What is inclusive education? A Guest Essay from Benafsha Yaqoobi*
Every human being was created free and with equal rights in every aspect of individual and social life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (148), ensures these rights; rights, such as freedom in choosing or changing living place, freedom of speech, freedom of decision to believe or not to believe in spiritual affairs, education, etc.
On the other hand, since the very beginning of mankind’s creation, we have been seeing a variety of differences in this creation. The first one, is the difference in sex or gender, as mentioned in many places in The Quran and The Bible, that they were created males and females. Other types of differences include ethnicity, race, language, religion (or system of beliefs), and also health-related differences. We may call these differences, diversities.
But attitudes towards these diversities have been different from time to time, depending on the status of intellectual and social evolution of mankind throughout history. There have been a considerable number of wars, due to religious, ethnic or racial differences. For instance, The Crusade, which was a war between Christians and Muslims to conquer Jerusalem, was a religious one. Also according to historians, people with health status differences, such as leprosy, would be called, unclean and therefore would be drawn out of cities, far from the public. People with epilepsy would be associated with demons and in Roman Church. Their heads were pierced, so, hopefully the demonic spirits might exit from them.
There has been a large amount of evidence and documents, from the beginning, even to nowadays, showing and proving that mankind has had problems with his/her fellows with differences all around the world.
Disability, which could be defined as, limitations in functionalities in some parts of the body, or impairments in sensation, physical or even mental system, that are permanent , may create challenges for a person with disabilities. These challenges mostly come out of a kind of attitude towards this diversity, as well as other diversities.
One of these challenges is education, since there were no positive or inclusion-based attitudes towards people with diversities throughout history.
There has always been a question in people’s minds, whether it is possible or feasible to give diversity and minority people their right to be educated, or, whether they must be excluded or even deprived from such right, due to their diversity status.
Our aim in this essay, is to discuss about an evolved and ever-evolving approach to the issue of education, specifically for those with diversities, which we call, “inclusive education”.
Inclusive education: Definition.
Shelley Moore, a Canadian education specialist, defines it as follows:
“Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school”( Inclusion BC website).
Of course, even though the special needs of people with diversities, such those of people with disabilities, are not to be neglected at all, since all barriers are to be removed to pave the path for these types of people to receive a quality education, as equivalent as possible with the mainstreaming children.
Historical overview of approaches:
The importance and significance of such an ever-evolving attitude towards education of people with diversities may become clear, only if we have an overview of how mankind started the path and where we are nowadays.
Looking through history, we may face at least 4 approaches towards inclusion of people with diversities. They could be identified as, deprivation, segregation, integration and inclusion approaches.
Deprivation: this approach is derived from a totally negative attitude by majority or ruling people of a society towards people with diversities and their right to be educated. According to historians, in many of the ancient empires, people with low incomes were not allowed to send their children to school. In fact, education was merely the right of noble people.
Even nowadays, we may see in different parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, that females, as well as people with disabilities, and also some minorities, are either partially or totally deprived from their right to be educated. The fallen Taliban regime, during its governance, would not allow females to receive education. This and much more evidence is proof of a negative approach towards the education right for people with diversities, which, even nowadays, is followed by some under-development, at least in the level of traditions, if not to say by governments in a formal level.
Segregation: as mankind began to evolve himself scientifically, technically and intellectually, following the ages of renaissance, reforms and enlightenment, he began to think about how to involve people with diversities in the process of education, that led him to establish segregated places for diversity people. Louis Braille, the inventor of a system of reading and writing for persons with vision impairments, called, “Braille System”, was one of those people with disabilities who received education in a segregated, special school for the blind in France in 19th century.
Even nowadays, we see here and there, some segregated special schools for people with disabilities, such as people with visual, hearing and mental impairments. Such kind of places are criticized of segregating and isolating such people from the mainstreaming community.
Integration: in integrative approach towards education of people with diversities, we see the establishment of special classes within public, ordinary schools, for those with diversities, specifically those with disabilities. This approach, although evaluated by scholars as a much better approach comparing to segregation and deprivation, but findings have shown that people with diversities, even though, feel sort of segregated from the mainstreaming students. Even nowadays, we may face even in modern countries, both segregated and integrated places for education for people with diversities, including those with disabilities.
