Foundations of Inclusive Education

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr

The foundations of inclusive education are rooted in a number of historical factors which have contributed to and represent a paradigm shift regarding the education of students with disability across time.

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948: The establishment of the first human rights framework commenced the process for future conventions (Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), which have gone on to contribute to and support the realisation of inclusive education.
  • Brown v Board of Education Ruling 1954: Although the Brown v Board of Education ruling was concerned with racial segregation of African American children, its ruling went on to influence outcomes in a class action concerning children with disability. Brown v Board of Education found that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and are therefore in violation of the Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.
  • PARC v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 1974: As a result of the Brown v Board of Education ruling, the PARC v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania class action successfully argued that the segregation of students with disability was too in violation of the Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This then led to the passing of US federal law which progressed to becoming the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 – stating that all children in the US are entitled to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.
  • Salamanca Statement and Framework on Special Needs Education: The concept of inclusive education became internationally recognised in 1994 through the Salamanca Statement. It prompted the reevaluation of education around the world. It was positioned as a framework for action regarding the inclusion of students with disability.
  • Convention on the Rights of People with Disability: The CRPD surpassed the Salamanca Statement with its inception in 2006. Through General Comment No. 4 on Article 24, the CRPD provides an authoritative framework and legally binding obligation regarding the implementation of inclusive education for students with disability. Australia is a signatory to the CRPD, deploying our obligations as a nation to uphold it across policy and practice. More information on the human right to inclusive education can be found here.

For further information regarding important events in history which have contributed to a strong foundation for pursuing inclusive education, check out Inclusive Education – key dates in history