Inclusion activist and one of the co-founders of Sa4i Student Alliance 4 Inclusion wrote an open letter to politicians to ask them to commit to making our schools inclusive when they were 10. The letter talks about ending the segregated education of students with disabilities, as it has become normalised and accepted by modern society, despite it being a breach of human rights and a discriminatory practice against people with disability. Segregated education, often labelled as ‘Special Education’, is a significant social justice issue that is often ignored.
The key points made in this article are:
- It is a human rights violation to segregate students with a disability, which is explained by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities in its General Comment No. 4 under the CRPD (the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Over 40 years of research has shown that students with disability do better socially and academically when in a regular classroom setting, as opposed to a ‘special’ classroom, so the whole idea of segregation yielding better outcomes is flawed.
- Students who learn with other students who are different to them grow up to be more empathetic, compassionate and non-discriminatory people than those who learn with children who are ‘like them’.
You can read the full letter below:
Why all children should be welcomed in regular classrooms – especially children with disabilities! (written in 2018)
How would you feel if you were shut away in a place and not allowed to be with everyone else? This happens everyday for many students with disabilities and is wrong for a great many reasons. First, it is a human rights violation! Decades of research have proven that children with disabilities learn better when they are together with all of us. So why would this be taken away from them? In addition, all kids become more empathetic if they grow up together with children who are different to them.
Every single child has a right to an “inclusive education”. This right to learn together with everyone from your community is found in a United Nations treaty, which Australia and 175 (now 181) other countries signed. In 2016 the United Nations said the treaty established a fundamental human right for every child to learn in an inclusive classroom and that being put in a separate “special” classroom is not inclusive, but in fact segregation.
For over 40 years research has shown that kids with disabilities learn more in regular classrooms than in “special” classrooms. One reason is because teachers in regular classrooms expect more of all their students. In addition, kids with disabilities can learn more from other kids that are not disabled by working together and the other way round. So “special” schools do not help kids with disability learn faster or more.
Kids who have experience of other kids who are different from them when they are young are more likely to grow up being tolerant and understanding of difference. This is because kids naturally try to help and understand other people, especially before they develop prejudice from others, like adults. “Special” schools put all the kids with disabilities in one place and make it hard for other kids to learn about disability or difference. This all means that “special” schools actually decrease tolerance and empathy in our community.
In my view, there is no good reason to keep “special” schools. They were created a long time ago when people thought kids with disabilities couldn’t learn, would never get a job and couldn’t live in the community. Times have changed and kids with disabilities have the same rights as all other kids, to go to the same schools as everyone else. Italy closed all its “special” schools in 1978. This shows us it can be done!
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