Poverty, inclusion and inclusive education: Exploring the connections

Year: 2009

Author: Armstrong, Ann, Spandagou, Ilektra

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The world has changed much since the term inclusion was first used in relation to education, especially special education. Inclusion and education cannot be part of a conversation without due consideration of issues related to poverty and the international mechanisms which have been touted to eradicate poverty from the planet. Poverty is inextricably linked to many of the world's social ills whether it resides in the slums surrounding the major cities of the richest countries of the world or the countries of the developing world. It is both timely and important to look at the ways in which educational needs have changed and how we might now understand inclusive education. Over the past twenty years inclusion has come to mean much more than the term special education ever suggested and has become a popular idea in education and social policy forums with broader social and political dimensions. As academics and policymakers engage with concepts such as special education, globalisation, education for all and inclusion other terms such as social justice, equity, equal opportunity, human rights and diversity in education, citizenship and social inclusion have crept into the populist international vocabulary as well as the language of academia. In this paper, we will explore various issues that are currently pertinent to inclusive education, especially within the context of Education For All (UNESCO, 1990) and the Millennium Development Goals (United Nations, 2001). We will consider the international, historical and social contexts of inclusive education policies and practices from the 1980s onward. Our discussion uses a range of methods which include documentary analysis of policy and theoretical perspectives as well as examples from both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres. We argue that ideas like inclusion, inclusive education and poverty are multi-dimensional and cannot be considered as isolated events which could be cured or fixed with a mathematical formula or a few recipes. The world cannot realistically address issues related to inclusion and education without exploring the wider issues of poverty, debt relief and health for all, but more especially for women.

Key Phrase: Social Justice