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Inclusive education for all

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

The Education for All (EFA) movement is a global commitment to provide quality basic education for all children, youth and adults. Inclusive education is a new approach towards educating the children with diverse abilities and learning difficulties with that of normal ones within the same manner. It seeks to address the learning needs of all children with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion.

Education for All (EFA) aims to provide quality basic education for all children, youth and adults. The rhetoric of 'all' has so far failed to reach the poorest and most disadvantaged children. EFA has become increasingly focused on ensuring access to, and completion of, five years of Universal Primary Education by 2015. Yet a broader notion of all and a greater appreciation of difference in the education system could hold the key to improving the quality of the education delivered in those five years.

Inclusive education seeks to address the learning needs of all children with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion. It implies all learners – with or without disabilities being able to learn together through access to common preschool provisions, schools and community educational setting. This is possible only in flexible education system that assimilates the needs of diverse range of learners and adapts itself to meet these needs.

Education for All EFA must take account of the need of the poor and most disadvantaged, including working children, remote rural dwellers and nomads, ethnic and linguistic minorities, children, young people and adults affected by conflict, HIV/AIDS, hunger and poor health; and those with special learning needs. Education for All must be reflected in national government and funding agency policies. The World Education Forum has identified the key challenge of ensuring that the broad vision of Education For All as an inclusive concept is reflected in state of the art education.

The World Education Forum in Dakar, 2000, has helped to focus attention on a much broader range of children who may be excluded from or marginalized within education systems. The challenge of exclusion from education has been put on the political agenda in many countries.

The ultimate goal of inclusive education is a school where all children are participating and treated equally. Care has to be taken when looking into which children come to be categorized as being 'special' or 'excluded' within particular contexts. In some schools, children with special needs may be in the same classroom but have separate tasks to do or even a separate teacher. The focus needs to be on strategies to remove barriers to learning and participation for all children. It is necessary to look into how schools can be modified or changed to make sure that the education is relevant to the local context, and treats all pupils with respect It is also important to ensure that the education is flexible so that all children can participate in activities which are relevant to their local context.

Redirection of resources is required in the following areas:

Policy Development:

In some countries there is a possibility for authorities not to take responsibility for certain groups of children. Often this allows for a situation where these learners are not expected or encouraged to participate in mainstream education. This could include ethnic minorities, children without a birth certificate and those with severe intellectual disability.

Curriculum Development:

In many countries, the curriculum is extensive and demanding, and centrally designed and rigid. Language of instruction may be different than the language that students use at home making it difficult for some to follow what is happening in the classroom. Bilingual education can help to address this problem.

Teacher Training:

Teachers and schools need to change the practices in the classroom into more child-friendly and flexible practices. A whole school approach to school improvement has proven more effective than training a few of the staff. Teachers must be able to try out new approaches and not worry about inspectors or head teachers not liking what they are doing.

Capacity Building & Community Involvement:

UNESCO recognises that separate projects for marginalized and excluded groups do not have a huge impact. UNESCO concentrates on how we can work together to raise the quality of Education for All students. In some countries, the roles of the inspectors have changed from 'grading' schools and teachers to giving pedagogical support.

The Salamanca Statement on Principles, Policy and Practice in Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994) provides a framework for thinking about how to move policy and practice forward. It argues that regular schools with an inclusive orientation are: '…the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, building an inclusive society and achieving Education For All' In the early documentation of EFA, there was a rather token mention of 'special needs' This has been gradually replaced by recognition that the inclusion agenda should be seen as an essential element of the education system.

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