In 2016, about 7 million children were reported to be out of school because of their inability to access primary education due to disability state according to vanguard news. The design and management of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria are reportedly non-inclusive and inaccessible to children with disabilities.
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The article reported that 7 million children make up more than 50% of over 10 million children out of school in Nigeria. Education is a basic need and right for every child. It is supposed to be available to every child regardless of their physical or social limitations.
Therefore, the introduction of inclusive learning in the classroom is a necessity and not just a minor additional feature in the policies governing the management of schools in Nigeria.
This article aims to discuss the importance of inclusive education in the classroom. It will define inclusive education, features and ways to include inclusive education in the classroom and the benefits of inclusion education.
Defining Inclusive Education
Inclusive education means students with diverse and different learning and physical abilities staying in the same classroom to learn side by side. It is the act of placing students in age-appropriate general education classes in schools available in their immediate environment that gives access to high-quality instructions, interventions and assistance to meet up primary academic curriculum irrespective of any challenges they may have.
Educators need to recognise the fact that children with disabilities have equal capacities to learn and perform optimally as their age-mates that are without limitations. These children are therefore supposed to be part of all educational activities in their classrooms and within the neighbourhood. Such activities include excursions, academic debates, student government, sports and other related activities.
Recognizing the values in the diversity and unique contribution of each student in the classroom is one of the key drivers of an inclusive education system. Every child feels safe and develops a sense of belonging. The students along with their parents are involved in setting academic goals and making decisions that determine the success of their learning and education.
A lot of schools claim to be inclusive, but this is often not the case. Sharing the same physical space and performing different activities is not inclusive. Most educational institutions in Nigeria do not operate an inclusive setting; the reason for this could be inadequate funding, cultural beliefs, negative perception and teacher qualification.
However, this is an area they should look into and take seriously. The country can join forces with other progressive nations to advocate for the right of learners with disabilities.
There are several benefits of including special need students in the classroom with other students. Research-based evidence on the importance of Inclusive education has become significant over the years, and it has, therefore, become a vital system that should be included in the classroom.
Below are eight Importance of Inclusive Education:
#1. Development of a positive perception of themselves and others
Attending classroom settings that depict the true nature of the similarities and differences that exist in the world helps children appreciate diversity. It is essential that a child’s education introduces him or her to the reality of the world out there beyond the walls of just an academic environment.
Playing and learning alongside with other children of different cultures and abilities assist children to grow in understanding people that are unique in skills due to physical, social or other challenges. The culture of respect for one another also grows when children are allowed to play with one another without segregation.
#2. Healthy friendship development
Asides from academic education and learning made available to children in school, friendships are developed, and social skills learnt. Allowing special needs children to mix with other children in the school settings makes them feel included, and this expands their network of friends.
#3. Realization of parents’ dreams
Every parent wants their child to be happy and accepted by their peers, have a healthy life and education. Allowing a child with the special need to interact and learn with other students in the school positively improves their academic performance, their personality and the expectations of the parents. Introducing inclusive education in the classroom will reduce stigmatisation and help such children attain their highest heights.
#4. Parental involvement in education
Introducing inclusive education into the classroom encourages parents to be actively involved in their child’s education and other school activities. Parents love to witness the performance of their children during events such as debate, quiz competition, sports and other programs. It also drives a higher commitment to the school by the parents as they become more involved in the school program.
#5. A basis for an Inclusive society
A society that embraces and integrates an inclusive education will naturally introduce the same culture of inclusion in its concepts of civic participation, employability and community relationships. The seeds of inclusion need to be planted in the young so that they will learn the values, skills and knowledge to include others who are different from them.
That’s the basis of our future society. Those with special needs can become pioneers of public projects and programs.
#6. A broader range of learning methods
An Inclusive education system makes teachers and staff flexible when it comes to preparing their teaching and instructional materials. The use of non-traditional resources like videos, audio, kinesthetic and even multimedia can be employed to make learning more accessible and exciting. By doing this, even students without disabilities learn faster too.
#7. Better Academic performance
Research has shown that students learning together in the classroom improves academic excellence. Students set higher expectations for themselves due to the presence of others with diverse abilities. Students with disabilities challenge themselves to perform optimally like their classmates, while other students also spontaneously set a high standard for themselves.
As educators, we won’t know what gifts are hidden in our students until we unwrap them. Most successful teachers of inclusion classes have found that when they teach basic skills within the context of meaningful lessons, all students can achieve higher-level learning. Such lessons stimulate critical thinking and motivate students to make personal connections with the material.
#8. Development of leadership skills
Students in an inclusive education environment naturally learn to take up the responsibility of caring for one another. There are situations where students stand up and speak up to protect their friends who are bullied. This naturally can lead to leadership skill.
The school environment also encourages self-discovery as students with diverse abilities find themselves performing roles and functions they usually would not be exposed to if they had been separated.
To fully implement inclusive learning in the classroom there should be a development of a culture of acceptance, understanding and giving equal attention to the diversities and differences of all the students in the school.
Here are some of the essential elements that characterise inclusive education:
- The use of a broader range of instructional materials, teaching aids and models
The purpose of contemporary tools such as interactive whiteboards, videos, audio lessons and multimedia tools are often associated with higher student engagement. A lot of times, teachers also employ the use of groupings to carry out academic exercise in the classroom.
Often the groups are shuffled just to allow all students to relate to each other and carry out the task assigned to them. Teachers lead group task in the cases of younger age students (preschool or elementary ) or driven by a student when dealing with older children (secondary school)
- Inclusive academic curriculum
The same learning goals drive the learning experience of every student. The content of the school academic program is such that gives equal opportunity for all the students to participate in all school educational activities at the same pace of progress.
Educators consider students with disabilities before creating the school curriculum. They do this to allow all students to have equal access to instructions and opportunities to participate in learning activities. Such curriculum makes provision for students with special needs to be given attention without pulling them out in the middle of lessons and making their differences noticed.
- Parental Involvement
Parents participation in the education of the child in an inclusive system can ultimately define its success. Inclusive education involves coming up with innovative and strategic methods of getting parents involved and noticed by children in the learning process. The process of creating educational contents and other learning activities in an inclusive system ensures a significant contribution of parents through the planning stage.
- Building Relationships
It is the responsibility of the teachers to connect with all the students in the classroom. Speaking to your students one-on-one is a great way to start building a relationship. By taking some extra time and effort to view each pupil as an individual and truly believing that each student can succeed, you’ll become partners in their success.
Finally, it is important not to forget that there are extreme cases where special need children act out in the classroom and as such, they might require one-on-one supervision. In this case, the service of a special educator is needed to support the children in a well-groomed learning environment.
The importance of inclusive education in the classroom is crucial. Research has shown the tremendous benefits it offers to students and parents. It is of great importance for schools to not exclude special need students from associating and learning with other pupils. They should be provided with quality education just like other children. They are bright, intelligent and they need to be surrounded by other students so they can strive and learn social skills.