Reading an article on Inclusive Education by Kathy Cologon, a senior lecturer in the Institute of Early Childhood in Macquarie University in Australia, one notices the seemingly failed approach to make education fully all-encompassing. She pointed out that “there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation about what inclusion actually means.”
In fact, she conveyed a clear concept of inclusive education, that it is the full inclusion of all children. This underlines the fact that each child is different, and needs to be considered as he or she is. No children are to be segregated! The inclusive approach to education believes in and values the uniqueness of each person. And its goal is not to make any child “normal,” according to Cologon, but rather to allow growth and to develop in each one the capacity to learn together with the others.
In the 1900s, the world witnessed a developing approach to education which focused on meeting the needs of children who experience various kinds of disabilities. This came to be known as Special Education. It brought about revolutionary action to the prevailing structural system in education bringing justice to those who, for long, have been deprived of their basic human needs, education.
Following this current evolution in the realm of education, many countries have enacted laws against the marginalization of a person on the basis of one’s disability. This introduced new vigor to pursue the integration and, eventually, the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the formal settings of educational institutions.
In March 24, 1992, in the Philippines, a giant step was made by Congress in passing a bill, known as Republic Act No. 7277. This bill enacts the provision for Rehabilitation, Self-development and Self-reliance of Disabled persons and their Integration into the Mainstream of Society and for other purposes.
This Act was then signed by then President Corazon C. Aquino. It is worthwhile considering Section 12 of the bill as it specifically delineates the role of the state to ensure that disabled persons are provided with adequate access to quality education and ample opportunities to develop their skills. And it shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to disabled persons. It is stated further that it shall consider the special requirements of disabled persons in the formulation of education policies and program.
But one may ask, “Is this all that Inclusive Education means?” This is far from being “all”! New approaches are still being developed, to this date, to bring the innumerable benefits of inclusion. Going back to what Cologon stresses, she states: Inclusive education involves supporting each child in belonging, participating, and flourishing by accessing ongoing opportunities, being recognized and valued for the contribution that he or she makes.
A person therefore, indeed every person, shall be considered and be given the possibility to develop not only his inherent skills, but also his being a human person who is called to fullness.
This can be best facilitated through the guidance of a well-prepared educator, who with his creativity knows how to dig up the best within himself and this way of acting helps others learn – the kind of educator who, with a look upwards, draws others behind him, who makes his passion “to be an educator” felt as a true call – a vocation to perfection.
In this light, education can then truly fulfill its ultimate goal – the creation of one human family, where each one plays an active and significant role. And this is what inclusive education is about, ultimately: to foster a society in communion.