“Everyone has the right to education.”
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, made it clear to the world that we as a species consider education to be fundamental to our existence.
However, just because something is fundamental, does that mean it’s a reality? Is it actually being done, and done right?
Looking past the fact that in Australia it took until the 1970s for state schools to be obligated by law to provide an education for those with intellectual disabilities (which is a whole other discussion), the greater focus today is on how we’re providing that education.
For many schools, educating those with disabilities is managed through ‘Special Units’, delivering ‘Special Education’. In practice, this can often translate to segregation.
Is segregating children with disabilities what’s best for them though? Should we not instead be focusing on inclusion and the embracement of diversity?
For over 40 years, research conducted into the education of students with disabilities (assessing segregation and inclusion) has overwhelmingly said yes; inclusive education produces superior social and academic outcomes for all students.
The challenge, therefore, seems not to be with our scientific grasp of the problem, but with misconceptions, negative cultural attitudes, and lack of general understanding.
This needs to change.
Not just because it’s better for those with disabilities, but because when we include everyone we all become stronger. As a community, growing together from an early age, we understand each other better, we accept those who are different, and we are all richer for it.
As such, “Everyone has the right to education,” should really be “Everyone has the right to education, together,” don’t you think?