Learning Better Together is a long overdue report. Subtitled working towards inclusive education in NZ schools the report is a breath of fresh air in the so called ‘special’ education debate.
Making a strong case for including all children in our schools the report says “Inclusive education stands in contrast to ‘special’ education, where disabled children are educated in separate schools or classes, or treated very differently in the classroom to regular students.”
The report presents evidential research to show that disabled children will do better on many counts if they are included. This is not ‘mainstreaming’ or even ‘maindumping’ as I have heard it called, but it takes the next step.
Some people think that the increasing numbers of disabled students attending mainstream schools after the 1989 Education Act were the first disabled children in their local schools, but of course this isn’t true. Some of us were there more years ago than we care to think about, and we survived. We may not have been included in today’s sense, but I still think we are better off.
Of course some of us are barely literate or numerate but nonethe- less I would have hated to be sent away at five years old as were many of my contemporaries. I was sent away at thirteen, but that’s another story and another kind of institution!
When I worked in EEO a fair number of years ago I checked out all the disabled people I knew in Wellington who worked in the new improved public service. To a man and a woman they had all had the most significant part of their education in mainstream schools. I know it was a totally unscientific survey, but it supports the argument for good quality inclusive education.
I first came across Jude McArthur, who wrote the report, a few years ago when she presented her research with disabled children at an IHC education forum, I was so impressed that I asked her to speak to our Commission meeting. The voices of disabled children talking about their experience at school are telling. They show just how much work there is to do.
But of course true inclusive education is not just a slightly improved ‘special’ education. It is a whole new way of educating our children together in a learning environment which respects and values them all, and which enables them all to achieve.
If you have trouble with the link or want a hard copy or a copy of the accompanying DVD you can write to:
PO box 4155