Inclusive Education is the Pathway to Social Inclusion – European Review

By Catia Malaquias

 The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education has released its review of over 200 papers from a range of countries (including the United Kingdom, USA, Australia and continental Europe) into the relationship between inclusive education and social inclusion, titled “Evidence of the Link Between Inclusive Education and Social Inclusion” (Review).

The Review was guided by two questions:

  • What is the link between inclusive education and social inclusion?
  • What does current research say about inclusive education’s potential as a tool for promoting social inclusion?

The Review defined “inclusive education” taking into account UN General Comment No. 4 (The Right to Inclusive Education) and noted that ‘inclusive education’ was now regarded as high-quality education provision for students with disability in a mainstream school rather than in a separate segregated class or setting.

“Social inclusion” was defined by the Review as covering the areas of inclusion in education, employment and living in the community.

The Review found what we know intuitively to be correct – that including students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers in regular education classrooms increases the organic potential for students with disability to be employed with and to live amongst their non-disabled peers.

The Review indicated that “there is a link between inclusive education and social inclusion” [p14] and the evidence suggests that segregated settings limit the potential for students with disability to be socially included:

“The research evidence presented in this review suggests that attending segregated [educational] settings minimises the opportunities for social inclusion both in the short term (while children with disabilities are at school) and the long term (after graduation from secondary education).  Attending a special setting is correlated with poor academic and vocational qualifications, employment in sheltered workshops, financial dependence, fewer opportunities to live independently, and poor social networks after graduation.” [p14]

The Review corroborates the findings of the comprehensive literature review undertaken by the Alana Institute and Dr Thomas Hehir, Professor of Practice in Learning Differences at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in partnership with global firm Abt Associates, which found that inclusive education improved academic as well as social outcomes for students with disability.  That review also found that those benefits were directly correlated with the amount of time spent in regular classrooms.

While UN General Comment No. 4 encouraged:

“… [countries] to achieve a transfer of resources from segregated to inclusive settings. … [and] to develop a funding model that allocates resources and incentives for inclusive educational environments to provide the necessary support to persons with disabilities.” [para 68]

the Review concluded with a similar recommendation:

“… policy-makers could consider how to re-design the specialist provision [segregated ‘special’ education] that is available in many countries in order to support learning in inclusive [regular] education settings.” [p65].

The Review confirms the message in Coordown’s 2018 international World Down Syndrome Day video campaign, “Lea Goes to School” and in my recent comments on Australia’s national broadcaster’s “Q&A program”. You can watch a clip of the comment here.

[Cover photo © Joshua Fuller]

Thank you for visiting our website.  You can also keep up with our mission by liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter @StartingWJulius