Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean
Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean

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Inclusive education: Knowing what we mean

3.3 From integration to inclusion

‘Inclusive education’, then, goes beyond ‘integration’ – a term which, until the late 1990s, was generally used to describe the process of repositioning a child or groups of children in mainstream schools. ‘Integration’ was a term used by organisations such as CSIE (originally called the Centre for Studies in Integration in Education) when seeking neighbourhood placements for all students, and implied the need for a student to adapt to the school, rather than for the school to transform its own practices. The onus for change appeared to be on those seeking to enter mainstream schools, rather than on mainstream schools adapting and changing themselves in order to include a greater diversity of pupils.

‘Inclusive education’ implies a radical shift in attitudes and a willingness on the part of schools to transform practices in pupil grouping, assessment and curriculum. The notion of inclusion does not set boundaries around particular kinds of disability or learning difficulty, but instead focuses on the ability of the school itself to accommodate a diversity of needs.

The shift from ‘integration’ to ‘inclusion’ is not simply a shift in terminology, made in the interests of political correctness, but rather a fundamental change in perspective. It implies a shift away from a ‘deficit’ model, where the assumption is that difficulties have their source within the child, to a ‘social’ model, where barriers to learning exist in the structures of schools themselves and, more broadly, in the attitudes and structures of society. Underlying the ‘inclusionary’ approach is the assumption that individual children have a right to participate in the experience offered in the mainstream classroom.

Daniels and Garner (1999) comment that while the concept of inclusion is not new, it has been given fresh impetus by increasingly ‘rights-based’ arguments that go beyond classrooms:

It is the recent widespread and increasingly vociferous demand to establish individual rights as a central component in policy-making that has provided the impetus to place inclusion firmly on the agenda of social change.

(Daniels and Garner, 1999, p. 3)

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