Inclusive education: Education for all

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We can safely state that current education is either provided with an inclusive approach or is not considered education.

I think this statement is not unfounded. Let’s see: We live in societies that call themselves democratic, implying that they respect, value, and promote differences; that they require citizen participation for individual talents to contribute to the group; that they promote equal opportunities for the population as a whole; in short, that they need the concurrence of each individual, with their singularities, to become a society in which coexistence in diversity prevails as a dominant value.

But this is not very easy to achieve, unless the educational model is consistent with the values ​​mentioned. Any measure taken in the education system will have repercussions (for better or for worse) on present and future society, as historically proved. Therefore, if different people should live together, it is advisable that we educate together. It will be the best way to know, respect, value each other…, avoiding prejudice that result in mistrust or underestimation of everything we ignore. Society hardly admits what it does not know. So, it will be crucial to know each other as soon as possible and at the stages of life in which prejudice does not yet exist, as in childhood and, in general, during the years of compulsory education.

The inclusive educational model aims to educate the whole school population, with its peculiarities, at the same school, offering diversified answers to each of them; that is, promoting a universal design for learning that makes it accessible to all, that allows everyone to learn. Consequently, its flexibility is essential so that the system adapts to the student and not the student to a usually quite rigid system.

Under this essentially personalized approach to education, it is apparent that all students should be benefited because it addresses the particularities that will influence their educational process: style and pace of learning, motivations and personal interests, ability, specific talent, social and cultural context, transitory circumstances, etc.; in conclusion, it considers the range of varieties that each person has as an individual and as a social being during their institutional education.

Obviously, we cannot think that inclusive education is implemented to benefit students with special educational needs, for instance, since it would be unfair to affect the general systemic quality because of the circumstances of a small percentage of people. No. Inclusive education leads to better educational quality for all and, therefore, from an ethical, sociological, or psycho-pedagogical point of view, its generalization as a universal model is absolutely justified.

In the last work I published, Educación inclusiva en las aulas (Inclusive education in classrooms, Madrid, La Muralla Publishing house, 2017), I try to offer sufficient theoretical and legal bases that show the need to create inclusive contexts in schools and classrooms, places where educational events occur, although their ultimate goal is to achieve a more equitable inclusive society for all citizens. The chapters that make up the book examine the possible and multiple differences students have, as well as the options that can be taken to adequately address them, both from the administration and from schools themselves; also, some options of a general nature and others of a specialized nature are discussed in terms of these differences. Universal design for learning is treated as a means of putting good theoretical intentions into practice in the classroom because it will be the only way for students to benefit from this educational model. Then, various curricular elements (competences, objectives, contents, methodology, evaluation) are detailed, considering their characteristics and how to implement them so that they have the desired effect, as well as the pedagogical autonomy requirements that the school must meet to be able to adapt them to their population and territorial context.

Two chapters are devoted specifically to the treatment of methodology and evaluation, respectively, to understand that they are the two curricular components that most influence the possibilities of making the design flexible and responding to the learning peculiarities of each student. Their elaboration is wide and deep, offering varied proposals, approaches, and work options so that each teacher or teaching staff in general can choose the methodological strategy that best fits the educational processes in the classroom at all times. The same applies to evaluation, which clearly must be ongoing and of a formative nature; in any case, it should not consist of final, specific tests, in which we decide —unjustly— what a student has learned during a given time. We must evaluate processes to improve them during practice.  In this manner, it will be possible to modify the necessary aspects of the program and adjust them to the group’s reality.

The organization, architecture, supervision, the entire educational community—everything must contribute to the achievement of an inclusive education that improves the school population’s quality of learning. The goal is to stop classifying education (inclusive, intercultural, etc.) shortly because, just by saying “education”, we all should understand that this personalized process of comprehensively educating a person is taking place, ensuring their satisfactory incorporation into society and their autonomy and personal acceptance. At school, we are all special. For this, inclusive education is needed: to respond to the uniqueness that a person possesses and offers to the rest of society.

 

María Antonia Casanova

Professor at the Universidad Camilo José Cela, in Madrid (Spain). She has been an education supervisor and has held the positions of Deputy Director General of Special Education and Diversity Service at the Ministry of Education, and General Director of Educational Promotion in the Community of Madrid. Email: macasanova2011@gmail.com

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