Coral Elizondo, a teacher, psychologist, educational counselor and specialist in inclusive education, tells that when she addresses the issue of inclusive education in her training she usually resorts to a poem by Eduardo Galeano, Nobodies: “Nobody: nobody’s children, the owners of nothing / Nobody: nobody, the ignored, running the hare, dying for life, screwed up, screwed up.” Who are these “nobodies” in the educational system? I ask him from the other end of the phone line days before he participates in the webinar. ‘Attention to diversity and inclusive education with emotion’, organized by EduCaixa. “They are those with associated special educational needs resources, those who remain on the margins, but also all those students who are out of the ordinary, out of a subjective normality that we also create,” he answered without hesitation. Defender and disseminator of educational inclusion, a right recognized in article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Elizondo believes that if there is still so much debate and so much polarization around this issue, it is because, as a society, “ we continue without transcending the concept of integration and without truly understanding what inclusion is ”.
QUESTION. Integration, I understand, is to stay halfway
R. Inclusive education would be the idea of “all”, while in integration only “some” fit. Integration was born at the end of the 80s, almost in the 90s, when these students with intellectual disabilities were integrated into the classroom, who, to put it in some way, has always been seen as the most complicated. The reality is that then we were not prepared to embrace that diversity in the classroom, since it came to break a bit with what had been done, with the myth of the average student, with that consideration that all people learn the same and, therefore, Therefore, it is necessary to teach all the people, the same.
P. What differentiates inclusion from integration?
R. Unesco emphasizes three aspects to define inclusion: that people are present, participating and obtaining achievements. That means that you recognize them, that they are in the classroom and that you use methodologies that take into account all the students. Because usually what happens is that these students are present, true, but they rarely participate, because they are in the classroom almost always doing different things. That is segregating, continuing to normalize injustices. You cannot allow yourself to have boys and girls in the classroom without giving them a quality response. That is to continue moving between integration and inclusion without understanding what inclusion is. To include is to welcome, to make the child feel that he is part of, to create links and support networks, to care. Inclusion is presence, participation and achievements for all students, without leaving anyone on the margins and focusing on the most vulnerable.
P. I quote literally the article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: “The States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to making this right effective without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunities, the States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels ”.
R. Inclusive education has been a right since 2006. And it should be remembered that Spain ratified and signed the Convention in 2008, which is why from that moment it became part of the Spanish legal system and was at the same level as the Constitution. However, the LOE, the LOMCE and the LOMLOE have considered inclusion as a principle And the same thing happens in all the regulations of the Autonomous Communities that develop them. This leads to confusion, because when it is considered a principle it seems that it does not oblige you, it is taken as a guideline, that you do it if you want or can. But the reality is that it is a right and that we are obliged to offer an inclusive education as part of a quality education that includes all students. That is the challenge that we have on the table of Spanish education right now: Will we be able to guarantee what the objective of sustainable development number four marks? Will we be able to guarantee an inclusive and equitable quality education for all students?
P. We’ll be able?
R. We are walking towards it. Inclusive education is always a process. We will find wonderful teachers and educational centers that are walking towards inclusion. And I say walking because inclusive education entails constant reflection, since each year the context, the classroom and the students are different, which requires having many strategies, resources, organizational, methodological and curricular measures to be able to move forward. The fact that there are many people who are already in favor of this inclusive education means that their gaze already recognizes diversity and that they see the human value of all children. What are there who do not? That is because they continue to think that these children come to slow down, that it is better that they are in other centers, etc.
P. Many times these resistances come from the families of children with disabilities themselves.
R. That’s another look. And I understand it. If you have a child already enrolled in a special education school, it is normal that you want him to continue there, because it is possible that as a family you have already gone through ordinary schooling and it has been a failure, so that you feel more secure having schooled your son or daughter in a special education center. But at the same time this is something very sad, because talking about inclusive education means talking about ethics, commitment, transformation, change. If there is none of that and a child has to end up in a special care center because he is not properly cared for in ordinary school, we should ask ourselves what we are doing as individuals and as a society, how we are allowing segregation in education and from the education without doing anything to prevent it.
P. Do you need training for teaching staff?
R. Information and training are needed. To make people understand that it is one thing to accept that you have diversity in the classroom and quite another to accept that diversity. That is a challenge, a challenge, an opportunity to grow. And the first thing to do is to recognize others as others, what is known as alterity. That look towards inclusion is what breaks with the idea of what is normal and what is different. Because, in addition, we are all diverse and depending on where each one puts the limit between what is normal and what is not, that human variability is broadened or limited. Educational inclusion, precisely, is based on the fact that human variability is normal and not exceptional, that we would not have to talk about attending to the diverse, because as I said, we are all diverse.
P. What are the benefits of educational inclusion for all those involved?
R. To speak of inclusive education is to speak of democracy. You have to start from that base. When you have an inclusive perspective in your school, you are also creating democratic structures: you are respecting the other as another, you are listening, you are sharing, you are offering an inclusive curriculum that offers equal opportunities for all students.
P. Is the curriculum still a barrier to access?
R. Imagine you go with the chair of your son and, to enter a building, you come across some stairs. It is a barrier. You have to take the chair in your arms and climb them. On the other hand, if in addition to the stairs you had a ramp and an elevator, you could choose, you would have options. Many times, due to its rigidity, the curriculum acts the same as those stairs. That is why it is so necessary to work on a universal curricular design, so that when a teacher begins to prepare his didactic program to explain a topic, he takes into account all the students from the beginning and offers options for all of them, from the girl with high capacities even to the child with an intellectual disability. This look at learning, which starts from the basis that not all of us learn the same way, leads us to a universal design and to avoid subsequent curricular adaptations, which is what happens today. Now we have a rigid curriculum for everyone and “the nobody, the none and the none” we make adaptations normally decontextualized, so we push them to the margins, we prevent them from participating.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.