Over the years education has evolved globally, however, certain educational models, strategies, and systems will always remain relevant to the demands of 21st-century teaching and learning. Inclusive education is one of them. Inclusive education supports teaching all learners in the same classrooms, in the same schools. This teaching model promotes a situation whereby all learners, regardless of their ability, background gender, or race learn together in one academic environment without any form of bias.
It is a concept that has expanded the responsibilities of educational institutions to create opportunities and participation for marginalized populations of learners. Some issues that learners are often discriminated against include disability or uncommon physical features, race, gender, household income, or the language that they speak. These issues are not only present in physical classrooms but in online and blended learning environments too. According to UNICEF, inclusive education encourages real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded – not only children with disabilities but speakers of minority languages too.
The system of inclusive education values the dynamic contributions every learner from all backgrounds brings to the classroom and allows diverse groups to grow cheek by jowl so that teaching and learning will be effective and beneficial to everyone in the classroom. A fair and inclusive learning environment indeed makes for a happy and healthy classroom.
One of the key drivers of an inclusive education system is recognizing the benefits of the diversity and uniqueness of the contributions of each learner in the classroom. Sadly, in different parts of the world, there are recurrent incidences of learners being treated in objectionable ways because of their unique qualities. No learner should be ostracized or segregated based on their differences or learning capabilities. In a standard inclusive learning environment, a learner’s uniqueness and diversity are celebrated not discriminated against. Every child feels safe and develops a sense of belonging in an inclusive learning environment and that is one of the qualities of an effective education system, to create a space where learners feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe to learn.
Some may ask, does it mean that inclusive education purports certain learners should never leave their regular classrooms? No, Inclusive education does not, however, claim that individual learners cannot leave the classroom for specific reasons. Sometimes a learner may require individualized attention on a one-on-one basis in a particular subject area. This may or may not be happening during the regular learning period. Inclusive education instead discourages learners with certain characteristics to be grouped in separate classrooms away from others for all or part of the school day because of their disability, language, background, race or gender.
Why is inclusive education important?
The importance of inclusive education cannot be overemphasized. Inclusive systems provide a better-quality education for all learners no matter their individual characteristics and are instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes. It provides better opportunities for learning. Successful inclusion attempts to develop an individual’s strengths and gifts, Learners who have unique abilities are often better motivated when they learn in classes surrounded by others and this helps the expectations of all the learners to become higher. Attending classroom settings that depict the true nature of the similarities and differences that exist in the world helps learners to appreciate diversity. The culture of respect for one another also grows when they are allowed to mingle without any form of discrimination.
Apart from academic considerations, it is essential that a person’s education introduces him or her to the reality of the world out there beyond the walls of just an academic environment. Inclusive education promotes an environment where friendships are developed, and social skills are learned. Academic institutions provide the context for a child’s first relationship with the world outside their families, enabling the development of social relationships and interactions. Respect and understanding grow when learners of diverse abilities and backgrounds play, socialize, and learn together.
In Conclusion, the importance of inclusive education in academic institutions whether in the early years, elementary or college is very essential. Education should embrace and integrate learners, not exclude, segregate or discriminate against traditionally marginalized groups of learners. The seeds of inclusion need to be planted in the heart of the young so that they will learn the values, skills, and knowledge to include others who are different from them. It is expedient for educators, teachers, caregivers, policymakers, and all stakeholders in the academic sphere not to exclude special needs or any other uniquely characterized learner from associating and learning with others.
All learners have an equal right to education and maximum support should be provided to all learners to enable them to reach their full potential. An accessible environment should be created, wheelchair ramps, visual alternatives to lessons for learners with hearing impairments, language laboratories, appropriate play types of equipment and books, special needs educators, resource persons to support all learning groups, and all that is needed to provide holistic education should be employed in every academic environment. A society that implements an inclusive education will naturally introduce the same culture of inclusion in civic participation, employment, and community life.