, recognise each one's uniqueness, recommend redesigning the system, introduce pedagogy and call for making schools inclusive. Lack of clarity about special educational needs or special needs education in the statement, calling for the inclusion of all children ‘regardless of individual difference or difficulties(emphasis mine), but only if there were ‘no compelling reasons for doing otherwise’ sent ambiguous signals to the developing world to look towards the West for interpretations of terms such as special educational needs, educational difficulties and child-centred pedagogy, which have been in vogue there for quite sometime.

Beginning with the 1980s, when the UN recommended ‘integration’ of disabled children into school systems, and with the paradigm shift in the 1990s to an era of ‘inclusion’, there has been a plethora of literature on integrated and inclusive education, particularly in the West.

Ainscow (1999) has explained different perspectives on inclusive education on the basis of the understanding of ‘educational difficulties’. First, educational difficulties experienced by a child could be attributed to the disabilities within the child. Second, it might be construed as due to a ‘mismatch’ between the characteristics of a child and the organisational and curricular arrangements available in the school. Third, the difficulties could also be on account of the limitations of the curriculum referred to in a broader sense to include all the planned and unplanned experiences offered by schools.

Mittler (2000) finds educational difficulties on account of the disabilities of a child divisive, which divides the student population in a school in two parts: those who are handicapped and those who are not, and leads to a ‘divisive discourse’. He traces the origin of the segregation of the disabled and their education in special schools to this perspective as it results in the removal of children from the mainstream curriculum for special help. It is guided by the principle ‘we here, and they elsewhere’ (Fulcher, 1999). This approach, based on the diagnosis of defects or deficits within children, calls for the assessment of provisions and requirement of resources to meet the needs of the disabled child, and is the origin of the term ‘special educational needs’.

Mittler (2000) has made remarkable observation in regard to the education of children with certain categories of ‘mental disability’. He notes, in cases of disabilities such as dyslexia, autism and attention deficit disorder, there is little evidence to prove that accurate diagnosis of these or similar conditions necessarily call for syndrome-specific type of educational interventions. They all need good teaching taking into account their individual patterns of learning.

In the second approach, Ainscow (1999) explains educational difficulties in terms of a mismatch between children's educational needs and the curricular arrangements made for them. Under such an arrangement, children move to mainstream schools, but undergo discriminatory curricular experiences. Children's needs are described as individual needs or additional needs; some of the strategies resorted to include curricular adaptation and cosmetic improvements in the school. He calls this the ‘interactive perspective’. This approach is close to the concept of integrated education, and has been called locational integration by some writers. Under this approach ‘children are in but not of the class’ (Ferguson, 1996).

The third approach has been termed by Ainscow (1999) as the ‘curriculum limitation perspective’. It is based on the assumptions that all children can learn, all are teachable, and the limitations of curriculum for all pupils inhibit their process of learning. It further assumes that society and its institutions (e.g., schools) are ‘oppressive, discriminatory and disabling and that attention needs to be focused on the removal of obstacles, in changing institution and attitudes that create and maintain exclusion’ (Mittler, 2000). Under this model, Ferguson (1996) sees

Inclusion as a process of meshing general and special education reform, initiatives and strategies. [The objective is] to create a unified system of public education that incorporates all children and youths as active, fully participating members of the school community; that views diversity as the norm and maintains a high quality education for each student by ensuring meaningful curriculum, effective teaching and support necessary for each student (p. 17).

Continuing with the observation by educationalists on inclusive education, it proceeds with the notion that ‘children are pupils first’ and aims to focus on a pedagogy leading to ‘inclusive discourse’, as alternative to the ‘divisive discourse’ (Fulcher, 1999). Inclusive education does not believe in the individualistic form of learning, based on dual intelligence: linguistic and logical-mathematical. It explores the abilities and potential of children in other areas of intelligence such as spatial, musical, kinaesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal (Gardener, 1993).

He derived his theory following observations and studies of the capacity of children with disabilities and the meaning of intelligence in different cultures. Children who are not able to respond to linguistic and logical—mathematical abilities could exhibit capabilities in other areas. Udavi-Solner (1996) feels such a broad-based approach to intelligence questions the current practice of labelling children with ‘special needs’, which is based upon one or two aspects of abilities only. Figure 4 demonstrates the distinctions between the traditional and inclusive approaches.

