A rationale for Inclusive Education
(Written by: Nur Azizah)
There has been a significant change in special education’s field regarding educating students with disabilities. Previously, students with disabilities were being educated in segregation settings. But then, a new trend has been introduced. Students with disabilities no longer are being separated in special schools but they also have the option to be taught in regular schools. Once called integration into the mainstream, the new trend in educating students with disabilities is termed inclusion. Thomas (1997) maintains that inclusion has come to replace integration on the late 1980s.
Even though the term inclusion is often misinterpreted as having similar meanings to integration and mainstream (Loreman, 1999; Loreman, Deppeler, & Harvey, 2005), they are in fact different. The terms integration and mainstream have narrow meanings which only refer to including students with disabilities into regular schools. In contrast, the term inclusion has an extensive meaning, which is not only about teaching students with disabilities in regular classrooms but also giving equal opportunities to school age children to attend class without considering their background such as gender, ethnics, poverty, and ability (Ballard ,1999; Corbett, 2001; Giorcelli, 1995 as cited in Foreman, 2005; Mitchell, 2005).
Internationally, the issue of inclusion arose after the Salamanca Statement in 1994. However, the process to include students with disabilities into regular schools happened before that and it has spread world-wide. In 1975, the USA led the movement with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) where students with disabilities should be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (Sindelar, Shearer, yendol-Hoppey & Liebert, 2006). Australia has The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 which covered more broad concerns rather than only educational issues. The UK presented a green paper in October 1997. The paper encouraged institutions to facilitate students with disabilities to attend mainstream schools (DfEE, 1997 as cited in Avramidis, Baylis & Burden, 2000).
Students with disabilities in Indonesia are guaranteed by Law No. 4/1997 on the Disability Act that they have access for education. Although it does not directly state about inclusion, one of the articles stipulates that a citizen who has disabilities shall have the rights to attend education at all types and levels of schools. Then, after participating in Salamanca Statement, in 2003, the Indonesian government through the Director General of Primary and Secondary Education published a circular letter no 380/C.C6/MN/2003 on the pioneering of inclusion. The circular letter persuades some heads of the provincial office of the National Education Department to manage pilot inclusion in each municipality.
Although inclusion has come into the special education system, special school is still seen as the preferred place to educate students with disabilities. Some people argue that inclusion is the best place to educate students with disabilities while others think that students with disabilities belong to special schools. In my opinion, sending students with disabilities to inclusive schools would be more beneficial. This paper will examine the pros and cons of both schooling practices (inclusion and segregation).
Inclusion VS Segregation
Inclusion contrasts strongly with segregation. In segregation settings, students with disabilities commence in special school and are educated with other students who have the same or similar disabilities. For instance, students with visual impairment would enroll in special school for the blind and educated with other students who also have visual impairment, while sending students with disabilities to be educated in regular school can be defined as inclusion. However, inclusion is not only about students with disabilities sitting in the same room during school hours with their typical peers in regular classes. It is about schools providing appropriate instruction that can accommodate all class members’ needs without discrimination. Inclusion should be understood as belief of acceptance, belonging and community (Moore, 1998). Thomas (1997, p. 103) maintains that ‘inclusion is a philosophy of acceptance and providing a framework within which all children (regardless of the provenance of their difficulty at school) can be valued equally, treated with respect and provided with equal opportunities at school’.
Differing from segregation which is often categorized by the disabilities experienced by the students (i.e. special school for the blind, special school or the deaf, special school for mental retarded children, etc), inclusion does not discriminate by category (Bayliss & Lingham, 1998 as cited in Avramidis, Baylis & Burden, 2000). Inclusion welcomes every individual with their unique characteristics and celebrates those differences (Loreman & Deppeler, 2001 as cited in Loreman, Deppeler & Harvey, 2005). Inclusion gives learning opportunities for students with and without disabilities (Cook, Tankersley, Cook & Landrum, 2000)
There is no significant difference between the goal of segregation/ special school and inclusion. The aim of inclusion is to equip students with disabilities to participate and give contributions to their communities (Odom, 2000; Ferguson, Desjarlais & Meyer 2000) and provide all children with equal opportunities for a successful life so they would become happy members of mainstream society (Loreman, 1999). Therefore, it is essential that inclusive schools be located in the area where students with disabilities live (Loreman, 1999). Segregated schools are attempting to prepare students with disabilities to obtain basic skills so students with disabilities could apply those basic skills in real life. But unlike inclusion, often students with disabilities need to travel far away to attend special schools because there are no such schools in their local communities.
Why inclusion? What does research say about inclusion?
