Assignment I: Historical and International Development of Inclusive Education

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Assignment I: Historical and International Development of Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is considered one of the greatest reforms in education all over the world. Today many countries are said to have legislations and policies to promote inclusive practices in all levels of education. Issues and problems pertaining social, political and economic have been better addressed through the lens of Inclusive Education. The paper will briefly explore the historical and international development of Inclusive Education and discuss on the current concerns in relation to an education system of Bhutan, a small Himalayan country in Asia.

Scope of Education in ancient times

The birth of the concept ‘Inclusive Education’ has obviously underwent series of reforms. Historically, market-ideology has impacted governance, process and outcomes of education resulting in more hierarchical, status-ridden, selective system, in which exclusionary policies and practices have become more prominent (Barton, 1999). In education ‘social exclusion’ the denial of the civil, political and social rights of citizenship was featured when disabled people were historically treated as an oppressed group experiencing indignity, frustration and dehumanization of being inferior (Barton, 1999). According to Joseph (1999) once in the time of history, people with disabilities were considered as the social threat to contaminate an otherwise pure human species. They were even killed and used as objects of entertainment. In order to safeguard society, disabled people were institutionalized in asylums and hospitals providing custodial care only (Joseph, 1999).

Special Education
The role of education to succeed in life and combat practices of social exclusions has been recognized particularly in education for people with disabilities. According to Joseph (1999) in some countries like UK and USA, special schools began to emerge in 15th century itself but programs were basically meant for children with sensory impairments. Christensen (1996) also stated that initially special education was meant for the people with clear physiological disorder. Upon further recognition of the importance of education as the tool for social and economic success, different organizations around the world initiated programs to support special education. For example in 1945, League of Nations adopted universal declaration of human rights for education despite any diverse background of people (Joseph, 1999). The expansion of special education was paralleled with compulsory education for all and to meet the needs of children with disabilities. (Sarason & Doris; as cited in Christensen, 1996)). According to Rouse & Florian (1997) the education policies throughout the 1970s and 1980s stimulated much thinking about children and young people with special educational needs. For example in 1981, a new special education law was passed in England and Wales, new advisory teams were established for series of new teacher and school development initiatives designed to help develop whole-school policies for meeting special needs (Rouse & Florian, 1997). However in Bhutan, modern education system was initiated in 1960’s and education for the disabled group significantly gained national attention in 1973 when only school for the visually impaired was built (national institute for the visually impaired [NIVI], 2010).
People with disabilities were given education in a separate setting. Such a special educational arrangement for a specific group of people was commonly known as Special Education (ministry of education, [MOE], 2011). Theories of special education were mostly based on personal tragedy concept and medical model of disability (Christensen, 1996). Disability or disorder of a child was considered inherent characteristics of an individual consequently attributing to defect or inadequacy (Christensen, 1996). The assumption of special education was based on humanitarian ideals of equal rights of disabled people for education. The children labeled as ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’ deemed to posses ‘special needs’ requiring specialized services which was absent in regular schools. Moreover, children were assumed to learn better in special schools as they were incompatible in mainstream schools.

The system of special education was both acknowledged and criticized. It is credited for the advocacy of education for a person with disability and bridging the gap with professionals and disabled people (Barton, 1999). Though special education assumed the principles of humanitarian ideals to respond to the diverse needs of people with disabilities, it faced strident criticisms in 1980’s due the empirical investigations provided by the number of researchers and scholars (Christensen, 1996). According to Christensen (1996) limitations include such as; lack of proper definition and identification of disability, labeled as disabled did not demonstrate detectable evidence of disability, rather than disability deviation students were more deviated in terms of social, cultural, ethnic and economic dimensions, prescribe treatment was found to be grossly inadequate and instructions based on categorical labels was not adequate and effective. Moreover, many studies showed that special education settings diminished rather than enhanced student’s education success. (Christensen, 1996). Unfair methods of identification and assessment have led to a disproportionate number of students from ethnic minority groups (Joseph, 1999). For example, in both Europe and North America, black Asian and Latino-American students are overrepresented in special schools and programs (Joseph, 1999). Thus historically schools are accused of practicing authoritarian models of governance that alienate and legalize segregation without consideration for inclusion (Joseph, 1999 & Carrington, 2008)

Integration is seen as a response to such apparent weakness of inclusive education (Joseph, 1999). Integration provided a platform for the children with disabilities to access regular settings of schools on timely basis. In UK, due to increasing professional and political interest, ad hoc local integration schemes were put in place and even made commitment to close segregated special schools and to develop integrated mainstream schools by relocating expertise and facilities (Rouse & Florian, 1997). Similarly in Bhutan, children with visual impairment were integrated to nearby regular schools and schools for other disabilities were established (MOE, 2011). However, such practices were not found effective as it retained more ideals of special education. For instance Thomas & Loxley (2001) argued that ‘integration’ and ‘normalization’ just reproduced the special education problems thus showing no signs of decline in exclusionary practices. Lewis (1996) critiqued integration for narrow interpretation without any regard to the quality of that placement (as cited in Rouse & Florian, 1997). Individualized approach to teaching to support integration were not desirable for having imported the practices of special education and ‘normalization’ by definition itself was denial of difference contributing to devaluing of people who are different (Ainscow, 1997). Special education teachers and their pupils felt that they had been hidden away in their special schools and that they were being excluded (UNESCO, 1991). Such scenario in educational development paved a way for Inclusive Education throwing more light and scope of education for children with disabilities.

