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INCLUSIVE EDUCATION NEEDS ACCEPTANCE OF CHANGE

SHAISTA NAZ
Ph.D Research Scholar
Department of Special Education
University of Karachi

One of the major features that will characterize classrooms of the new century is
learner diversity. This will be a notable advance from past practices and
indicates an awareness of the important role inclusive education has to play in
the future. In order to give all learners access to quality education, a dramatic
shift from exclusivity to inclusivity is required.

At the Salamanca Conference held in Spain from 7 to 10 June 1994, more than 300
representatives from 92 governments and 25 international organizations committed
themselves to promoting Inclusive Education.

The Salamanca Conference Statement reaffirms the right to education of every


individual, as stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and
renews the pledge made by the world community at the 1990 World Conference on
Education for All.

This framework stems from the messages of the Jomtien World Declaration on
Education for All (1990) and was reaffirmed in the Dakar Framework for Action
(2000):
“… In order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups,
education systems should respond flexibly… Education systems must be inclusive,
actively seeking out children who are not enrolled, and responding flexibly to the
circumstances and needs of all learners…” (Education for All: Meeting our
Collective Commitments. Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework for Action,
Para 33)

UNESCO's action in the field of inclusive education has been set explicitly within
the 'inclusive education' framework adopted at the Salamanca Conference:

"... Schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical,


intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions." (Article 3,
Salamanca Framework for Action)
"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." (Article 2,
Salamanca Statement)

Many definitions of inclusive education have evolved around the world. It ranges
from ‘extending the scope of ordinary schools so that they can include a greater
diversity of children’ (Clark et al., 1995) to a ‘set of principles which ensures
that the student with a disability is viewed as a valued and needed member of the
community in every respect’ (Uditsky, 1993). Some definitions focus on human
interaction, e.g. Forest and Pearpoint (1992) who see inclusion as a way of
dealing with difference, while Ballard (1995), Clark et al. (1995) and Rouse and
Florian (1996), adopt an institutional perspective and focus on organizational
arrangements and school improvement.

The pursuit of an inclusive society involves a demanding and difficult struggle


against past prejudices, labeling and stigmatization. Children, whatever their
barrier to learning, have a part to play in society and need to be included within
societies from an early age. Adults, who have been educated within the special
school system, often identify early segregation as the key factor in creating
conditions that lead to prejudice and barriers encountered in later life.

Inclusion is, therefore, not just at an educational level, but is also concerned
with fostering mutually sustaining relationships between schools and communities.

In Inclusive Education we strive to adapt the environment, our attitudes, the


curriculum and teaching methods in such a way that both the external and internal
barriers to learning can be minimized.

REASONS FOR INCLUSION

HUMAN RIGHTS
1. All children have the right to learn together.
2. Children should not be devalued or discriminated against by being excluded
or sent away because of their disability or learning difficulty.
3. Disabled adults, describing themselves as special school survivors, are
demanding an end to segregation.
4. There are no legitimate reasons to separate children for their education.
Children belong together – with advantages and benefits for everyone. They do not
need to be protected from each other.

GOOD EDUCATION
5. Research shows children do better academically and socially in inclusive
settings.
6. There is no teaching or care in a segregated school that cannot take place
in an ordinary school.
7. Given commitment and support, inclusive education is a more efficient use of
educational resources.

GOOD SOCIAL SENSE


8. Segregation teaches children to be fearful and ignorant, and breeds
prejudice.
9. All children need an education that will help them develop relationships and
prepare them for life in society.
10. Only inclusion has the potential to reduce fear and to build friendships,
respect and understanding.

Most people would agree with the human rights position or the aim of working
towards a more tolerant society, but there are many educationalists and
communities who would still need to be convinced that learners with learning
barriers could be placed in a general classroom.

BENEFITS OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION


Inclusive Education has a range of benefits and all role-players are on the
receiving end.

Benefits to children experiencing barriers to learning


• They can learn new skills through imitation.
• They are with peers from whom they can learn new social and real life skills
that will equip them to live in their communities.
• They have an opportunity to develop friendships with typically developing
children.
• They get access to education in their communities instead of being sent away
to special schools or staying at home.

