The Human Right to Inclusive Education- Discussion of General Comment No. 4 (the Right to an Inclusive Education) in the Context of the Australian Experience

Time Thursday, 06/Sep/2018: 13:30pm - 15:00pm
Location D1.03
Speaker Cátia Malaquias
Chair Maria Pacheco Figueiredo

While the right of students with disabilities to receive an inclusive education in regular classrooms alongside and together with their non-disabled peers was recognised by Article 24 of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, Governments have been slow in transitioning to genuinely inclusive education systems. Rather, segregated "special" education settings have remained the norm for many students with disabilities and in many countries there has been a proportionate increase in educational segregation in recent years. Concerns with transformative progress, cultural and systemic barriers and ambiguity in the concept of "inclusive education" led to the administering UN Committee, after a near two year consultative process, issuing in August 2016 General Comment No. 4 (the Right to Inclusive Education).

In this session, we will examine General Comment No. 4 and its clarification of the right to inclusive education and the corresponding obligation of State parties to ensure an inclusive education system. Key matters include recognition of:

  1. the right to receive an inclusive education as a fundamental human right that is evidence-based;
  2. the right to inclusive education as the right of the child, not a parental right; and
  3. the need for States to effect the transfer of resources from their segregated systems to their general education system to achieve genuinely inclusive education.

The session will also examine the relationship between efforts to achieve progressive realisation of an inclusive education system and "parental demand" for segregated settings for students with disabilities, a factor used by many State parties, including Australia, as justification for the need to maintain and invest in segregated education. The political need for Governments to respect "parental choice" has become in large part the most critical pillar of the segregated "special" education system. Deceptively unobjectionable – the mantra is "One size does not fit all" and parents should have the right to choose which education setting is best for their child. And this policy and political position, without an evidence-base and contrary to the primacy of the rights of the child, is effectively shielding segregated education from scrutiny.

This session will discuss the real and pragmatic factors behind "parental demand" for segregated educational settings, the degree to which such "choice" can be said to be real and importantly, informed, and its consistency with the human rights framework.

The causative factors for this "demand" are numerous; informal and formal "gate-keeping" by general education systems resistant to change; low expectations and cultural prejudice (including implicit prejudice in parents); non-inclusive settings being wrongly presented as inclusive; lack of proper information (including as to the research evidence) and systemic funding and resource bias in favour of segregated settings. Accordingly for most parents of children with disabilities, "parental choice" is Hobson's choice – no real choice at all.

Further, the mantra of "one size does not fit all" is entirely consistent with inclusive education – but not at the contended level of institutions and settings so as to justify an alternate 'special' system– but rather at the regular classroom level. Teaching must be adapted and lessons differentiated so as to be accessible to every child in the classroom. The principles of universal design for learning (UDL) should be applied and individualised supports provided so that education, in its classroom delivery, is not on a standardised "one approach suits all".

Upcoming ECERs

ECER'20, Glasgow
ERC'21, Geneva
ECER'21, Geneva
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