Specific Legislation and Policies to Implement Inclusive Education
Access to and Availability of Inclusive Education Article 24 of the CRPD, as well as Article 28 of the CRC, asserts the right to education on the basis of equality of opportunity for every child. The CRPD also emphasizes that this must be provided in inclusive systems at all levels. It explicitly requires that children with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability. They are entitled to inclusive, free and quality education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has stressed that “...it is the entire process of inclusive education that must be accessible, not just buildings, but all information and communication, including ambient or frequency modulation assistive systems, support services and reasonable accommodation in schools..... The whole environment of students with disabilities must be designed in a way that fosters inclusion and guarantees their equality in the entire process of their education.”1 Inclusion needs to be understood as integral to the whole of the education system – not just an add-on.
Inclusive education needs to be seen as one part of the wider goal of making society more just and less discriminatory for all marginalized populations through education delivery. It is not simply a technical or organizational change, but involves a cultural and philosophical change of approach based on a commitment to respect for every child, and recognition of the obligations of the education system to adapt to accommodate and address her or his needs and rights. Consequently, legislation across all public sectors should lead to the provision of services that enhance developments and processes working towards inclusion in education.
In addition, the commitment to inclusive education must be elaborated in detail in legislation so that obligations and accountability are explicit. This will support government at the national and local levels to work towards a common approach and be held accountable for ensuring its implementation for every child. Thus, for example, provisions such as special education laws that establish separation among students with and without disabilities need to be reviewed. Similarly, day-care centres and other settings created to provide rehabilitative services exclusively to children with disabilities, and which place an inappropriate emphasis on ‘changing the child’ rather than creating an adaptive and inclusive education system, will need revision. Additional policy changes might be required to policies relating to, for example, enrolment, curriculum, assessment, school governance human resources quality assurance, self-evaluation, external evaluation, and inspection regimes.
An integrated legal and policy framework covering inclusive education should address all educational sectors and levels. It needs to be comprehensive, coordinated and comprehensively address issues of flexibility, diversity and equity in all educational institutions for all learners. Key elements to be addressed are that its provisions:
- Comply with international human rights standards – in particular the CRC and CRPD.
- Include a clear definition of inclusion and the specific objectives it is seeking to achieve. Inclusion principles and practices need to be considered as integral to reform, and not simply an add-on programme. Provisions, for example, which define certain categories of children as ‘uneducable’ need to be repealed.
- Guarantee children with and without disabilities the same right to access mainstream learning opportunities, and assure access for individual learners to mainstream education and necessary support services within all levels.
- Develop a policy framework for inclusive education at the central level that supports the policy, practice and culture of inclusion across all levels of the mainstream education system.
- Ensure that policy, provision and support are consistent throughout the country.
- Introduce accessible monitoring mechanisms to ensure that policy, together with the requisite investment, is actually implemented.
- Recognize the need for reasonable accommodations to support inclusion, based on human rights standards, rather than on the efficient use of resources.
- Ensure that all legislation that potentially impacts upon inclusive education within a country should clearly state inclusion as a goal.
- Provide a consistent framework for the identification, assessment and support required to enable children with disabilities to flourish in mainstream learning environments.
- Introduce an obligation on local authorities to plan and provide for all learners, including children with disabilities, within mainstream settings and classes, including in the most appropriate languages, modes and means of communication.
- Provide guidance to education institutions on how to fulfil their duties through increased inclusive education provision.
- Require the creation of partnerships and coordination between all stakeholders, including different agencies, development organizations and NGOs, and specifically with parents and individuals with disabilities.
In addition, as part of the overall legislation and policy for inclusive education, governments need to commit to investing in and supporting the recruitment and training of teachers with disabilities. This will necessitate the removal of any legislative or policy barriers that require candidates to fulfil specific medical eligibility criteria, as well as the provision of reasonable accommodations for their participation as teachers. Their presence in schools will serve four fundamental goals:
It will promote equal rights for people with disabilities to enter the teaching profession:
- Teachers with disabilities will bring a unique understanding of living with impairments and the adjustments that are necessary to include learners with disabilities. This will lend expertise to the creation of inclusive educational environments.
- Their presence in schools will contribute to the breaking down of barriers, challenging prejudices that assume people with disabilities lack the capacities to contribute to society on an equal basis with others.
- They will provide important role models for children with disabilities, who are commonly denied the opportunity to see people with disabilities in adult roles to which they can aspire.