Throughout history, the pedagogical school and thought have addressed the issue of education with learning difficulties. The school, as well as the society, is adopting a series of different attitudes towards them, ranging from acceptance and inclusion in the normal school environments, to different degrees of separation and isolation.
Inclusive education appeared as a normal reaction of the society against its obligation to ensure the necessary framework and the conditions imposed by the specificity of education on people with special educational needs. According to the principles advocated by the international bodies regarding education, it is stipulated that the people with deficiencies have the same rights as the other citizens of the same age, without any discrimination on account of sex, language, religion, political views, national or social origin, financial status or any other characteristic of the person under discussion or of his/her family.
The education for all has been defined (Salamanca, 1994) as access to education and its quality for all children. In order to address all the children and to become open-minded, flexible and oriented towards each and every one, education must mean a change of perspective, that is a new orientation which focuses on cooperation, partnership, social learning and the valorisation of positive, humanistic relationships in education.
Inclusive education is the best solution for an educational system which answers to the need of all the students. It shouldn’t be treated separately, but as a new approach of the educational system. A fundamental aspect is that of knowing how to provide each student with the necessary education depending on his/her abilities and needs. The opportunity for all the students to take part in the class activities plays a fundamental role in the planning of these activities. The differences between people are normal, they contribute to the development of each society and must be reflected in schools. School is the one which must favour the participation and the helping through various working methods.
Education for all corresponds to inclusive education in school education. Inclusive education and cognitive activation can be successful only in a large social context, which understands and allows the cooperation between the parties involved: students, teachers, authorities, local community and legislative factors. A change of the law without changing the mentality of the teachers doesn’t bring anything new, take the case of Italy. Also, without an adequate legislative framework, the teachers’ change of mentality will not bring about an adequate change , take Belgium, for example.
Inclusive education refers, in a restricted sense, to the integration of all children, regardless of their abilities and of their learning competences, in a teaching system. In a broad sense, it means that each child should be supported and should be taught to his/her own benefit. Is child is perceived as an active participant to the teaching and learning processes in order to bring about: experience, a learning style, a social model, specific interaction, a personal pace, a cultural context to whom he/she belongs.
A fundamental idea in providing inclusive education is the idea according to which all children must learn together. Hence, inclusive education often seems to be the same as integrating the children with special educational needs. The two processes are not identical. When a child with special educational needs enters a normal school, he/she is physically integrated and can be even socially integrated, that is he/she can actively participate in its activities. But for a school to develop inclusive practices, it needs special preparations for all the members of the institution, through its educational factors and through its resources, in order to welcome not only the children with special needs, but also the other ones. Inclusive education means support and education for all, care and attention for everybody.
The core of integration involves: educating children with special needs in normal schools, together with normal children; providing specialised services (educational therapy, school counselling, medical assistance etc); providing support to the teaching staff and the school managers in the process of designing and implementation of the curricula; allowing access for children with special educational needs to the school’s program and resources (library, sports fields etc); encouraging friendship and communication among all the children in the school; educating and helping all the children to understand and accept the differences between them; taking into consideration their parents’ problems and opinions, encouraging them to involve in the life of the school; providing individualised support programmes for the children with special educational needs; accepting changes in the design of the learning activities.
Taking into account the new curricula, a current trend toward the modernising of the educational system targets the flexibility of education in order to ensure the development of each student’s abilities. The school is summoned to organise the teaching-learning-evaluating process in such a way as to provide the student as early as possible with the necessary tools for gaining knowledge, and for applying it constantly creatively.
Inclusive education is trying, thus, to determine the children with disabilities (be they light or severe, hidden or obvious) to participate in the daily school activities together with all the other students. Inclusive schools do not offer normal education and special education, but inclusive education and, as a result, their students will be able to learn together.
This type of education is open to all children, giving them the chance to actively participate in the learning process. For this to happen, the teachers, the schools and the systems will have to change, in order to suit the diversity of the students’ educational needs. Moreover, mentalities need to change, in order to accommodate this new desiderate of the society we live in.
Gherguț, Alois: Educația incluzivă și pedagogia diversității, Editura Polirom, 2016.