Key takeaways

  • Inclusion in education means that all students receive equal access to education.

  • The three main models for including students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms are full inclusion, partial inclusion, and mainstreaming.
  • Other ways to increase inclusivity for all students include using inclusive language and promoting cooperative learning.

School inclusivity can mean many different things, as many aspects of school community members should always be considered. This blog outlines what school inclusivity really means, what should be considered when improving inclusivity in your school community, and ways to achieve this.

What Is Inclusion in Education How to Be Inclusive in Schools

What is inclusion in education?

According to UNICEF, inclusive education is “the most effective way to give all children a fair chance to go to school” and to “learn and develop the skills they need to thrive.” They add that

"Inclusive education means all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools. It means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded… Inclusive systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the classroom and allow diverse groups to grow side by side, to the benefit of all."

Inclusive education ensures that every child, regardless of their individual characteristics or circumstances, receives equitable access to education, with a focus on fairness and providing equal opportunities for all students.

Why inclusive education is important

Inclusivity in education is crucial because it ensures that every student, regardless of their background, abilities, or circumstances, has equal access to quality learning opportunities, fostering a more equitable society. It also promotes diversity, leading to a richer and more well-rounded educational experience that prepares students to thrive in a globalized world.

Here are essential factors to consider when making your school more inclusive.

  • Race and ethnic diversity 
    Addressing school inclusivity concerning race and ethnic origin is crucial to ensure that all students feel valued and respected in the educational environment, regardless of their cultural background.
  • Individuals with English as a non-primary language 
    Recognizing the needs of learners or community members with English as a second or third language is vital for creating an inclusive atmosphere that promotes language acquisition and academic success.
  • Socioeconomic backgrounds 
    Understanding and accommodating the diverse financial backgrounds of students helps bridge the equity gap and ensures that no one's socio-economic status hinders their access to quality education.
  • Disabilities and students in Special Education programs 
    Promoting school inclusivity for students with disabilities and those in Special Education ensures they receive the necessary support and accommodations to participate fully in the educational experience.
  • Family circumstances, including those in foster care or with incarcerated relatives
    Fostering an inclusive environment for students in unique familial situations, such as those in foster care or with incarcerated family members, is vital to providing emotional and academic stability for these vulnerable learners.

How can social skills and a positive school culture promote inclusivity in education?

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How to improve inclusivity in my school?

Enhancing school inclusivity involves addressing barriers at multiple levels. This includes teacher training to support diverse student needs, redesigning facilities for accessibility, combating community stigma, and enacting supportive state and national policies. The great news is that there are active steps school districts can take in the right direction right now. Here are some of the quickest ways schools can increase their inclusivity.

Inclusive education means that all children, regardless of any unique feature or circumstance, should receive equal access to education.

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  • Inclusive language 
    Use language that includes everyone, avoiding alienating specific groups. For instance, when assigning homework, teachers should say "caregivers" instead of "parents" and use "adults" for younger children.
  • Extra materials 
    Provide additional resources to enhance standard lesson plans. This may include video transcripts for students with hearing impairments, audio surveys for visually impaired students, or image-based flashcards for those with limited English proficiency. These resources can be shared with the entire class when appropriate to avoid singling anyone out.
  • Cooperative learning 
    Introduce tasks and activities that encourage students to work together. Group work with diverse needs ensures all students can participate, improving their social skills and promoting natural inclusivity. Young learners should also receive guidance in practicing inclusivity.

Additionally, there are strategies and models to implement that will depend on the students of whom to be inclusive. Here are some suggestions for different ways to include different student groups.

ACEs in your classroom?

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Model 1: Full Inclusion

Full inclusion is an educational model that advocates for all students, including those with disabilities, to be placed in mainstream classrooms where they learn alongside their peers. However, this approach can pose challenges in accommodating diverse needs and abilities within the classroom. To ensure the success of a full-inclusion model, it's essential to:

  • Monitor the development and progress of all students closely and use assessment results to assess the suitability of the learning environment for students with varying needs.
  • Carefully evaluate the feasibility and appropriateness of lessons, homework, and intervention plans for all students in the class. Ensure that alternative options are available, such as adaptations for students with physical disabilities.
  • Consider using a content library with ready-to-use lessons and interventions to find the most suitable teaching materials for diverse learners.

Model 2: Partial Inclusion

Partial inclusion is an alternative model that promotes the idea that all students should learn in mainstream classrooms. However, in this model, students with disabilities or special needs may also spend some time away from the mainstream classroom to receive specialized support. When implementing a partial inclusion plan, it's essential to:

  • Prioritize the needs of all students, strategically plan lessons, and determine when and why students will learn in the mainstream classroom or specialized settings.
  • Be flexible in adapting to changing needs and circumstances, as the level of support required for students with special needs may change over time.

Model 3: Mainstreaming

Mainstreaming is a model where children with disabilities begin their educational journey in a separate classroom from the mainstream one. Here, they receive targeted support tailored to their specific needs. If they progress, they can gradually transition into the mainstream classroom. When implementing mainstreaming as an inclusive education strategy, consider the following:

  • Communicate the mainstreaming plan to the student's caregivers and specialized support staff, ensuring everyone is informed and has a say in when the student is ready for integration.
  • Integrate the student into the mainstream classroom at a pace that suits their readiness without rushing the process. The integration can occur gradually, even for just a day or lesson per week, in alignment with the student's development and comfort.

These three models offer different approaches to inclusive education, each with its considerations to ensure that the diverse needs of all students are met.

UNICEF. Inclusive Education. Read it here.


Author: Fern Dinsdale and Stirling Myles

Posted: 13 Sep 2022

Estimated time to read: 6 mins

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