25 SES 05 A, Inclusive education and children's rights: Challenges, Connections and Ambiguities
The interrelation between inclusive education and children’s rights is widely accepted, but the strength, complexity, and implications of its realisation are not always fully understood nor recognised. Despite education being a human right for ALL children, instances of marginalisation, discrimination, and exclusion permeate education systems worldwide.
While a rights perspective has underpinned the provision of education for all children for at least 30 years, its prominence in combating rights issues in education have been less evident in policy and practice. There remain individuals and groups directly and indirectly excluded and discriminated against in education or run the risk of becoming vulnerable to exclusion because of changing circumstances and policies. While children with disabilities are commonly associated with discussions about ‘inclusive education’, one must not forget that for an education to be inclusive, it must respond to assuring the inclusion of ALL - including others who may experience educational marginalisation such as on the grounds of religion, sexuality, social class, minority status or forced migration.
Policy imperatives for inclusive education stemmed from the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO 1994), the first international policy document on inclusive education. While the Salamanca Statement refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948) and the right to education, there is no reference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UN 1989). This omission has limited the conceptualization and implementation of inclusive education for all.
While the UNCRC is the most widely ratified international treaty, the selectiveness with which children’s rights are known, considered, and included in education practice is variable. As a result, educational provision and practices may perpetuate and even extend existing and historical educational marginalisation. Tensions remain between the articulation of the rights of all children to inclusive education and how this impacts practice.
General Comment 4 (GC4, CRPD) on the right to inclusive education (UN 2016) aims to clarify this tension in reinforcing the importance of inclusive education for all students. GC4 affirms that the realisation of inclusive education requires “the entire education system must be accessible...and designed to foster inclusion and guarantee their equality throughout their education” (UN 2016: para.21). By definition, contexts where children are integrated, segregated, or excluded, cannot be considered inclusive. Inclusive education also furthers other rights-based imperatives and international goals and is “central to achieving high-quality education for all learners, … and for the development of inclusive, peaceful and fair societies” (UN 2016: para.2, emphasis added). The right to inclusive education can only be realised when afforded to all children.
This overview foregrounds some of the many complexities surrounding inclusive education and children’s rights. This panel discussion focuses on articulating and confronting some of these tensions to challenge existing views and practices that may restrict rights for groups and individuals in education. It also aims to elaborate on a paradox of unprecedented advances in inclusive policy manifestations, at the same time as widespread and severe abuse of children’s rights through exclusion on various grounds.
The panel discussion is structured through a series of provocations designed not only to challenge presenters and audience but also to provide the space for a community of scholars to come together and explore the boundaries of our contexts and fields. Provocations aim to disrupt and deconstruct commonly held assumptions about intersections between rights and (inclusive) education, as an entry point for rigorous and hearty discussions with the audience. Use of technology during this panel enables real-time interaction between the audience and other panel members during the presentations to increase interactions within the session.
UNESCO. (1994). The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education. Paris: Author. United Nations. (1948). The universal declaration of human rights. New York: Author. United Nations. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. New York: Author. United Nations. (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and optional protocol. New York: Author. United Nations Committee on the Rights with Disabilities. (2016). General comment No 4 -Article 24 the right to inclusive education. Available from: https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1GCEU_enAU820AU820&ei=WaxIXIv_JZGy9QP7tIKwBg
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