Inclusive education has been recognized by Australian government for over 40 years. This means that students with disabilities, including students of different diversity, are encouraged to learn alongside students in mainstream classrooms. With the Salamanca Statement of the 1994 and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, Australian government continues to take steps of social inclusion both in society and education. Although inclusion is strongly encouraged and implemented in schools across the continent, there are current problems with inclusion. Specifically, problems are found in the methods and strategies used to implement inclusion. Various researchers have written articles discussing the issues around inclusion, progress, the need for additional research, and change. Many take a different approach, observing inclusion from the perspective of the teacher. This includes recognizing the different methods of educating students in an inclusive classroom. Different states and territories have taken steps to include students with disabilities. Author Chris Forlin in his 2006 article, Inclusive Education in Australia Ten Years After Salamaca, provides research and data into Australia’s transformation to inclusive education. In his approach, he provides examples, a brief history, and the current approach to inclusive education. He also makes suggestions to the current approach to educating students with disabilities and conclusive data to support his claim.
Working with people of disabilities, it is important they are included in mainstream society. It provides a better quality of life for the disabled individual. In an inclusive society people with disabilities are allowed fair and equal opportunities in employment, housing, and education. The steps taken by the government through policy and law demonstrates the concern for the issue. It also shows the progress Australia is making towards the future regarding the disabled and their families. Since the 1970’s “there has been a parallel and increasing momentum towards integrating people with disabilities into the mainstream of all aspects of society”, (Forlin, 2006). Providing the disabled child a mainstream and inclusive education is a step towards a fully inclusive society that represents Australia’s diversity. In his article, Forlin demonstrates how states and territories approach inclusive education. He also dives deeper into their approach, analyzing the implications for special support staff, personal beliefs and values of teachers, pre-service teacher education, and in-service professional training, (Forlin, 2006). Analyzing inclusive education from these different perspectives, Forlin acknowledges flaws and makes suggestions for change. Understanding these changes will create a successful inclusive educational environment that can be instilled in greater society.
Disability education is important for the disabled and their families. Australian government has reacted to this need by establishing equal opportunities for the disabled. This has caused an interest in Australia and the progress of inclusive education. As a result, many forms of literature can be found on the subject of Australia, and disability education. Most are scholarly articles from journals and publications found across English speaking countries. Aside from Forlin’s article, others also relate specifically to Australia’s inclusive education including: Subban and Sharma’s article, Primary School Teachers Perception of Inclusive Education in Victoria Australia, and van Kraayenoord’s, School and Classroom Practices in Inclusive Education in Australia.
Forlin’s article first appeared in the European Journal of Psychology in 2006. Throughout the article, Forlin documents Australia’s inclusive education system, recognizing the government’s role and responsibility for people with disabilities. He closely identifies the government with inclusive education. From this vantage point, Forlin encourages the government to research and develop a special approach to inclusive education in the classroom. However, in Australia education is primarily up to territories that have specific acts and agendas on the approach to education of disabled students. In 2006, schools continued to integrate students with disabilities to the mainstream classroom and different schools use different approaches. Some schools remove the student from the classroom throughout the day for special education. Other schools do this within the classroom in a small group or provide the student with individual teaching. However, Forlin only referenced these different approaches and did not analyze the methods and effectiveness. However, another researcher did. Van Kraayenoord describes teaching methods used in the classroom, including the Universal Design for Learning and differentiation. It provides greater detail into the inclusive setting. “Universal Design for Learning involves the conscious and deliberate creation of lessons and outcomes that allow all students access to participation in the same curricula”, (van Kraayenoord, 2007). In this inclusive environment, students are not removed from the classroom or segregated from the lesson. Instead, van Kraayenoord recognizes that in some inclusive classrooms, disabled students are included and involved throughout the lesson.
