Vol. 16, Issue No. 3
Why Inclusive Education Matters
In 2017, the Department of Education (DepEd) with the Teacher Education Council (TEC) introduced the Philippine Professional Standards for Teachers (PPST) to encourage educators to actively work towards professional development. The PPST outlines seven domains comprising 37 strands that measure teacher performance. Domain 3, in particular, focuses on inclusive education, which is geared towards “the celebration of diversity in the classrooms and the need for teaching practices that are differentiated to encourage all learners to be successful citizens in a changing local and global environment”. In fact, inclusive education is one of the teaching philosophies that the PPST is founded on.
Inclusive education, simply put, means designing classrooms, lessons, and programs to accommodate students from different walks of life. True inclusivity advocates for different-abled children from any background receiving the same quality education together, without the need to create separate classes or schools for those with “special needs”.
The importance of inclusivity
Schools all over the world practicing inclusive education have witnessed the positive effects inclusivity has on students.
1. Children learn to respect people from all walks of life.
Inclusive education fosters a culture of respect among students, since they are encouraged to communicate and interact with different kinds of people at such a young age. Students are given the opportunity to learn about and accept individual differences.
2. Children develop a sense of belonging and community.
It is common practice not only in the Philippines for special needs students to be placed in separate sections or schools. However, inclusive education suggests that there is more benefit to be gained in letting different-abled students learn together in one classroom. When students with disabilities (SWDs) and non-SWDs socialize, they learn the value of teamwork, form friendships, and grow to be well-rounded individuals who are members of an inclusive community.
3. Children in inclusive environments perform better academically.
Research shows that SWDs and non-SWDs make great academic gains in an inclusive class. SWDs show improved social skills, the sense of belongingness leading them to be more motivated in class. Non-SWDs also improve academically, which is largely attributed to their tendency to serve as peer-coaches to help SWDs, which then lead to their own performance improving. Another factor that contribute to students’ academic gains is that teachers, in consideration for their diverse learners, end up using a wider range of learning modalities (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), which benefits non-SWDs as well.
...the goal of inclusive education is to even out the playing field for students so that they may have a chance at excelling regardless of their limitations and abilities.
Creating inclusive classrooms
The Philippine government recently took a step towards inclusivity by signing a law that requires all schools, private and public, to provide “neutral” desks in classrooms in order to "promote the equal development of students, including those who are left-handed." There is still a long way to go before Philippine schools can become truly inclusive, but teachers can start taking initiatives to be more inclusive in their own classrooms.
1. Take the time to get to know the students in class.
Understanding that learners come from different geographic, linguistic, cultural, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds would help educators address their different needs and sensitivities.
2. Differentiate lessons by using a variety of instructional material to target different learning styles.
Are there students that need to write down everything so that they could remember it? Do they retain lessons better when presented in an audio-visual format? Do some of them learn faster than others? Are there special-needs students in the class? Pay attention to these details and develop inclusive teaching materials that accommodate students’ limitations and play to their strengths.
3. Collaborate with parents for the continuous development of students.
Parents can provide teachers insights that they would not be able to deduce from mere observation or that students might be too shy to share. At the same time, communication between teacher and parent is crucial in making sure that students apply what they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives.
There is a popular quote that goes, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” That is not far off from the essence of inclusive education. Teachers need to keep in mind that the goal of inclusive education is to even out the playing field for students so that they may have a chance at excelling regardless of their limitations and abilities.
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A quarterly journal for Filipino educators who strive to become excellent at what they do