Book Review by
Tara Jenson,BA(c) Western Washington University
When students show that they may not be fully capable of keeping up in mainstream public school classrooms, they are often referred to special needs programs within their school or to a different school entirely. This type of segregation in education has been questioned because of its disadvantages to students: If students are excluded in what is supposedly an equal-opportunity educational system, does that mean they will be excluded in their communities later in life? How are students in mainstream schools and classrooms exposed to diversity if those who are different are excluded from their learning? However, being completely inclusive of every student has also been questioned: Is the learning of students without special needs hindered by the inclusion of those who need special learning accommodations? How do students with special needs feel about disclosing their disability or differences in the classroom? These questions are all important to take into consideration when thinking about inclusive education and doing what is best for all students.
What it means to be inclusive is a concept that varies between different countries and their cultures. With this being said, the approaches and practices to inclusive education will also vary by country. As a compilation of research from seven different countries, the book, “Inclusive Education: International Voices on Disability and Justice” presents the diverse voices of those who are directly affected by inclusive and exclusive education.
In the Netherlands, where there are segregated schools for children with special needs, the research looks at the reasoning behind their referrals to separate schools and why they are removed from mainstream classrooms. From the use of critical dialogue groups in the United States, the strength of support through sharing stories and resources can be seen. In New Zealand, where it is uncommon for communities to be accepting of inclusive classrooms, the study examines the need for advocacy and the importance of working toward changing the general public’s opinions. In Scotland where there are many resources for children with special needs and inclusion is common, we are able to hear how students feel about disclosing their disabilities to their peers and the repercussions these disclosures may have. In Australia, where 1 in 2500 children are living with Cystic Fibrosis, the issue of hospitalization and frequent absences in education is discussed. And in Norway, where integration in schools has existed for a few decades, we are able to look at the lives of adults who were first generation integration students and make connections to the role inclusive education played in their feelings of inclusion in their communities later in life.
While each of these studies are different, they all have the common goal of letting the voices of those who are affected by inclusive and exclusive education be heard. Researchers interact with teachers, students, parents, advocates, and professionals to get a variety of first hand opinions about the system they are in and how they are affected by inclusion or exclusion.
What is unique about this book is its international approach to looking at the issue of inclusive education. It raises questions such as: how do teachers and professionals determine students’ special needs? How do students feel about disclosing their disabilities when in mainstream classrooms? Why is advocacy important to inclusive education? and How are students affected by their inclusion or exclusion later in life?
This book provides the reader with a variety of views about inclusive education from different researchers in different countries and how people are affected by the inclusivity or exclusivity of their schools and communities. The research presented provokes deep thought about inclusive education because of the diversity generated from international perspectives. A person from any country or culture could read this compilation of studies and have a new outlook on the issue because of the wide range of views.
Review Published: March 2013