On Track Toward Inclusive Education

Year: 2003

Author: Aniftos, Michelle, McLuskie, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research findings from across the globe indicate that schools and teachers are struggling to respond to the wide array of students (Wills & Cain, 2002). Proponents of inclusivity argue that inclusive education is a better education for all participants in schooling and that "differences can be a resource for community development" (Frank, 1999). At the school level, inclusive education seeks to address the learning needs of all with "a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion" (UNESCO, 1994). UNESCO promotes inclusive school communities as the most effective way of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.

While teacher education programs engage participants in knowledge construction and for classroom teaching and learning, it is essential that teacher training institutions provide relevant opportunities for preservice teachers to develop personal philosophies that promote classroom environments that are supportive of participation and achievement for all learners.

Although much has been written about integration, the construct of inclusive curriculum in Australia is still an emergent topic in need of much research and discourse. The current paper represents the collaborative thoughts of lecturers in two Queensland universities as they prepare to re -examine their inclusive education courses. Such shared dialogue may serve to engage others in the critical reflection that is needed to progress educators on the track toward the philosophical and practical ideals of a socially just education.

This discussion paper commences with a consideration of legislative and policy mandates for inclusion in the context of teacher education in Queensland, Australia.

Secondly, the paper attempts to reconcile the broad and somewhat disparate interpretations of inclusivity and diversity in the context of schooling. Finally, we shift the focus from inclusive education as a product to inclusive education as processes of attitudinal change and development of collaborative learning communities. With a focus on learner-centredness, Queensland schools are leading innovative improvement processes toward inclusion. Critically informed teachers are central to those processes.