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Inclusive Education and Educational Policy

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

Many countries are increasingly debating the need for inclusive education systems that deal with learner difference and diversity in all educational settings as a quality issue. Such debates emphasize high quality education for all as an issue of learners' rights and an essential goal toward which educational policy must aim. Current policy developments and trajectories in an increasing number of countries view inclusive education as a policy approach, not a policy goal in itself, and there is an increasing focus upon formulating education policy that moves beyond the debates over “if” or “why” inclusive education should be an aim for education systems.

When the focus of attention is upon how to improve the achievement of all learners, at all levels of inclusive lifelong learning, in a meaningful way that enhances their opportunities for effective participation in society, then policy governing inclusive education systems must provide a clear vision for and conceptualization of inclusive education. Policy must also clearly outline that the effective implementation of inclusive education systems is the shared responsibility of all educators, leaders, and decision-makers.

In addition, the operational principles guiding the implementation of policy structures, and procedures within inclusive education systems must be those of equity, effectiveness, and efficiency. Policy efforts aimed at improving system equity, effectiveness, and efficiency can act as key levers for raising the achievements of all system stakeholders—learners, their parents and families, educational professionals, community representatives, and decision makers.