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date: 24 June 2017

Preparing to Teach in Inclusive Classrooms

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Including students with disabilities in regular school programs is a global agenda. The Ministers of Education of 92 countries signed the UNESCO Salamanca Statement as early as 1994 and showed their commitment to implement inclusive education. Most countries now have legislation or policies that support teaching children with disabilities in regular schools in line with the Salamanca Statement. However, limited progress is made with regard to implementing the inclusion mandate—especially in low-income countries. According to various estimates, out of 150 million children with disabilities in low-income countries, only a small fraction (1–5%) receives formal or informal education. While high-income countries such as Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have made significant progress in placing students with disabilities in regular schools, whether such students receive high quality education remains debatable. There are many barriers that continue to hinder the progress of countries (both rich and poor) in implementing inclusive education. One barrier is inadequate teacher education. When inclusion does not happen, it is often the learner or the teacher and sometimes the system that are blamed. But what about teacher education? Critically analyzing teacher education from various jurisdictions around the world and identifying some practices that might inadvertently prepare teachers for exclusion rather than inclusion points to a need to re-conceptualize the way we must prepare teachers so that they can confidently include all learners.