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

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

November 29, 2022

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

In this journey, and especially since education began to be conceived as a universal right, arose a paradigm that argues that everyone must access formal education regardless of our gender, ethnic origin, disability or socioeconomic status. This paradigm is that of Inclusive Education or Inclusive Education .

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


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What is Inclusive Education? Origins, proposals

In 1990 a UNESCO conference was held in Thailand, where several countries (mainly Anglo-Saxons) met and They proposed the idea of ​​"a school for all" .

Specifically, they wanted to complement and extend 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 they also recognized many other contexts of vulnerability in which They meet many people.

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


This means that inclusion is a social phenomenon that for almost three decades has been at the center of the debate on education, which has generated and expanded an inclusive movement, which is not limited to improving the quality of life of the people with disabilities, but it has allowed change the model of assistance and rehabilitation through an accessibility model in the attention to the disability, where the problems no longer look for in the person but in the conditions of the surroundings.

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

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Inclusive education or educational inclusion?

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


Difference between special education and inclusive education

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

It is called "special education" because it is assumed that there are people who have problems or particular needs that general education (not special) does not have the capacity to attend, so it becomes necessary to create a different way of educating and meeting those needs .

For its part, inclusive education does not consider that the problem is people, but education itself, which hardly recognizes the diversity of ways of functioning that coexist among human beings, with which, what had to be done was not a " special education "for" special people ", but a single education capable of recognizing and assess differences and address them in equal conditions .

That is, education for all, or inclusive education, is not about expecting everyone to be the same, let alone forcing children to have the same skills, interests, concerns, rhythms, etc; it is the opposite, it is about making an educational model that in practice allows us to recognize that we are very different, both in our way of functioning and in the ways of processing or transmitting information,so you have to create strategies, programs and policies that are diverse and flexible.

Finally, although inclusive education is often directly associated with the intention of incorporating people with disabilities into educational systems, it is more about recognizing the barriers to learning and the barriers to participation that are put into practice. for reasons not only of disability, but of gender, cultural, socioeconomic, religious , etc.

From agreements to actions

So, what can we do to make education inclusive? At first we must detect the barriers in learning and participation . For example, by carrying out qualitative assessments that allow a broad and in-depth understanding of the particular educational context, that is, the characteristics, needs, facilities and conflicts of a particular school.

From there, evaluate the possibilities of action being realistic and raise awareness for the educational community (teachers, family members, children, administrators) in a way that promotes a change of paradigm and not just politically correct discourse.

Another example is the curricular adaptations or the accompaniments within the classroom that are made after having detected the particular needs of both boys and girls as of the teaching plant. It is largely about being empathetic and receptive and having the disposition to analyze the phenomena not only at the micro level.

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Some challenges of this project

Although it is a project very committed to human rights and with very good intentions, as well as many successful cases, the reality is that it continues to be a complicated process.

One of the problems is that it is a proposal to which the "developed countries" aspire, and in unequal conditions the "developing countries", which means that its impact has not been generalizable to all countries and socioeconomic contexts .

In addition, barriers to learning and participation are difficult to detect because often, the pedagogical activity is centered on the needs of the teacher (in the time he has to teach, in the number of students, etc.), and the problems are focused on children, which also promotes in many contexts an excess of psychopathological diagnoses (for example, overdiagnoses of ADHD).

Inclusive education is then a project that gives us very good future forecasts, especially because children who live together and recognize diversity, are the future adults who will create 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 that depends not only on professionals, much less on children, but on educational policies and models , of the distribution of resources, and other macropolitical factors that must also be questioned.

Bibliographic references:

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

Shelley Moore: Transforming Inclusive Education (November 2022).


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