Inclusive education means different and diverse students learning side by side in the same classroom. They enjoy field trips and after-school activities together. Inclusive education values diversity and the unique contributions each student brings to the classroom. In a truly inclusive setting, every child feels safe and has a sense of belonging. Students and their parents participate in setting learning goals and take part in decisions that affect them. And school staff have the training, support, flexibility, and resources to nurture, encourage, and respond to the needs of all students.
Years ago when I was in college, the term inclusive education was focused on having students who can work at their level and those who need extra special assistance from an adult or specialist. There were divisions among us, the students, as to whether it’s more advantageous for both sides to include or exclude. As I face the real teaching world, it’s not just about disabilities but differences in GENERAL. Differences in their learning styles, preferences, behaviours, how fast they progress, backgrounds/cultures and more. Around the world, children are excluded from schools not just because of disability but also race, language, religion, gender and poverty. Inclusive education provides a better quality education for all children and is instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes. Schools 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 students of diverse abilities and backgrounds play, socialize, and learn together. Every child has the right to be supported by their parents and community to grow, learn, and develop in the early years, and, upon reaching school age, to go to school and be welcomed and included by teachers and peers alike. When all children, regardless of their differences, are educated together, everyone benefits—this is the cornerstone of inclusive education.
For me, inclusion means this (Jesus speaking) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” –John 13:34. Love in action. Loving like Jesus.
For ideas on how to open the diversity and inclusion topic with children, click on the link below: