Inclusion or mainstreaming is the practice of providing a child with disabilities with opportunity of non-discriminatory educational services in the general education classrooms. Till early seventies, over half the children with disabilities in United States did not receive appropriate educational services. It was very common for schools to refuse education to children with disabilities (Neas, 1998). In 1975, Congress passed the Education of all Handicapped Students Act, now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Essence of this act is in provision of least restrictive environment to students with disabilities. Different states are interpreting and implementing this law differently. Some are allowing disabled students to be in regular education classrooms for all subjects, while others allow ‘partial inclusion’ implying that disabled students are brought in regular education classroom for some subjects only. Whatever the level of inclusion, it has generated a number of controversies. This essay will therefore scrutinize pros and cons of inclusion in order to analyze its efficacy.
Proponents of inclusion believe that for students with disabilities, inclusion facilitates a rational and balanced social behavior because of higher expectations in the regular classroom. Kochhar, West, and Taymans (2000) conclude from their research that inclusion offers a greater support for disabled children which includes social acceptance from classmates without disabilities. It improves the ability of students and teachers to adapt to different teaching and learning styles. In disabled children, inclusion also promotes levels of achievement higher or at least as high as those achieved in self-contained classrooms, and an environment of better understanding is created among students with and without disabilities.
In addition to various benefits of inclusion, the strongest argument coming in its favor is from its philosophical and moral/ethical base. Even opponents of inclusion can not refute the legitimacy of its philosophical and moral/ethical reasoning. Segregated programs are considered detrimental to disabled students since these make them feel isolated and rejected from mainstream. In normal children, the inclusion reduces the fear of human differences by increasing comfort and awareness towards their peers and friends with disabilities.
Inclusion has a number of drawbacks too. Despite the support of specialists, it is not possible for regular schools to provide intensive and focused education to disabled children throughout the school day. It is becoming difficult for the schools to manage behavior patterns of disabled children and regulate these with normal children. It is eventually resulting into creating specialized classrooms (Harchik, 2005). The fact can not be ignored that students with disabilities are distinctly different from their non-disabled peers.
This fact necessitates different, and specialized services to both the cadres. Students with disabilities can be best served outside the mainstream classroom since such students require individualized and customized training which can not be provided in large classrooms. It is not possible for the regular teachers to handle disabled children with specialized curriculum, which results in inappropriate educational services (SEDL, 1995). Tiner (1995) carried out survey of 120 teachers from six middle schools and found that teachers were concerned about spending too much time on special students which resulted in time taken away from others in the classroom.
The proponents and opponents of inclusion have strong arguments to support their stance. Provision of specialized education through regular schools is very challenging and demanding. A school without proper facilities, services, aids and disciplinary strategies can not cope with the task of inclusion. Irrespective of pros and cons of inclusion, IDEA’97 legally bounds all educational institutions to provide least restrictive environments to students with disabilities, and therefore needs strict implementation to make it meaningful and beneficial.
Harchik, Alan. (2005). Including Children with Special Needs in Regular Classrooms: Pros & Cons. News for Parents. Retrieved April 30, 2006, from http://www.newsforparents.org/experts_inclusion_pros_cons.html
Kochhar, C. A., West, L. L., & Taymans, J. M. (2000). Successful Inclusion: Practical Strategies For A Shared Responsibility. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
SEDL-Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (1995). Inclusion: The Pros and Cons, vol. 4, number 3. Retrieved April 30, 2006, from http://www.sedl.org/change/issues/issues43.html
Tiner, Kathy A. (1995). Conditions conducive to special learners in the general classroom: Inclusion in the 1990s. Dissertation Abstracts International, 55(08), 2348A.