Formal education is one of the most effective socialization methods that Western societies have built. That is why their theories, models, and practices have been constantly modified and in response to the social, political and economic events of each era.

Along this path, and especially after education began to be conceived as a universal right, a paradigm arose that defends that we all must access formal education regardless of our gender, ethnicity, disability or socioeconomic status. This paradigm is that of Educational Inclusion or Inclusive Education.

Next, we will explain in more detail, albeit in an introductory way, what is inclusive education, where does it come from and what are some of its scope and challenges.

What is Inclusive Education? Origins, proposals

In 1990 a UNESCO conference was held in Thailand, where several countries (especially Anglo-Saxons) met and proposed the idea of ​​”a school for all”.

Specifically, they wanted to complement and extend the scope of what was previously called “special education,” but they did not just discuss the conditions of exclusion in which people with disabilities were, but recognized many other contexts of vulnerability in which They find many people.

Four years later, at the Salamanca Conference, 88 countries agreed that education should have an inclusive orientation, that is, that it should not be limited to guaranteeing access to education, but also that it should ensure that education is effective and efficient.

In other words, inclusion is a social phenomenon that for almost three decades has been at the center of the debate on education, which has generated and expanded an entire inclusive movement, which is not limited to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities, but it has allowed changing the model of care and rehabilitation for an accessibility model in disability care, where problems are no longer sought in the person but in the surrounding conditions.

In short, inclusive education is the implementation of the paradigm of inclusion in all areas related to formal education (for example and mainly in schools, but also governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions as well as policies) public).

Inclusive education or Educational Inclusion?

Both concepts refer to the same process. The difference is that the term educational inclusion refers to the theoretical approach or model, that is, the organized set of ideas that promote equal conditions in access to efficient education, while the term inclusive education makes one more reference practice specific; for example when a school is implementing concrete strategies to favor inclusion and accessibility.

Difference between special education and inclusive education

The main difference is in the paradigm that underlies each of them. Special education emerged as a tool to ensure that people with disabilities, in some contexts called people with special needs, could access formal education.

It is called “special education” because it is taken for granted that there are people who have particular problems or needs that general (non-special) education cannot attend, so it becomes necessary to create a different way of educating and attending to those needs.

For its part, inclusive education does not consider that the problem is people, but education itself, which hardly recognizes the diversity of ways of functioning that coexist among human beings, which, what had to be done was not a “ special education ”for“ special people ”, but a single education capable of recognizing and valuing differences and addressing them on equal terms.

That is, education for all, or inclusive education, is not about expecting everyone to be equal, much less forcing children to have the same skills, interests, concerns, rhythms, etc; On the contrary, it is an educational model that in practice allows us to recognize that we are very different, both in our way of functioning and in the ways of processing or transmitting information, so we must create strategies, programs, and policies that Be diverse and flexible.

Finally, although inclusive education is often directly associated to incorporate people with disabilities into educational systems, it is rather about recognizing the barriers to learning and barriers to participation that are put up for non-reasons. only of disability, but of gender, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, etc.

From agreements to actions

So what could we do to make education inclusive? In principle, barriers to learning and participation must be detected. For example, by conducting qualitative assessments that allow a broad and deep understanding of the particular educational context, that is, the characteristics, needs, facilities, and conflicts of a particular school.

Hence evaluate the possibilities of action being realistic and raise awareness for the educational community (teachers, family members, children, administrators) to promote a paradigm shift and not just politically correct discourse.

Another example is the curricular adjustments or accompaniments within the classroom that are made after having detected the particular needs of both boys and girls and the teaching staff. It is largely about being empathic and receptive and having the willingness to analyze phenomena not only at the micro-level.

Some challenges of this project

Although it is a project very committed to human rights and with very good intentions, as well as with many success stories, the reality is that it continues to be a complicated process.

One of the problems is that it is a proposal that “developed countries” aspire to, and in unequal conditions “developing countries”, which means that its impact has not been generalized to all countries and socio-economic contexts.

Also, barriers to learning and participation are hardly detected because frequently, the pedagogical activity is focused on the needs of the teacher (in the time he has to teach, in the number of students, etc.), and the problems are focused on children, which also promotes in many contexts an excess of psychopathological diagnoses (for example, overdiagnosis of ADHD).

Inclusive education is then a project that gives us very good future forecasts, especially because the children who live together and recognize diversity are the future adults who will create accessible societies (not only in terms of space but in terms of learning and learning). knowledge), but it is also the result of a very complex process that depends not only on professionals, much less on children, but on educational policies and models, on the distribution of resources, and other macropolitical factors to whom we also have to question.