Inclusion is not a new term in education. There are other words that are often used in its place like mainstreaming and integration.
It basically means educating every child, to a reasonable degree, in the classroom they would normally attend.
Full inclusion means that in spite of a child's disability or special need, they will be together in their age-related classroom, and the support they need will be brought to them.
When I read information about this it sounded fair. Everyone should be treated equally and have equal access to education. So, in theory it seems appropriate.
However, in practice it doesn't seem as straightforward or practical as it does in theory.
Who benefits from it? Who suffers?
As society moved more and more to inclusion of all people, schools began to reflect this practice as well.
Some governments,school boards and districts see this as a way to save money.
This practice assumes that the regular classroom teacher is properly trained to handle this type of situation.
Sadly, this is often not the case. The teacher can become overwhelmed because of lack of resources, support and training.
Does Every Child Benefit?
For the gifted child, this approach to education can be a negative experience.
In this type of class, the gifted child is much like a flower without enough water. They lack the necessary stimulation and challenge.
Many advocates for children with disabilities do not support the idea of full inclusion.
They fear a loss of services and programs and see this as a step backwards.
Others raise the concern that too much time is given to a few students, taking away time and involvement from the rest of the class.
Imagine a classroom with 24 students. Several have learning disabilities ranging in severity, a couple have speech issues, a few have ADHD, one or two have behavioural issues, one has autism and one is gifted.
How can a teacher in the above situation give all these students the education they deserve?
It would be easier if the teacher had an aide or two, but with budgetary concerns felt by most school boards or districts, she probably doesn't.
She has roughly a dozen IEP's to deal with. How can any student get a fair and equal education?
How much of her time is spent disciplining, repeating, and going over material? What happens to the gifted child in this scenario?
If students that have issues, be it behavioural or learning or autism, are removed from the class for parts of the day, how is this inclusion?
Gifted children go into the regular classroom already knowing much of the information they will cover for that year when they start .
This information begs the question, is an age related regular classroom the right place for a gifted child in today's school?
Grade acceleration is a must in schools that offer no gifted program to their students.
Inclusion should not mean the break down of existing gifted programs in schools or be simply a cost cutting measure. If it is, the students are truly the ones that suffer.
If this educational philosophy is to have a chance to work governments and schools need to put much more money into teacher training and support.
They need to get the proper help to the students in the class where they are.
How practical will it be to have several aides in the class with one teacher all trying to work with students at different levels?
It is clear that this topic leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The most important thing is to do what is best for the students and not what saves money in the short term.