Inclusive education is based on the assumption that all pupils in a given educational program should receive equal educational opportunities regardless of ability, resources, or disabilities. This type of education has been especially effective in providing special needs children with a well-rounded education, and it has been adopted by many schools as an effective way of dealing with the concerns of special needs children. Although all pupils are entitled to an equal education, some are denied this opportunity because of financial, legal, or other barriers. For these pupils, an inclusive education could be a life saver. It is also ideal for students who already have formal education but need a second one to build on skills or knowledge they have already acquired. It could even be recommended for children who, after scoring highly on standardized tests, require further training in a field of interest to them.
The philosophy of inclusive education is based on two key principles: one is that everybody has the right to an equal education; and two is that the curriculum should promote a shared understanding of those principles. An inclusive education program works towards ensuring that all pupils attain certain educational goals. These goals could range from basic educational needs to additional academic or career training. The first goal, of course, is universal. Everybody needs an education to participate in society. The second, however, is not so obvious.
Since inclusive education is about promoting equality, there are some practices which challenge existing patterns in educational systems. Some practices, such as grammar-structure, are considered by some as a barrier to equality. Programs may also segregate students by ability or achievement, a practice considered as unjustifiable by advocates of inclusive education. Efforts to make things “fair” are often met with resistance, especially from parents who feel that children whose abilities differ from their friends are denied equal opportunities.
At present, there are a number of main challenges facing inclusive education. One of these is racism and sexism. Growing racism against other minority groups, such as Muslims and South Africans, as well as against indigenous people, has put an increased pressure on the concept of inclusion. Racism can be deeply ingrained in our everyday practices, such as our everyday language, our social interactions, and our everyday lives.
Other main challenges include heteronormativity and the absence of a precise definition of what constitutes the term. For example, some school districts accept the voluntary student movement known as FOSA but define it as inclusive education when they exclude children with conservative religious views from its programs. Similarly, some schools accept the broader definition of FOSA as a movement demanding greater religious and cultural diversity in schools, but use exclusionary language such as “no religious student activity” to define it. In other words, schools use vague and broad definitions of inclusion and FOSA as ways of driving out students with whom they disagree. Such practices drive students away rather than attracting them.
The need for a broad definition of inclusion is especially relevant today in light of developments in higher education. Many have been forced to fight . . . . . . for change in the name of social justice, equity, and fairness. Achieving true integration requires an inclusive education that takes into account differences of viewpoint and culture. This is much more difficult than many school districts realize. However, some school systems, like the New York City School District, are working hard to ensure all students feel included. The success of such efforts in New York City and throughout the nation could mean the difference between a striving school system and one that barely treat all its students fairly.