Students with disabilities should be valued as people first (Snow, 2003). They must not have restricted options to commence in regular classes just because they have disabilities. Educators should not underestimate what students with disabilities can and cannot achieve just because they differ from typical students. Their educational rights to be educated with their peers should be place above this prejudice. Their rights to access proper education are also guaranteed by law in almost all countries around the world. Indeed, inclusion is human right (Avramidis, Baylis & Burden, 2000; Thomas, 1997; UNESCO, 1994)
All learners, including students with disabilities belong to a community (Avramidis, Baylis & Burden, 2000). The community where they live consists of many types of people and as members of communities, students with and without disabilities are expected to participate and get along with their communities. Schools have the responsibility to prepare students to do so and make sure that they can actualize themselves and thus they can develop self-esteem and pride. Stainback and Stainback (1996) contend that people with disabilities are ready to participate in community when they are not excluded. Accordingly, inclusion and involvement are crucial to ‘human dignity’ (UNESCO, 1994).
Inclusion is a win-win solution for everyone. It gives benefit not to only students with disabilities but also students without disabilities (Odom, 2000; Stainback & Stainback, 1996; Loreman, Deppeler & Harvey, 2005), teachers and school staff members and communities in broad term (Moore, 1998; Stainback & Stainback, 1996)
Benefits for student with disabilities
Students with disabilities develop better educational, social and occupational outcomes when they spend more time in inclusive settings (Ferguson & Asch, 1989, Wehman, 1990 as cited in Stainback & Stainback, 1996). Similarly, Moore (1998) claims that the involvement of students with severe disabilities in general classroom improves academic, behavior and social skills. Katz and Mirenda (2002) argue that chances to interact with typical peers in inclusive education gives academic benefits to students with disabilities. In the same way, a study conducted by Brinker and Thorpe (1984) as cited in Katz and Mirenda (2002) conclude that there are clear relationship between social interaction with typical peers and the achievement of individual education plan (IEP) goals by students with severe disabilities. In terms of academic gain, Hundert and colleagues (1998) as cited in Odom (2000) discover that students with severe disabilities who enroll in inclusive school perform higher scores on standardized measures of development compared to their peer counterparts who commence in special schools. Furthermore, McGregor and Vogelsberg (1998) maintain that some students with disabilities may show improvement in curriculum areas.
Research carried out by Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis & Goetz (1994) as cited in Katz and Mirenda (2002) shows that the quality of engagement of students with disabilities in inclusive settings is better than those in segregation. According to McWilliam (1991) cited in Kishida and Kemp (2006, p. 14) engagement can be define as “the amount of time children spend interacting appropriately with their environments”. The environment that is meant is “social and non-social environment” and the term ‘appropriately’ referred to being “developmentally and contextually” appropriate (McWilliam, Trivette, & Dunst, 1985 as cited in Malmskog & McDonnell, 1999, p. 203). The level of engagement is a predictor for academic achievement (Katz & Mirenda, 2002). Consequently, the good quality of students’ engagement illustrates likely good academic attainment.
The principal of segregation is constructed from the beliefs that students with disabilities are totally different from typical students in that they need special education in special settings. In addition, the proponents of segregation claim that special schools will provide better educational programs. Subsequently, after graduating from special schools, students with disabilities can live “normally” in their community. However, segregation settings have failed to prepared students to enter community (Kunch, 1992). Furthermore, Kunch (1992) explains that students with disabilities in segregated schools learn and imitate inappropriate behaviors. In other words, segregated programs and classrooms may not succeed to teach students with disabilities appropriate behaviors and skills (Kunch, 1992) because segregation gives less opportunity to learn age-appropriate behaviors (Kunch, 1984). This is believed to be strongly connected to absence of availability of good developmental models from typical students (Bennet, deluca, & Bruns, 1997 as cited in Odom, 2000). On the other hand, inclusion can promote positive behaviors of students with disabilities (Odom, 2000).
Another reason why we should not put segregation into practice is the social costs created by segregation (Thomas, 1997; Stainback & Stainback, 1996). These social costs are stigmatizations and alienation which would be carried by the students for the rest of their lives.
Regarding social outcomes, a study conducted by Cole and Meyer (1997) as cited in Moore (1998) demonstrate that students with disabilities who commence in integrated schools portray improvement on social competence. Social competence can be define as ‘the ability to integrate thinking, feeling and behavior to achieve social tasks and outcomes valued in the host context and culture’ (University of Dundee,1998 as cited in Loreman, Deppeler & Harvey, 2005, p. 213). Therefore, social competence is crucial for positive contributions and involvement in community (Loreman, Deppeler & Harvey, 2005). Besides improvement in social competence, students with disabilities who are educated in inclusive settings obtain higher skills in communication (McGregor & Vogelsberg, 1998). The opponents of inclusion say that students with disabilities depict less engagement in social interaction and have higher risk of peer rejection compared to their typical friends (Odom, 2000), however, compared to students with disabilities who enroll in special settings, students with disabilities educated in inclusive schools demonstrate a higher level of social interaction (McGregor & Vogelsberg,1998). Furthermore, a study conducted by Rafferty, Piscitelli and Boettcher (2003) concluded that students with severe disabilities enrolled in inclusive schools had higher posttest scores in language development and social skills compare to their counterparts who are educated in segregation settings.