Inclusive Education

Practices of special education was challenged and criticized by many scholars and researchers. ‘The pursuit of an inclusive society is concerned with issues of equity and non-discrimination in which the good of all citizens is a central commitment' (Barton, 1999, p. 59). According to Wolfensberger (1993) ‘exclusion of some children from any form of education based on an identifiable physical condition and the segregation of others in separate schools and classrooms violated their fundamental human rights’ (as cited in Christensen, 1996. p. 68). Such practices instead led the stigmatization and prejudice towards disability. Many advocates of inclusive education have argued that segregation, particularly by placement in special schools, is morally wrong and educationally inefficient. They are convinced that the opportunities for socialization and development offered by mainstream schools represent the best chance for eventual social acceptance of people with disabilities within schools (Rouse & Florian, 1997). Although Bhutan did not have legislation to protect education for disability, national development philosophy of Gross National Happiness emphasis the inalienable right of education for all Bhutanese since many decades (MOE, 2011).
According to Thomas & Loxley (2001) there was a shift of perspective of disability from medical/clinical perspective to social constructionist perspective. People began to think ‘disability’ as constructed by society’s beliefs and values, not only as an inherent trait in individual person. Such a shift in the approach of education for the disability changed the social and cultural practices. Many legislations, social organizations and polices were developed to support the concept of inclusive education. In 1990, ‘World Conference on Education for All’ held in Jomtien, Thailand acknowledged the education particularly for vulnerable and marginalized groups of learners (Susie & Singal, 2008). Professional advocacy groups in USA launched Regular Education Initiative (REI) movement and The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH), which called for inclusionary practices in the schools (Joseph, 1999). Thereafter, Inclusive education progressively gained international attention.
The Salamanca Statement: Framework for Action was the single, most powerful influence at national and international level for stimulating change in respect of inclusive education, with 92 governments and 25 international organizations signing up to education for all (Moran, 2007, p. 120). Salamanca Statement was significant in the development of Inclusive Education as it reinforced the ideals and clarified on various issues of practices in the development of inclusive schools at international level. Likewise inclusive education is the theme of the 48th session of the International Conference on Education held in Geneva November 2008 (Acedo, 2008).
The term ‘Inclusive education’ has been defined differently with some variations across the countries. According to Loreman, Deppler & Harvey (2005) inclusive education is the inclusion of children with diverse abilities in all aspects of schooling that other children are able to access and enjoy. Similarly UNESCO (2005) defines it as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education (as cited in Opertti & Belalcazar, 2008). It is based on the fundamental principle that education in the regular schools is the basic right of every child despite of their diverse background. ‘Diversity is regarded as an asset from which various cultures, human interests, skills, abilities, life perspectives and life experiences contribute to the rich fabric of culture that forms a community’ (Keeffe & Carrington, 2007, p. 28). However, the principles of inclusion apply not only to children with disabilities but all (Schaffner, Beth & Buswell, 1996). Schools with inclusive practices are effective in combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all (Jennifer & Ingrid, 2002). All European countries now have legislation in place to promote or require inclusion, while the USA effectively has led the way with its PL 94-142 of 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, amended in 1990 as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and, again, in 1997, to promote ‘whole-school’ approaches to inclusion (Jennifer & Ingrid, 2002, p. 2). In Bhutan, ministry of education took initiatives to promote both special and inclusive system of education. In response to this, Ministry of Education drafted a separate educational policy for people with disabilities on 15th August 2011 (MOE, 2011). As stated in the Constitution of the country, today Bhutan government provides full support for the education of disadvantaged group of children and has initiated three pilot schools across the county to practice inclusionary programs (MOE, 2011).
Though inclusive education has achieved its goals in many countries, it is still an ongoing journey. As ‘full inclusion’ requires collective responsibility, there seem social, political and economic barriers. Some countries still prefer special education than inclusive education because of several reasons like lack of capital and human resources (Jennifer & Ingrid, 2002; Reupert, Hemmings & Connors, 2010). Similarly in Bhutan, though government prefers the practice of inclusion, barriers like lack of human resources, lack of budget, attitudes and lack of coordination still exist. Since 2003, the government of Denmark has been assisting Bhutan to further overcome the barrier of inclusion through human resources (Royal Danish ministry of foreign affairs, 2007). Like many other countries, Bhutan as a developing country has lot left to further develop inclusive education not only for the people with disabilities but to all. Nevertheless inclusion has become a global policy in education (Keeffe, & Carrington, 2007)
Development of inclusive practices in education has been progressive and rewarding. It grew from a time where there was ‘no education’ to an era of ‘full inclusion’ of people with diverse backgrounds in regular schools. Many countries in the world have established enabling environment for inclusion by developing legislations and policies to guide the overall practices. Despite numerous obstacles, inclusive education is swiftly gaining international attention and support across the globe. It is a social tool for better future.


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