Globally speaking, mainstream school systems are still very rigid and exclusive. Not all students are welcome to attend, for a variety of different ‘reasons’ which are basically just prejudices towards the disabled students. There are all kinds of misconceptions about the students with disabilities, and our aim should be to continuously try to debunk and invalidate those fallacies and misjudgments.
The thing is that we don’t even need to debate or make pro et contra arguments anymore when it comes to calling into question these preconceived notions, simply because it’s safe to say with absolute certainty that inclusive school systems are beneficial for a myriad of reasons.
So, how exactly are the inclusive classrooms beneficial?
Higher Student Engagement With Differentiated Instructions
One of the most common arguments against inclusive school classrooms is that students with disabilities are somehow ‘dragging down’ the rest of the pupils, that they’re ‘limiting their potential’, or ‘stunting their academic growth’ by demanding the extra amount of attention and time. Even if we set aside for a moment the fact that this is highly problematic (to say the least), we still have to understand why and how wrong this particular notion really is.
Not only that the additional instructions and time needed for a teacher to explain something to a student (or students) with a disability is beneficial for that/ those student(s), but it is also valuable and helpful to others, as well.
If there’s a classroom full of both ‘regular’ students and students with disabilities, the wide range of learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) is proven to be helpful to everyone. What we have to understand is that every student is an individual. They all have a different persona. Things are never monochromatic, and even among the so-called ‘regular’ students, teachers have to be ready to apply different tactics and approaches when they are presenting something. One way of explaining things is never suitable for all. Diversified educational experience can only be proven to be advantageous and useful, if the classes are properly structured and if the teachers have the right mindset.
Inclusive Classes Build Camaraderie, Mutual Trust And Support
There is a growing need to introduce and instil a sense of rightness in today’s youth. We all know that this is not an easy task to perform. That is why it is of utmost importance for school systems and everyone involved around making decisions and executing plans concerning education to instigate the ‘solidarity spark’ in future generations.
By learning children from a young age to be inclusive, to be open towards other people’s differences (be that race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, different kind of disabilities or something else maybe) we are on the verge of creating a society in which everyone and everything is approached in a respectful manner.
Unfortunately, this change often times has to start from the grown-ups. Kids don’t pay attention to any of that stuff like race or disabilities unless they were taught so. So instead of teaching them bigotry from an early age, we have to teach them how to accept these differences, despite what a part of society is still (regrettably) preaching.
Luckily, we can also find literally dozens of examples and stories in which inclusive classrooms have helped everyone integrate. These stories are giving us hope that we can make a resounding change. This process is rewarding in itself – by creating a welcoming environment for all students, we are also giving the opportunity to children with disabilities to be successful and eventually prosper. That can only be achieved through inclusive practices. Disabled students, like all people really, thrive in a culture that gives them equal chances. They don’t feel abandoned, marginalized or neglected when they are integrated with the rest of the group.
Children With Disabilities Can Become Fully Contributing Citizens
What’s worrying is the fact that there are more than 32 million children with disabilities in developing countries that are out of school. Just let that piece of information sink in for a moment. That’s more than the entire population of Australia! What we need to be constantly thinking about is how to help those children fulfil a dream of living just like everyone else when they reach adulthood.
It’s no secret that disabled students are often times made to attend segregated schools. The Human Rights Watch has documented that earlier. But what’s really alarming is that many of those children live in complete isolation from the rest of their peers, as well as from the community.
In Russia, there’s a widespread opinion and scepticism that children with disabilities can’t really learn like the rest of the children. What these examples tell us is that we often times marginalize, cut off, sideline and consequently alienate and estrange the members of our society that need our help the most. Those children, if they don’t attend schools and become regular pupils will end up struggling greatly later in life. They won’t be able to attend universities and get jobs like everybody else.
What they need is an equal opportunity, and we can’t stress this enough. If the children with disabilities grow up fully integrated, they will also become fully contributing citizens of our society. To help them accomplish that, we need to use all sorts of methods. There are different workshops, like those at Behaviour Zen, that stimulate these inclusive practices in early childhood settings.
But we should also keep this in mind: it really shouldn’t be of primary concern for us to make someone a contributing member of our society at all costs. We need to realize that people are never a burden. What we should be doing is trying to help them become functioning members of the society, to help them grow and maximize their potential for their own sake, and not for the benefit of someone else.
Inclusive Education Should Not Be Cost-Cut Motivated
Even though we can actually count this as a direct benefit, inclusive classrooms at schools really shouldn’t be (just) about cutting costs. What they should be about is making a system that provides better quality education for all children, which is instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes.
The fact that we can cut costs by implementing this strategy is something of secondary importance. If we shut down specialized schools that are segregating and alienating children, we will primarily reduce stigma towards the children who are disabled. Often times is the case that they actually don’t have any sort of learning or attention issues – for example, they have a physical ailment that doesn’t interfere in any way with their learning abilities.
We rarely even have a true notion of what would really be an effective use of resources. This doesn’t include shutting down specialized schools which consequently leads to hiring fewer teachers. This effective use of resources means that we are abandoning some old ways of dealing with these problems. For instance, we no longer have to pull pupils out of the classroom and send them to speech therapies or other specialized instructions. This sends a negative message to the rest of the group – that there’s something substantially ‘wrong’ with these children that you can’t possibly carry on and conduct the class properly when they are around.
By opting for inclusive classrooms at schools we are actually doing everyone a favour, contrary to the most widespread opinions in today’s day and age. We saw some clear benefits of creating a diversified environment when it comes to integrating children with disabilities into society. Building inclusive classrooms at schools all around the world is just a first step towards accomplishing that goal.
We need to make children with disabilities feel safe and welcome. They will get a chance to utilize this opportunity and have an equal chance to succeed like the rest of their peers. How are we going to do that? For instance, by fostering and nurturing empathy, compassion, and resilience, we will provide much-needed support to those who need our help the most.
But we also need to be aware of the fact that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Only by continually making these efforts we can achieve a society in which everyone feels welcomed and loved. And not only that we learn better together, but we also create and cultivate the sense of community which paints a colourful picture of a decent civilization.