Inclusive Education: Politics has everything to do with it

In the last few years a paradigmatic shift has taken place; inclusive education has moved from the periphery of education to its very centre. Inclusion is now an inseparable qualifier of education as Goal 4 of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, announced in 2015, is to "Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning." This paradigmatic shift has passed unnoticed, as educational disadvantage and inequality continue.
The symposium Inclusive Education: Politics has everything to do with it discusses key inclusive education practices within this contradictory context. All four papers start from the premise that education should to be inclusive for it to be a universal human right, or as the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2013) states "inclusive education has been acknowledged as the most appropriate modality for States to guarantee universality and non-discrimination in the right to education" (p. 3). Based on this assumption each paper looks at different tools in the inclusive education toolbox and how they are used (and abused) in research and practice. Legislation, collaboration, differentiation, personalisation, Universal Design for Learning, and adjustments are claimed to be able to increase inclusivity from within educational systems. As all four papers explore, is not only how to implement them, but rather what they mean and what their limits for change are within educational systems that remain structurally unchallenged.
The first presentation by Rix uses key practices related to inclusion -collaboration, personalisation and differentiation- to explore the tensions between certainty and doubt in conceptualising education and schooling, and the struggles that surround these contradictions. The second presentation by Poed critically examines anti-discrimination legislation and adjustments and their potential (and limitations) for substantive equality. Graham, Davis and Spandagou use a systematic literature review to critically discuss how differentiation is presented in research. The slippery nature of what is defined as differentiation results in a 'definitional minefield' that feeds into the counter-arguments against the possibility for inclusive educational practices. The final presentation, by Slager and Cumming, explores the 'outer limits (or nonlimits)' of a Universal Design for Learning approach to assessment, where adjustments are integral in the designing process.