What Inclusive Education Is/Is Not

“Inclusive education allows students of all backgrounds to learn and grow side by side, to the benefit of all” – UNICEF

What inclusive education is:

Inclusive education is a highly-effective, research-based model of education that is supported with empirical evidence. It occurs when all students can equitably access, participate and make progress in learning alongside their same-aged peers. It is built on a system that values the contributions and importance of all students. It means that all students are in the same classrooms, and the same schools, and it involves the provision of reasonable adjustments and high-quality teaching strategies to promote belonging and success. Inclusive education is about how we design and facilitate our schools, classrooms, programs and activities so that all students are provided with rigorous, purposeful and effective education.

Inclusive education can be summarised as an equation that encompasses the attitudes and beliefs of educators, the locations where students engage in learning, and the practices that are utilised. All three aspects are necessary for authentic inclusive education to be realised.

Inclusive Education = Philosophy + Place + Practice

What inclusive education is not:

Inclusive education is not the mainstream! It is common for mainstream education to be misaligned with the concept of inclusive education. However, mainstream education and inclusive education are actually mutually incompatible. Simply placing students in the existing systems and structures of mainstream education is not inclusive education, it is integration, and integration does not result in improved experiences and outcomes for students. Inclusive education requires transformation of mainstream beliefs, physical environments, practices, and policies. It demands a commitment to ensuring both the place and practice of education recognises, anticipates, and respects diversity from the outset.

All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education
provides us with the following summary of what inclusive education is and is not:

Inclusive education is:

  • all students included in the general education classroom every day;
  • all students working in naturally supportive, flexible structures and groupings with other students regardless of individual ability;
  • all students presumed competent;
  • students are supported (where needed, such as through curriculum adaptations and differentiated teaching) to access the core curriculum; and
  • all students known and valued as full members of the school community, developing meaningful social relationships with peers and able to participate in all aspects of the life of the school.

Inclusive education is not:

  • students only being allowed to participate in the class if they are “keeping up” academically – this includes:
    • frequent “pull-outs”;
    • working separately in the classroom with the education assistant while the teacher instructs the rest of the class; or
    • students being given a separate “special curriculum” or “program” (as opposed to being supported where needed, including through curricular adjustments, to access the same core curriculum); or
  • demonstrating independence or self-sufficiency as a condition of entry

An additional summary of what inclusive education is and is not can be experienced by viewing, Not all models of education are inclusive.

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