Inclusive education, What does that mean

Inclusive education, What does that mean

Inclusive education, I’m sure you have an image. A commonly heard definition is: offering a place to as many students as possible in regular education. The latter does not seem to work everywhere; the influx to special education has increased and there are now waiting lists. Next year the chamber will evaluate the law on appropriate education. I notice from school leaders, teachers and collaborations that the system is twisting, but that the idea behind it is beautiful. A plea to further develop yourself as a school from a clear vision on inclusive education.

What is inclusive education?

What exactly is inclusive education? The government makes it clear: refer as few students as possible to special education. That mission has failed, because the influx is increasing. Was it a real goal? The policy was dropped into the schools a few years ago, while many schools were not ready for it.

Knowledge, skills and resources were lacking to teach a more diverse group of students. Unfortunately, that picture has not gone away yet. Many schools are still struggling with it. On the one hand they would like to offer all students a place, on the other hand they lack knowledge and skills and also the system is struggling.

The latter has to do with, among other things, available financial resources and administrative drive and pressure. But also with the economic drive behind our education system in which high learning outcomes are central. The standard of the majority is leading and that is precisely what does not fit well within inclusive education.

Education for all

Inclusive education means that everyone, wherever in the world, has the right to education. Inclusion therefore goes far beyond the narrow definition I have outlined above. When we talk about inclusive schools, we think quickly in terms such as: no or hardly any referral. But also these schools often have separate classes for certain students. Is that inclusion? I recently came across a video of a school whose students read aloud at the medical day care center that is located in the same building.

They also take children outside in wheelchairs. Not the whole school day together, but a form of inclusion. Schools for special education also do everything they can to prepare students for inclusion in society. This broader view does more justice to the term inclusive education, in which underlying thoughts such as social justice and equality are important and in which inclusive education is not an end goal but a means to achieve more social justice.

Working more inclusive

Does this broader view of inclusive education keep us from our duty to accommodate as many students as possible in mainstream education? I do not think so. That remains a nice ambition. You contribute to a society where everyone matters, where people see and use each other’s gifts and talents, help each other. That fits very well with biblical principles if you love your neighbor.

Above all, everyone matters in God’s eyes. The criticism is often that this is not realistic. Nevertheless, I see at various regular schools and also at teacher training colleges that people are working in a more inclusive way.

Knowledge and skills are increasing, there is more out of the box thinking and more research is taking place with teachers. For example, teachers have participated in a practical study on School Video Interaction Guidance (svib) in a team context. The goal was to increase their ability to act among puzzle students and to achieve more cooperation within the school. Using the svib methodology, we worked with a group of them on images from their daily practice.

A way of training that is in line with what is known worldwide about effective training in order to work more inclusive. An important question we asked them was: how do you embed this program in your daily work?

What does inclusive education mean for you and for your school?

Together we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A lot is already known about how you can work more inclusive as a school. Good practices are available in our previously published brochure, material is available on our own knowledge base and there is a new knowledge platform.

Where to start? What is especially important: think first (or again) within your team about what inclusive means to your school? You can very well link that to the foundation of your school. Helpful questions are: What impact does the Adequate Education Act have on the way your school sees and practices inclusive education? Has this changed recently? How, why and in what way? What does inclusion mean for you personally?

Who does and who doesn’t “include” you and why? Are you familiar with how inclusive education is seen internationally? Then come up with a mission and vision and include it in your multi-year school plan, for example. Based on this, you can determine what you do now, what knowledge and skills you already have and where development is needed. Then you can make the step by asking yourself what resources you need to achieve that.

Exchanging existing knowledge and skills, acquiring new knowledge and skills through coaching on the job and working on a culture of learning and working together are proven effective elements. This view of more inclusive education also provides space to recognize that special education is a better place for some students to develop. Take your time, inclusive education is a means, not an end. Moreover, it is a concept that is subject to change due to the impact of politics and society. It is never finished.