 

Figure 4 Comparison of Traditional and Inclusionary Approaches

Source: Thomas et al., 1998.

 

Lunt and Norwich (1999, p. 32) have presented some of the ‘differences and complexities’ on inclusive education:

  1. Bailey's view that it is about learning the same curriculum in the same place as others.
  2. Tomlinson's view that it is not necessarily about being in the same place and learning the same curriculum.
  3. Booth's and Ainscow's view that it is not a state at all, but an unending process of increasing participation.
  4. Thomas's view that it is about schools responding and restructuring their provisions.
  5. Sebba's and Sacdev's view that it is about schools responding and restructuring their provisions.
  6. Florian's view that the opportunity to participate in inclusion is about active involvement and not something done to the disabled.

Lunt and Norwich (1999) have clearly presented the contrasting views of Bailey and Tomlinson. Bailey, from an Australian context, defines inclusion, which could be the perspectives of many people in other countries also. He, however, makes a condition that it (inclusion) should be ‘with acceptance of all, and in a way which makes the student feel no different from others.’ Bailey's definition is very close to integration when disabled students come to regular schools with the hope of social acceptance by other students, without any change in the curriculum. In contrast to Tomlinson, Bailey states:

In the Tomlinson Committee Report on post-school education of those with learning difficulties and disabilities in England (Tomlinson, 1997), inclusive education is defined as a system which is inclusive but not necessarily an integrated setting. Tomlinson states that: ‘No apology is necessary for the paradox, as some have seen it, that the Committee's concept of inclusive learning is not necessarily coincident with total integration of students into the “mainstream”.’

The Tomlinson Committee report is in contrast to the Salamanca statement, which had recommended ‘inclusive orientation’ of schools apart from improvement in education. The report apparently is a justification for the continuation of special schools and special units in regular schools for children with special needs in Britain.

Mittler (1995) has given two broad definitions of inclusive education. The first refers to radical school reform, changing the existing system and rethinking the entire curriculum of the school in order to meet the needs of all children. The second limits education in an ordinary class in a neighbourhood school that a child would normally attend with the additional support and extra attention to address specific needs, such as the teaching of self-care or communication skills, not easily taught in ordinary classrooms.

Sebba and Ainscow (1996) have narrated an interesting experience when they got a range of interpretations of inclusive education by schools in response to their request for conducting some research on the subject. A ‘working definition’ had been communicated to schools to indicate their intention to conduct a research in the following words: ‘An inclusive school works from the principle that all students in the community should learn together.’ A wide range of schools responded, including schools with special units attached for children with disabilities and schools having linkages with special schools. Ainscow points out yet another problem in such a definition, when ‘inclusion’ is considered a static concept, whereby a school is either inclusive or not inclusive. Such a situation will create further complications, as there is a lack of agreement on how an inclusive school or classroom should look like. Hence, Booth (1996) prefers to think of inclusion in education as an ‘unending set of processes, rather than a state, emphasis in original.

Inclusion has many more ramifications, as it is the clear opposite of ‘exclusion’. A school may not be called inclusive if it ‘excludes’ children because its organisational, cultural or curricular limitations inhibit children from full participation either due to disabilities or due to social, economic and cultural disadvantages. The processes of inclusion and exclusion are connected. While increasing the participation of students in school curricula and culture, the process should reduce exclusion. It should aim at making the school ‘responsive’ to all students (Booth, 1996; Sebba and Ainscow, 1996).

Thus, as per this approach, inclusion is a process and not a state; it should respond to all peoples’ needs; it is necessarily linked with exclusion and it should restructure its curriculum. Accordingly, Sebba and Ainscow (1996) have reached the following definition of inclusion:

Inclusion describes the process by which a school attempts to respond to all pupils as individuals by reconsidering its curricular organisation and provision. Through this process, the school builds its capacity to accept all pupils from the local community who wish to attend and, in so doing, reduces the need to exclude pupils (p. 9).

The preceding review suggests ‘that there are quite divergent and incompatible concepts of inclusion and that it is a complex concept open to confusion’ (Lunt and Norwich, 1999, p.32). But, why is it so ‘divergent and incompatible’ in the West? Jangira (1995) observes, ‘inclusive education is an alternative for the developed education systems but it is an inevitability for the developing systems’ (emphasis mine). I would add further—it is culturally most natural in India, in particular.

