Is inclusive education the best solution?

Sometimes inclusive education seems to me more like a manifestation of capitalist cost-cutting greed than a positive educational philosophy.

This year I have 3 year 7 classes, each with more and more students being identified each day with literacy problems, processing disorders, and a host of other obstacles to their learning, and a challenging year 10 low literacy class. In these classes, and perhaps it is just my limited skills set being a new teacher (though other teachers have expressed the same sentiment), it seems almost impossible to assist these kids to actually achieve the outcomes without constant one-on-one help. Most of these students to whom i refer need a full time aide, but do not qualify for funding.

Today I was fortunate enough to only have half a year 10 class. One of the most struggling students had an aide to herself. Every student listened, participated, and demonstrated that they had achieved the lesson outcomes by the end of the lesson.

Whilst I was elated, I was also extremely disheartened. To say that class sizes don’t make a difference to students learning, or to put in place other teaching strategies which deprive the kids in need of one-on-one time with teachers is simply ludicrous. I can only imagine the progress I could make if I had a class of 10 each day, or if I was given the opportunity and funding to withdraw struggling kids for periods of intensive learning.

The philosophy of inclusive education might be politically correct, but I am thinking more and more these days that it isn’t the correct solution for our children’s learning.


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  1. * @malynmawby says:

    Because my first classes were also strugglers (in Maths, and often compounded by literacy issues as well), I found myself nodding to everything you said above.

    BUT, I’ve got a friend whose son has Down Syndrome. It puzzled me why she insisted on putting him in a mainstream school – granted, with special needs curriculum and with almost a full time aide. This is what she said, more or less (not verbatim):

    “I know it seems selfish but I want him to experience the world as it is, warts and all. I want him surrounded by people who are better or worse than him. He has got friends who do not have special needs and are more empathetic for those who do. How can he have anything like this if he’s in a special school?”

    My stories and thoughts, like yours above, have also helped her understand the challenges her son’s teachers have. We’ve had some awkward conversations when I’ve had to be clear that ‘this is me the teacher talking’; sometimes, all she needs is a sympathetic friend’s ear who would say mainstream is best.

    On a bright note, here’s possibly a suggestion. My daughter’s high school has a Literacy Program ran by a part-time teacher and staffed by parent volunteers. I’m one of those volunteers. Each of us work one-on-one with students to help. Here’s my post asking for ideas on spelling and reading tips. Maybe your school can have something similar? Maybe parent volunteers can come and help even within the classroom?

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 2 months ago
  2. The agenda of mainstreaming and ‘normalisation’ has deep roots, some of them in racial segregation and gay rights etc; and so it is a tricky one to tease out without coming close to offending almost everyone with a stakeholders perspective. Generally raising expectations works wonders. But there are real concerns if teachers are not getting the support they need to protect the educational rights of students too. Its all students abilities we want to look after and grow after all. I currently work in a special school (I worked in mainstream prior) and we too are daily challenged by the diversity of our charges. Huge variations in abilities reside in one class. If there is one thing we love it is to have volunteer students from mainstream, or even from within our own school, who may not be succeeding socially in their setting visit to help and mentor our kids. I don’t know your particular class, so it is a shot in the dark, but something that may work is gradually have some of those students who can work socially, increasingly encouraged to assist the other students. It doesn’t have to be explicit (in class) ability stranding but having students mix in ways that have mentoring potential. It can be an interesting way to work and it takes some time to know strengths. The feedback slightly more capable kids get from helping could be valuable to you and help the higher needs students gain social attention from peers. In the end don’t be shy about being an advocate for their needs and bring the individual requirements of each student to the attention of learning support teams so that there is background available to those who should know.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 2 months ago

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