What is Inclusive Education and Why is it important?
Community Living Ontario’s vision statement describes a community where the resources and supports will be available to ensure that all children “go with their neighborhood friends, to their neighborhood schools where they further their growth and development together.”
Education is the cornerstone of a person’s citizenship. It is central to a person’s opportunities for employment and inclusion in society. Education will determine how a person contributes to his or her community.
Education is a right. Every child needs to share and participate in, benefit from and contribute to all aspects of school life. A child who has an intellectual disability is entitled to the individualized supports necessary to be included in regular classes and all school activities. Parents should have the opportunity to become true partners in determining and participating in their child’s education. Boards of education need to accept their obligation to meet these needs and ensure that every child’s rights are being respected.
Inclusion does not end after secondary school. Everybody should have the opportunity to pursue career goals and personal development in Ontario’s colleges and universities. With adequate supports, every student can be fully included in regular programs and have the opportunity to earn credits toward the completion of their diploma, certificate or degree.
Inclusion has a broad positive impact on all students. An inclusive education system provides all students with lessons in cooperation, consideration of others and respect for diversity. Opportunities to learn from,support and develop relationships with one another are not possible when students are streamed into separate classes. A fully inclusive education system reflects Canadian society as a whole and contributes to its betterment.
What is being done in Ontario?
Everyday in Ontario, teachers and schools are providing a high quality education to ensure that future citizens are equipped with the skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed. Regrettably, this quality education is not being consistently provided to students who have an intellectual disability. Our education system must ensure that every child receives the benefits of education as a member of a regular class in a regular school.
Schools that have adopted an inclusive culture have demonstrated the benefits that it provides for all children in the establishment of a healthy society that respects and supports different talents, strengths and capabilities. On the other hand, people who have a disability have been clear about the harm they have suffered as a result of segregated education practices and the life-long dependence on specialized government supports that can result from a segregated education.
Ontario has already taken many steps toward inclusion. Policies such as Regulation 181/98, which states that a regular classroom should be the first option for placement for all students, have laid the foundations for a successful move to full inclusion. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Guidelines on Accessible Education has established the conditions necessary to ensure fairness and equity in education.The combination of these policies offer a clear mandate for leadership in ensuring that students who have an intellectual disability are included in regular classrooms.
Planning mechanisms such as Identification, Placement and Review Committees, and Individual Education Plans (IEP) could play a role in ensuring that the proper individualized supports for a student are in place to succeed in a regular classroom.
The implementation of Education for All, and the continuance of modules on facilitating inclusion in the classroom through the New Teacher Induction Program have created a unique capacity for transforming the quality of education in Ontario. There are adequate dollars already in place for special education programs that could be reinvested into inclusive practices and supports in regular classrooms. An existing knowledge base on providing inclusive education is well established in Ontario.
Ontario is in a position to take a leadership role in ratifying the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. With all of the above groundwork in place there is a unique opportunity to ensure that students who have an intellectual disability receive the same quality education as all other students.
- CLToronto: Parents Inclusive Education Handbook
- The Inclusive Education Library
- Community Living New Brunswick: ‘Inclusive Education’ and ‘Parents Guide and Guide to Inclusive Education’
- Inclusion: the pros and cons (designed for educators)
- Does placement matter? Comparing the academic performance of students with special needs in inclusive and separate settings
- Inclusion of special education students doesn't affect classmates' education (SFU)
- Making the case for Inclusive Education:
- Association for Community Living Manitoba: Guide to Inclusive Education
- Inclusive Education Canada
- Inclusive Education Basics from The Centre for Inclusive Education