In most of the discussions in Western literature on inclusive education, the concern ultimately boils down to shifting children with disabilities from special schools to mainstream schools. There are two essential differences in comparison in India. First, in developed countries nearly all children are in schools, including those with disabilities. They could either be in special schools or regular schools. Second, developed countries have created a class of children with ‘special needs’ in mainstream schools in addition to the century-old institution of special schools. It would be difficult for them to dismantle the institution and abolish the separate class for students with special needs in order to move towards an inclusive education system.

 

 

A lot of literature has been produced on inclusion in schools in relation to education in Western Europe and in the United States. The term is generally used in the context of those who have a disability or learning difficulty, but are getting education in mainstream schools. There is no official legal definition of the term inclusive education or inclusive school in the USA or UK. No such terms as inclusion, or integration or mainstreaming appear in the federal legislation or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Lipsky and Gartner, 1999). The Act, however, requires that any ‘exclusion’ of students with disabilities from the general education system must be explained and justified. In the UK, the Office of Standards in Education has defined an ‘educationally inclusive school’ as

One in which teaching and learning, achievements, attitudes and well being of every young person matter…. This does not mean treating all pupils in the same way. Rather it involves taking account of pupils’ varied life experiences and needs.

However, in developed countries also the existing form of schooling does not ‘enable all children to experience success in their learning’, and the way schools and classrooms are organised limit participation of many students (Booth and Ainscow, 1998; Ainscow, 1999). Nevertheless, there has been progress from extremes of exclusion to the current trend towards inclusion leading to increasing accommodation of special needs students in mainstream classes. The situation is different in the developing countries. A large number of children are ‘excluded’ from the schooling process due to social and economic factors. In areas experiencing situations of conflict, entire communities may be stated to have special needs of ‘a scale and complexity that is difficult to comprehend from outside’ (Brock and Griffin, 2000).

In a survey conducted by UNESCO (1995), countries across the world reported integration as the most important issue in their policies and practices. Integration was perceived as the basic provision of special education in regular schools, curricular and pedagogical adaptation, support services for mainstream teachers and care for particular groups. Comparing the situation with that in 1986, the report observes, ‘special education provision is more firmly located within regular education.’ It has also confirmed that over 95 per cent countries had the responsibility of special education in the mainstream ministries of education, and in the rest the responsibility was shared with other ministries, such as social welfare and health.

In respect of a survey conducted only in developed countries, an OECD report (1997) finds emphasis, across nations, on the medical classification of children with disabilities being replaced by responding to special educational needs in mainstream schools. There is also increasing support of the view that children with disabilities could benefit more if they are educated with broader groups of children with special needs in mainstream schools. Integration opportunities are being enhanced through the deployment of within-class support teachers. Evans and Labon (1997) observe that some schools in the OECD countries offer a standard curriculum to all, while some offer separate courses for children with special needs. Some schools provide ‘within-class curriculum differentiation’, which ‘enables children of different abilities to work individually or in groups on similar tasks at their own levels in the same classroom.’

Despite a visible shift in getting children from special schools to mainstream schools for their primary and secondary education, there are two noticeable features. First, the stage of development towards inclusion is not uniform in Europe. Italy has gone in for ‘radical integration’, Denmark and Sweden are following ‘gradualist approaches’, and Germany and Holland are continuing with ‘segregated provision’ (Bayliss, 1996). Spain has developed a step-by-step approach, based on the ‘philosophy of developing inclusive education on the foundation of a fundamental reform of the education system and of the curriculum’ (Mittler, 1995). It has invested heavily in making the transition. Class sizes have been reduced, all schools are guaranteed access to special needs support teams, and regular teachers have been trained to respond to the special needs of disabled children (Watkins, K., 2000).

There is not much data on education of disabled children in developing countries. According to a WHO estimate, about 10 per cent of children in these counties receive special needs education. It has further been estimated in these countries that less than 2 per cent of children with disabilities are in schools. Hence, ‘the disabled are disproportionately represented among those out of school and that reaching the disabled should be a central theme in strategies for achieving education for all’ (Watkins, K., 2000).

There has been no significant shift in policy in the UK since the Warnock Report of 1978 and the Education Act of 1981 as far as education of children with special needs is concerned. Second, the rhetoric of inclusive education is not making any significant contribution towards overall school reforms. It is still being seen as reforms in respect of policies and practices governing education of children with special needs and those with learning difficulties so as to fit them in mainstream schools.