With the enactment of the Salamaca Statement and Disability Discrimination Act, there is a significant increase of disabled students enrolled in mainstream education. “The relevant outcome is that the percentage of children with disabilities include in regular schools as a proportion of those identified with disability increased from 7.8% in 1988 to 47% in 2002”, (Forlin, 2006). Throughout this article, Forlin continues to provide subsequent data for his information collected. As more disabled students enter the mainstream classroom, teachers must cope and adapt to the change. The teacher is the implementer of inclusive education. Consequently, the teacher plays a significant role. The author indicates that, personal beliefs and values of the teacher can affect the success of inclusion. “The constant state of flux regarding the changing role of peripatetic teachers and psychologist, together with a lack of clarity as to exactly what their roles should be, makes it very difficult for teacher to plan ahead regarding maximizing support for students with diverse needs”, (Forlin, 2006). Forlin provides research from various Universities and Colleges about pre-service teachers and training of in-service teachers. He notes that older and more experienced teachers are opposed to inclusion. They feel inadequate to deal with the disabled student and shows concern for disabled students with behavioral problems. The article, Primary School Teachers Perception of Inclusive Education in Victor Australia described the same perceptions. Teachers are, “expected to rise to the challenge of an increasingly diverse classroom, adjust their teaching strategies to accommodate varying learning styles, and to be psychologically and practically prepared to take on the dynamic role of inclusive educator”, (Subban & Sharma, 2006).
Forlin concludes his article by encouraging states and territories to better train pre-service and in-service teachers. He states that, “newly graduated teachers continue to report that they are not satisfied with their pre-service education and they do not have the necessary competencies to solve the problems they are confronted with in the classroom”, (Forlin, 2006). This is also true for in-service teachers. He suggested that Colleges and Universities dedicate more hours to special education and disabilities. Furthermore, changing the perception and attitudes of teachers is another method to help teachers cope and adapt to the inclusive classroom. His research indicates that, teachers who were exposed to people with disabilities had “less ignorance and less pity towards people with disabilities and less uncertainty and concern about how to cope with inclusion”, (Forlin, 2006).
Most importantly, Forlin asks that more research is conducted and Australian government develop an educational design for inclusive education. This includes better training and education of teachers. This way, teachers can be well prepared to teach students both with and without disabilities. In the inclusive environment, the student can learn alongside their peers, develop social skill and interpersonal relationships, and have equal opportunities in learning. Currently, Australia continues to educate students with disabilities in different ways from teachers ill prepared for inclusive education. The methods used in the various classrooms continue to be debated among those in support and opposed to exclusive education. Forlin just briefly mentions this debate, recognizing the research and suggestions made by the government entitled the Index for Inclusion, which “has provided a theoretical context for educational departments to consider their existing practices”, (Forlin, 2006). However, van Kraayenoord better stress the debate of design approach in inclusive education. She iterates the concerns of Australians on inclusive education. “[Some] point to concerns about ‘watering down’ the curriculum and argues that any approach that suggest giving less to some students is open to criticism under principles of equality and social justice”, (van Kraayenoord, 2007). With inclusive education enacted in governmental policy, a distinct design must be used to allow quality and equal education for students. Although this topic is still up for debate, there is little research conduct on design approaches in inclusive education. As a result, no accurate model can be developed on this system. “To date, no Australian examples can be found of published research regarding teachers reported or observed classroom practices, not about the outcome of classroom interventions”, (van Kraayenoord, 2007).
Forlin, C. (2006). Inclusive Education in Australia ten years after Salamanca. European Journal Of Psychology Of Education – EJPE (Instituto Superior De Psicologia Aplicada), 21(3), 265-277.
van Kraayenoord, C. (2007). School and classroom practices in inclusive education in australia.Childhood Education, 83(6), 390-394. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210389911/fulltextPDF?accountid=13111
Subban, P., & Sharma, U. (2006). Primary school teachers perception of inclusive education in victoria australia. International Journal of Special Education, 21(1), Retrieved from http://www.internationalsped.com/documents/05 SubbanSharma.doc