Benefits to all other children


• They are able to learn more realistic and accurate views about children
experiencing barriers to learning.
• They can develop positive attitudes towards those different from them.
• They can learn from others who successfully achieve despite challenges in
their way.
• Both slow and gifted learners can benefit from the inclusion of learners
needing support to learn.

Benefits to families of children who experience barriers to learning


• They will feel less isolated from the rest of the community.
• They will develop relationships with other families who can provide them
with support.
• They can enjoy having their children at home during their school years
without the need to send them away to special schools or hostels.

Benefits to families of the other children


• Will develop relationships with families with children with disabilities and
be able to make a contribution.
• Will be able to teach their children about individual differences and the
need to accept those who are different.

Benefits to communities
• They can economize by providing one program for all children rather than
separate programs.
• People experiencing barriers to learning who have developed their full
potential through effective education no longer are a burden to society but can
make a contribution.
• Communities will learn to appreciate diversity in their midst.

FAILURE OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN


Due to the following reasons, in Pakistan many diverse learners have been excluded
from mainstream education.

• Duplication and disproportionate allocation and utilization of facilities,


professionals and services
• Separate schools for children with different categories of disabilities
• Unequal access to specialized education within the different education
departments
• A strong believe on medical model
• Extreme disparities between specialized education in urban and rural areas

ACCEPTANCE OF CHANGE:
Diversity covers a range of important issues that are crucial to the successful
implementation of inclusion: Issues of gender, culture, religion, age, class,
socio-economic environments, language, and disability.

The key to managing diversity is in dealing with change. We are working in a


world of intensifying and rapid change - conditions that are increasingly unstable
and uncertain, new technologies, large-scale restructuring and greater cultural
diversity.

People react to and deal with change in different ways. It could range from total
resistance to acquiescence. When people deal with change they move along a
continuum from uncertainty through to acceptance, adaptation and lastly, comfort.

Any change is highly emotional and causes anxiety, fear and apprehension. People
might feel threatened, be worried about losing competency, or be overwhelmed by
the whole process. Change means leaving the ‘comfort zones’ and things that are
familiar and moving into unknown areas.

Change could also mean the redistribution of power and authority. Some people find
this extremely intimidating as they need to hold onto that power base for as long
as possible.

Successful change requires flexibility, energy, creativity and the commitment of


everyone involved. Training is a key factor in how smoothly any transition goes,
but many people lack the necessary skills.

To start the process of managing diversity, one should focus on the important
principles that underpin diversity, such as:

• Communication
• Interpersonal skills
• Attitudes
• Flexibility/adaptability

In managing diversity, the four major components of communication, interpersonal


skills, attitude and flexibility need to be considered, as each of these
components plays a vital role while still being challenged by two external forces:
policy and practice.

Positive attitudes and flexibility or adaptability are also crucial elements of


managing diversity within societies. One has to be sensitive to the needs of
others, in a non-judgmental or non-threatening manner. In understanding others, we
need to avoid stereotyping, generalizing and labeling but should rather treat
people with respect and dignity.

Most educational discussions on inclusion focus on curriculum, attitudes, teaching


methodologies, assessment practices and pastoral systems, but there is a further
dimension to inclusion. The dimension of inclusion goes beyond the walls and
boundaries of educational institutions and into the nucleus of all societies and
communities.

The most important needs of people who are perceived by society as being
‘different’ are as follows:

• The need to be accepted as a human irrespective of physical, intellectual,


societal or sensory differences
• The need to belong to a group; to be able to make a contribution and to be
valued as a human.

Social inclusion in education is, therefore, an important aspect for all learners,
but more especially for learners experiencing barriers to learning. This is one of
the key areas that would require a great deal of attention in the implementation
of Inclusive Education in all institutions.

As the education system is at the beginning on an inclusive paradigm, there can be


no doubt that a non-segregated, anti-discriminatory environment for a diverse
population of children and young people in schools will produce schools which are
more sensitive and more people oriented. It will also produce a younger generation
that is more tolerant and accepting of difference.