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Major milestones

An introduction to the history of inclusive education.
Once upon a time, students with disabilities were completely excluded from education. They were believed to be ‘ineducable’ and were kept at home or sent to institutions. This still occurs in some countries but began to change in most around the late-1800s with the establishment of schools for children with hearing and vision impairment. It took a lot longer for children with physical and intellectual disabilities to receive an education. Many of these children were excluded until institutions were closed in the 1960s and 70s. What happened in the one-half century – between – to convince modern society to embrace inclusion? An important moment to begin is 1948. This was the year that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established.
The UDHR has 30 Articles covering basic dignity and liberty, the right to life, prohibition of slavery and torture, legal rights, the right to political freedom, and rights to healthcare and education. It came just three short years from the end of World War Two, which also brought an end to the Holocaust. Most people know that 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered in the Holocaust, but few know that the process of extermination by the German Nazi state began with the systematised murder of children with disabilities.
This was known as the T4 Aktion Program and is estimated to have led to the deaths of some 300,000 people who the Nazis killed in the belief that it would strengthen the gene pool. Another historical landmark came just six years later, this time in the United States. In 1954, Oliver Brown – the father of Linda Brown – a third-grade student from Kansas, tried to enrol his daughter in their local school. But her enrolment was rejected because Linda was African-American and, in those days, American schools were segregated by race. So, while Linda’s white neighbourhood friends were able to attend their local school, she was forced to travel on a bus to a different school; one for African-American children.
Her father teamed up with other parents in a class action law suit, which eventually went to the US Supreme Court. This landmark case is known as Brown v. Board of Education. The court’s verdict was that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. Almost 20 years later, the legal precedent set by Brown v. Board of Education was successfully used in another class action. In 1971, 14 students with disability and their families argued that segregated education violated the rights of students with disability, under the 14th Amendment. The courts ruled that all students with disability were capable of benefiting from education and that placement in a regular school was preferable to placement in a special or segregated setting.
Four years later, a Federal law mandated that all children be provided access to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Not long thereafter, a parliamentary inquiry took place in the UK, which aimed to eliminate existing difference in education for students with disability and students without disability. This inquiry came to be known as The Warnock Report. One of its recommendations was that initial teacher education programs should include at least one mandatory unit to prepare all classroom teachers to teach students with disability. The Warnock Report was hugely influential both in the UK and Australia. With increasing numbers of students with disability accessing education at their local school, there was an international desire to seek a framework for inclusive education.
In 1994, UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education broke new ground by providing a framework for inclusive education. All over the world, governments responded by revising education policies and updating practice. However, while the Salamanca Statement was successful in raising awareness of the concept of inclusion, inclusive education was not clearly defined and many imitations emerged. In 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted by the United Nations and came into force in 2008. It protects the rights and dignity of people with disability and has eight guiding principles.
These include: respect for dignity and autonomy, non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, equality of opportunity, and accessibility.
Article 24 of the CRPD: Education explicitly states the right to an inclusive education. Ten years after the United Nations adopted the CRPD, the United Nations published General Comment No. 4 which articulates the right to an inclusive education and the steps necessary to achieve it. General Comment No. 4 not only defines inclusion but also other incompatible forms of education provision, like integration and segregation. All of the events of the past have contributed to the formation of the General Comment in some way, and it marks a turning point in history. Inclusive education has been defined; its meaning is not up for debate. The objective now is to implement it.
And this course will provide you with the essential knowledge needed to do that.

Who and what has shaped education for students with disability over time?

Since the late 1800s, key events have led to advances in education. These events have prompted governments and education systems to move from exclusion to special education, from segregation to integration, and from integration to inclusion. Here is a summary of some of these events. Watch the video to learn more.

Early 1800s Complete exclusion of children with disability from education

Late 1800s Creation of schools for children with vision or hearing impairment

1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1954 Brown vs Board of Education (USA)

1971 PARC vs Pennsylvania (USA)

1975 Education for all Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142)

1978 The Warnock Report (UK)

1994 UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education

2008 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

2016 General Comment No. 4 on the CRPD (United Nations)

These are just some of the events that have contributed to the inclusive education movement. All have been influential in their own way, however the CRPD and General Comment No. 4 together mark a turning point in history. Inclusive education has been defined; its meaning is not up for debate. The objective now is to implement it. And this course will provide you with the essential knowledge needed to do that.

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Inclusive Education: Essential Knowledge for Success

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