Other concerns about inclusive schools proposed by the opponents of inclusion are class size; the lack of special services provided in general classrooms and inadequate staff training. In the same manner, Giles and Russel (2001) maintain that regular teachers do not have training to teach students with disabilities and simultaneously, this would lead to unsuccessful inclusion. In addition, the proponents of segregation claim that teaching students with disabilities is time and energy consuming ( Kunch, 1984). If we look carefully, then the problem is not on students with disabilities being educated in general classroom. The problem is on the fear of educators who could not provide the learning environment and support that can encourage the learning experience of students with disabilities (Kunch, 1984).
In terms of life after graduation, Alper and Ryndak (1992, as cited in Loreman, Deppeler & Harvey, 2005) assert that students with disabilities who are educated in inclusive settings are likely to become socially involved with adults without disabilities and spend more time in leisure activities outside of home. In addition, they maintain that the level of affluence of graduates from inclusion is three times higher than those who are graduates from segregation schools.
Benefits for students without disabilities
Students without disabilities could gain several benefits by having students with disabilities in their classrooms. Moore (1998) states that in inclusive settings, where typical students and students with disabilities are educated together, both of them would gain positive experience and improved attitudes. By the same token, Peck, Carlson and Helmstetter (1992, as cited in Odom, 2000) contend that inclusion has resulted in positive attitudes towards students with disabilities in typical students. In addition, students without disabilities would also have more knowledge on certain disabilities (Diamond & Hestenes, 1994, 1996 as cited in Odom, 2000).
The proponents of segregation argue that inclusion may result in watering down curriculum (Moore, 1998) and may place at risk students without disabilities because they have to adapt to curriculum that is modified for students with disabilities (Giles & Russel, 2001). This is not going to happen, since if educators understand the idea of inclusion in which they should accommodate all students’ needs, then they would implement teaching practice that fits with all learners (Ferguson, Desjarlais & Meyer 2000). Furthermore, a study conducted by Hunt, Staub, Alwell and Goetz (1994 as cited in Katz & Mirenda, 2002) on co-operative learning groups in inclusive settings concluded that the academic achievement of students without disabilities who involved a student with disability in the group is equal to those who do not involve a student with disability. In other words, the presence of students with disabilities in inclusive schools did not negatively influence the academic area of students without disabilities. Nevertheless, students without disabilities who perform as peer tutors in academic subjects learn the correlated academic subject more deeply than those who passively listen or read the material (Fisher, Schumajer & Deshler, 1995 as cited in Katz & Mirenda, 2002 )
McGregor and Vogelsberg (1998) assert that typical students benefit from assistive technologies that are utilized by students with disabilities. Furthermore, they explain that typical students would also benefit from professional services provided in inclusive schools. In addition, financial support received by inclusive school can be spent on supplementary learning material that can enhance both students with disabilities and typical students’ learning experiences.
Inclusion provides mutual relationship between students with disabilities and typical students. Together they can learn tolerance, patience, respect and understanding and other positive values. Furthermore, having students with disabilities in regular classes provides opportunities to learn (Guralnick, 1994 as cited in Odom, 2000) and increased acceptance ( Bailey & Winton, 1987 as cited in odom, 2000). Moreover, inclusion appears to have improved friendships and relationships in both students with and without disabilities (Helmster, Peck & Giangreco, 1994, Schwartz, Galucci & peck, 1995, Fryxell & Kennedy, 1995 as cited in Moore, 1998).
Benefits for teachers
McGregor and Vogelsberg (1998) note that in the very beginning of inclusion, teachers felt hesitant, but with support and experience, they become more assertive. Stainback and Stainback (1996) argue that teachers in inclusive schools have opportunities to improve their professional competences in partnerships environments. The partnership environments will provide opportunities for teachers to arrange and conduct teaching practice in collaborative manner which can lead to increased professionalism (Foreman, 2005; Stainback &Stainback, 1996). In addition, Foreman (2005) asserts that inclusion would improve personal satisfaction for teachers if they succeed in facilitating students’ learning. Other benefits of inclusion listed by Stainback and Stainback (1996) are teachers’ awareness and anticipation towards development and changes in the educational field.
The option of sending students with disabilities to inclusive school is the best choice taken by parents as an inclusive setting provides positive learning environments that give more opportunities for students with disabilities to fully develop their potential. Moreover, the benefits of inclusion not only work for students with and without disabilities but also for teachers, schools and community in broad terms.