Inclusion is a pedagogical practice where the learners with specific academic needs learn in the same context and environment as those who do not have special academic needs. Inclusion, therefore, grants the special needs student the right to participate in normal educational activities (Ainscow, 2003). This practice does not recognize the use of specials schools or classes to separate the special needs students from their nondisabled counterparts. Inclusion is a very powerful strategy that enhances the education prospects of students with special needs. This practice is not widely applied but wherever it has been applied it has attracted controversy and praise in equal measure (Thomas, 2007). Critics have claimed that the practice is harmful to both the special needs students and the general education students while the proponents state that both groups of students benefit. What are the effects of inclusion on general education students?
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To start with, some of the students with special needs usually have some behavioral disorders that cause disruptions in the classroom. These students also pose some physical dangers to the general education students and since the school has to provide safety for all the members of the school fraternity, inclusion may come as a hindrance to the normal functioning of the school (Stainback &Stainback, 2000). Secondly, the students with special needs do not learn at the same pace as the nondisabled students meaning that the teachers will tend to slow down to cater to the special needs student included in the normal school. This is a disadvantage to the general education students who can learn at a faster rate meaning that inclusion drags their learning (Nisbet, 2005). When the inclusion system is implemented in schools, the general education students suffer because most districts focus on the training of teachers to handle the special needs students and this derails the performance of the general education students. Inclusion is a philosophy that only serves to fulfill political philosophies but it is not an educational philosophy because it serves the interests of only one group of students in a way that affects the other group negatively (Lieberman, 1988).
However, some researchers have claimed that inclusion has some positive benefits for general education students. To start with, the researchers claim that inclusion helps the general education students to be tolerant of the disabilities of the students with special needs (Hastings & Oakford, 2003). When the two groups of students learn together, the nondisabled ones can understand what the special needs are going through and this helps them to deal with people of diverse abilities now and later in life. The nondisabled students also learn to become empathetic to the situation of the students with special needs and this instills a sense of responsibility and care in them (Cortiella, 2009). This ensures that they humanely treat the special needs students instead of ridiculing their disabilities, which enhances their self-esteem. When the general education students learn these life skills because of their interaction with the special needs students, they apply these skills universally and this enhances the quality of their lives in and out of school (Barkley, 1988).
In conclusion, the inclusion practice has a toll on the academic achievement of general education students though it improves their social skills through interactions with special needs students.
Ainscow M.(2003) The Index for Inclusion in Schools. Bristol: CISE
Bowe, F. (2005). Making Inclusion Work. NJ: Prentice Hall.
Barkley, R.A. (1998). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. New York: Guilford.
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Cortiella, C. (2009). The State of Learning Disabilities. NY: NCLD
Hastings. R.P., Oakford. (2003).Student teachers’ attitudes toward the inclusion of children with special needs. Educational Psychology. 12 (2) page 23, 87-95.
Lieberman, L. M. (1988).Preserving Special Education. Weston: Nobb Hill Press Inc.
Nisbet, J. (2005). The inclusion facilitator’s guide. Baltimore: Brookes
Stainback.W , Stainback.S. (2000). Inclusion: A guide for educators. Baltimore: Brookes
Stainback, W., & Stainback, S. (1995). Controversial Issues Confronting Special Education. NY: Allyn & Bacon.
Thomas, G.(2007). Constructing Inclusion. Maidenhead: Open University Press.