Inclusion: based on the laws and regulations on the elimination of all kinds of discriminations against people with all types of diversities, such as, Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, CRPD (2006), and Sustainable Development Goals SDG (2017) by The UN, and more, education specialists thought about how to fully include and involve people with diversities in the mainstreaming educational system. In the 21st century, this is the best and highly-appreciated approach, since it was evaluated as a helpful approach towards disappearance of discrimination.
The inclusive education advantages:
This approach is proved to be a good way of including people with differences in one place, in order to flourish the spirit of harmony and tolerance among students, who will be the future-makers, and on the other hand, to help people with diversities to feel comfortable with the mainstream.
Other advantages of this approach can be outlined as follows:
• improving individual strengths and talents, with high and suitable expectations for each student.
• Work on personal goals while taking part in the class procedure with other students with the same ages.
• Engaging the children’s parents in the process of education and in the school activities.
• Nourishing a culture of respect and correlation. Inclusive education may create an environment for understanding and accepting individual differences, decreasing the effects of irritation and bullying.
• Creating friendships with a wide range of other students, each with different needs and capabilities.
• Having positive effects, both on schools and on the society, so that they may welcome diversity and inclusion on a wider level.
Inclusive education requirements:
As mentioned above, to remove the barriers for those with special needs in a mainstreaming school, the following items may be required:
• Special stationeries: some categories of disabilities may not be able to use mainstreaming stationeries, such as notebooks, pens, pencils, etc. therefore, alternative stationeries may be provided for them. For instance, for children with vision impairments, if they are totally blind, special stationeries are required, such as, slates, styluses, tailors frames, Brailing machines, etc., and if partially sighted, they may require devices to make them able to read the normal books, such as books in large prints, or magnifying devices, etc.
• Resource center: this is specifically needed for persons with disabilities, since they need some rehabilitative services before joining public schools. Such center can also provide them with their special needs during being in public school.
• Resource person: this person could be a mediator between the children with special needs and their teachers. The resource person can train the teachers of the public school about inclusive education and its successful ways. The person can also be, for example, an interpreter between a child with hearing impairments and his/her teachers, using sign language, or, a reader for a child with vision impairments, who may have done assignment or exam paper sheets, using Braille system.
• Accessibility of school place: school environment should be accessible, specifically for those with physical impairments, with ramps and lifts to make it easier to ascend and descend from staircases, and for those with vision impairments, with tactile marks across the path that appears to be used by a child with vision impairments, using white cane.
• And also flexibility of teachers in using a variety methods of teaching, including work groups, peer mediations, etc., to make the class a place which is child-friendly.
As discussed in the essay, mankind was created free, but with diversities. But as human knowledge began to develop, it was gradually realized that these diversities are not good excuses of persecution against one another.
Regarding education, which was considered one of the basic human rights, 4 approaches were discussed concerning people with diversities: deprivation, segregation, integration and inclusion.
Inclusion was considered as the best and ever-evolving approach, with advantages, such as, developing a spirit of harmony and correlation between different types of children in one environment, so that people with diversities may feel themselves harmonious with mainstreaming children.
Also, the special needs of children with disabilities, depending on their type of disability, are to be considered as inclusive education requirements.
Finally, it is worthy to be mentioned that, Afghanistan, as a war-torn country, is in need of tolerance, harmony and correlation between all types of people, including ethnicities, religions, etc., to build a sustainable peace and stability all around the country.
Therefore, by promoting inclusive education to all schools of this country, this spirit of harmony and correlation will be develop and flourished within our children, who will be our future-makers.
1. The Quran.
2. The Bible.
3. Shelley Moore: Transforming Inclusive Education: Inclusion BC website:
* Benafsha Yaqoobi , the director of an NGO for persons with disabilities, called, “Rahyab Organization (ORRSB)”, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She started her school in Kabul and continued until grade 7, right at the time when she and her family were obliged to immigrate due to civil wars of the 1990’s, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Persian literature.
She obtained a Master’s degree in 2 fields: political sciences from “Payam’e’Noor” university, Kabul; and international relations from Afghanistan Institute for Higher Education, Kabul.