Inclusion, Do it the “right” way!

Professor Eman Gaad

Dean of the Faculty of Education

 

With a strong movement towards adopting inclusive education across our schools and with the pressure on teachers to do it “right”, I thought I would throw in my thoughts about achieving inclusive education the right way. To start with, it is important to explain how effective inclusive education works. In order for any teacher to begin thinking about effective strategies to adopt proper and effective inclusive education, one must think of the four Ps.

 

 

A policy represents our first P. However, policies are meaningless papers if we do not action them. It is important that people believe in contents of policies, not just follow them. We live in a country where we have what is in my view one of the best policies related to the inclusion and empowerment of all learners, including learners with disabilities known here in UAE as students of determination (SODs). However, I don’t think such policies will work unless there is a deep inner belief among teachers and others in the school about what such policies represent. They represent the “rights” of all learners to gain access to effective education that helps every learner to thrive and shine.

 

 

The second P stands for the place. Learners need to be in the right place and that is very important for the learner to have if we are seeking effective inclusion. Teachers sometimes are confused between push-in pull-out, or other learning support provisions. Placing the child in the right environment is as important as creating a policy to support his or her rights and access to the mainstream schools. Acting, reviewing, and working with parents constantly to achieve the best place for the child inside the mainstream school is a key point in making inclusion effective.

 

 

Our third P represents the process. Having a policy in place, and a proper place for the child is not enough. Drawing a road map that shows the process of including the child all the way from the initial referral to graduation from school is very important. Those who are involved in supporting the child must have a clear roadmap, a flowchart, or simply a diagram to explain the different stages and support check points where the child can get help and gain further support, or simply a checkpoint where the child can be evaluated to measure to what extent the process is in place.

 

 

Finally, the fourth P is the practice. Without training and professional development to all teachers and support staff that are involved in the experience of inclusive education, we would never reach effective inclusion. Teachers and support staff must be educated and trained to deliver effective differentiated instruction. Training them to deliver a practice that aims to achieve both educational and behavioural goals is of paramount importance.

 

 

Differentiated instruction goes hand-in-hand with differentiated assessment. Training whoever is involved in the inclusive education experience of learners inside the school must be based on the right-based approach. People argue that maybe the 5th P and that is the practitioner. As the success of inclusive education experience relies heavily on the day-to-day practice, the practitioner is considered here as a key player in this process. That includes issues like personal philosophy and the position on adopting inclusive education as well as the skills required to undertake such tasks in an environment that could be described as the least restrictive environment. So what is the “right” way to do inclusive education? It’s simply adopting the right-based approach and that includes allowing for flexibility and differentiation to take place to ensure that all learners can learn freely and appropriately according to their own pace to meet their full potentials. Inclusive education is a right not a gift. Inclusive education must be adopted not because we are nice or politically correct; it should be adopted because every child in the school regardless of his strengths and needs has the right to effective, and meaningful educational experience. So to do it right we should adopt the right-based approach. The approach is based on equity not equality. By standardising education for everyone we are being equal not equitable. It is about time to free the education system from the “one size fits all” and adopt a more flexible, effective, and equitable education for all if ever we want to achieve effective inclusive education.

 

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