To sum up, there is no uniformity in approaches to inclusive education even in the developed countries. While conceptual clarity is yet to emerge, practices differ. Daniels and Garner (2000) have listed some ‘conceptual arenas for challenge, conflict and resolution in inclusive education.’ The three broad issues listed by them are those of human rights, inclusive technology and a curriculum for all. Within human rights, they have flagged the issues of empowerment, enablement, social justice and equity, and equality. Within inclusive technology, the issues requiring consideration are those of knowledge, pedagogy, management, location or placement and resources. And, finally, for ‘a curriculum for all’, one needs to address the issues of matching need, assessment, inspection and quality assurance, and preparation of personnel. A study on inclusive education may revolve around these issues, in the context and situations of different countries and societies.

SOME QUESTIONS

There is not much research to prove or disprove assumptions, hypotheses and perceptions in the area of inclusive education. In fact, there are some authors who question the idea of research into inclusive education, as they are of the view that inclusion is a human rights issue and so not open to research (Farrell, 2000). We have, however, seen that the human rights perspective could be used to perpetuate segregated education. It is therefore important to piece together whatever limited data is available to arrive at answers to a variety of questions in regard to inclusive education. Given below are answers to some of these questions (adapted from Inclusion International, 1996 and Farrell; 2000):

Will non-disabled peers accept disabled children?

The attitudes of children in mainstream schools are generally positive towards children with disabilities.

Don't disabled children learn more in special schools?

Research does not suggest advantages of special schools over regular schools with inclusive settings even in cases of children with mental disabilities. However, they benefit more socially from inclusive schooling.

Don't disabled children require special teachers and teaching techniques?

Good teaching in general, based on child-centred pedagogy, and a stimulating educational environment is far more important than so-called special techniques. Instead of the search for special techniques to ameliorate the learning difficulties of individual children, the focus should be on finding ways of creating the conditions that will accommodate children's diversity and facilitate learning for all.

Do special schools and special teachers just have to disappear then?

Some special schools provide excellent educational services to disabled children. Parents and teachers fear that their closure might be detrimental to the disabled. While these schools might close in the long run, their services for the present could be used for providing support to the regular schools in the task of educating children with special needs. Special education should no longer be treated as a separate system, but as part of a comprehensive and flexible education system designed to meet the changing educational needs of all children.

Teachers in regular schools often fail to teach normal children; how can they teach disabled children?

This concern is most serious, particularly in India, where the number of non-disabled children out-of-school is very high. Until regular schools develop capacity, teachers would construe teaching the disabled as an additional burden. Hence, the key elements of the pedagogy of inclusive schooling and concerns for the disabled would have to be included in teacher education programmes at all levels. Experiences have shown that continuous school-based teacher development programmes involving the whole school are much more relevant than one-shot training courses. In order to prepare for inclusive schools, teachers need to be trained to modify curricular content and teaching approaches so as to give access to diverse children population.

Won't inclusive education have a negative effect on the teaching of the non-disabled?

Recent research shows that by catering to diversity, teachers and schools become versatile and creative in their pedagogical approaches which actually enrich the quality of education in general.

Even with a formal policy, integration does not always work in practice?

To obtain real progress, the focus on disability and ‘integration’ categories should be dropped and replaced by a focus on curriculum and pedagogic issues.

Integration might work in some cases, but can it be generalised?

If a more radical school reform is not proposed and implemented, integration remains a question of individual adaptations and it is not going to make educational environments flexible and inclusive enough to cater to all kinds of individuals.

In the absence of conflicting views and differing perspectives, the strategy of educating children would depend upon a hypothesis that would work. The hypothesis would determine the focus, the strategy and ultimately the mode of placement. The hypothesis would not be context neutral. Each society and nation would have to decide upon the hypothesis most appropriate for it. How the different hypotheses would lead to different focuses, strategies and placements is demonstrated in Figure 5:

 

Figure 5 Inclusion as School Reform Approach

 

One way to view inclusion is described by Dipti in the following lines4:

To be a part and not stand apart;
To belong and not to be isolated;
To be accepted and not accommodated;
To have friends and not just companions;
To feel needed and not just a person with needs;
To be a participant and not a spectator;
To have responsibility and not just enjoy rights;
To have opportunities and not favours;
To be really ‘included’.