Inclusive basic education in south africa: issues in its conceptualisation and implementation

Download 2.45 Mb.
Size2.45 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   14
3 Inclusive education

3.1 What does "inclusive basic education" mean?

The inclusive education discourse is one of the most acclaimed yet controversial recent developments on the right to education. Inclusive education is widely applied and acclaimed as an appropriate approach to education for all.39 The approach is founded on the recognition that certain groups of learners such as children with disabilities, indigenous children, or girls have historically been directly or indirectly excluded from the existing system of education. Inclusive education therefore requires that the framework within which education is delivered is broad enough to accommodate equally the needs and circumstances of every learner in society equally. This view is captured in the Dakar Framework's40 statement that as a matter of principle education must neither exclude nor discriminate.41

However, the question can be asked as to whether the recognition of a right to basic education (including the nature of the obligations that apply to this right), is necessarily equal to a right to inclusive basic education. At first this distinction seems immaterial. However, it is evident that there is greater consensus on the duties relative to the right to basic education than there is with regard to a right to inclusive basic education. Indeed, as in the case of South Africa, while it is generally accepted that there is an immediate duty to implement basic education (as shown above), the duty to ensure inclusive education as stipulated in education policy seems more inclined to a progressive realisation approach.42 In addition, the CRPD calls for the progressive realisation of inclusive education, despite an immediate obligation for the realisation of the right to education having been established in preceding international instruments.43

A fundamental challenge with regard to inclusive education is that it is not consistently or universally defined. The distinctions between inclusion and inclusive education, and between inclusion in the broader and narrow senses in the context of education, are also not clear cut.44 Inclusion in education has been defined as the:

... process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children.45

In the "broad" sense, "inclusive education" has been defined as:

... the understanding that the education of all children including those with disabilities, should be under the responsibility of the education ministries or their equivalent with common rules and procedures. In this model, education may take place in a range of settings such as special schools and centres, special classes, special classes in integrated schools or regular classes in mainstream schools, following the model of the least restrictive environment.46

This latter definition presumes that "all children can be educated and regardless of the settings or adaptations necessary, all students should have access to a meaningful curriculum and outcomes".47

In the narrower sense, inclusive education is equated with integration. For instance, the aforementioned understanding notwithstanding, the World Disability Report interpreted inclusive education to mean that “all children should be educated in regular classrooms with age-appropriate peers".48 This would be facilitated by the removal of barriers to education through measures such as reasonable accommodation. This view is traceable to earlier documents on the rights of persons with disabilities. For instance, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action49 proclaimed that "those with special education needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs".50 The Statement further noted that "regular schools with inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all".51 It also stipulated that "the fundamental principle of the inclusive school is that all children should learn together, wherever possible, regardless of any difficulties or differences they may have",52 and that "a child with disability should attend the neighbourhood school, that is, the school that would be attended if the child did not have a disability".53

Subsequently, in its General Comment No 5, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) was of the view that to implement education in integrated settings as contemplated by the Standard Rules54 it was necessary "that teachers are trained to educate children with disabilities within regular schools".55 Later, the CRC Committee called for the integration of all learners into the mainstream class as a priority, though conceding that there are circumstances where the education of a child with disabilities requires a kind of support that is not available in the regular educational system.56

During the CRPD negotiations, it was argued that the low incidence and demographic distribution of some kinds of disabilities, particularly the numbers of deaf, blind, and deaf-blind children, means that at a local level it is difficult to establish appropriate or quality education and peer support between children of similar ages and interests, and therefore that a failure to educate these children in mainstream schools would deny them the opportunity to achieve their potential.57 In 2011 the World Disability Report called upon states "not [to] build a new special school if no special school exists. Instead, use the resources to provide additional support for children with disabilities in mainstream schools".58 Also, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) in its concluding observations on State Party reports has adopted an approach that leans heavily towards the understanding of inclusion as integration.59

In its recommendations to Spain, for instance, the CRPD Committee called upon the state to ensure that children with disabilities are included in the mainstream system.60 To Argentina the Committee expressed concern over the high number of children with disabilities attending special schools (as opposed to mainstream schools). The Committee therefore called upon that state party to ensure that the children attending special schools were enrolled in mainstream schools, and to offer them reasonable accommodation within the regular education system.61 However, it is in its comments on China's report that the Committee clearly showed its inclination towards the understanding of inclusive education as favouring the integration of learners with disabilities into mainstream schools. The Committee stated that it:

... wishes to remind the state party that the concept of inclusion is one of the key notions of the Convention, and should be especially adhered to in the field of education. In this regard, the Committee recommends that the state party reallocate resources from the special education system to promote inclusive education in mainstream schools, so as to ensure that more children with disabilities can attend mainstream education.62

Though the foregoing arguments do not entirely support the idea that inclusive education is synonymous with integrated education, they are clearly indicative of the fact that integration is a core component of inclusive education. A fundamental feature distinguishing between inclusive education and integration is that where and when appropriate, inclusive education seeks to accommodate the needs of all students, and to give all learners a choice on where to undertake their education on a basis of equality, while integration primarily emphasises location. It is therefore rightfully argued that to interpret inclusive education simply as the requirement that all children have a right to be educated in a mainstream school oversimplifies the issue. Rather, the overriding right is for all children to have a good education and to have their needs for education met.63

It is especially clear from the foregoing brief reflection on the journey to inclusive education under Article 24 of the CRPD, that though it is often argued that integration and inclusion are not synonymous, the development of inclusive education at the international level shows that the integration of learners with disabilities into the mainstream classroom has consistently been regarded as a core part of inclusive education. Indeed, even the CRPD contemplates an inclusive education that includes the integration of learners with disabilities into the "general education system" as a priority, and believes education in separate settings to be acceptable only where necessary.64 However, the CRPD sets out other defining characteristics of inclusive education beyond the location of learners. Such other components include the need for the adaptation of the content of education in accordance with the expanded aims of education, the duty to provide support and reasonable accommodation, and safeguarding equal choice for all learners in education.65

Download 2.45 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   14

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page