22 August, 2023 | Posted by Jenny Smith

What is Inclusive Education?

three women talking inclusive education practice

Inclusive education is an educational approach that aims to ensure all students, regardless of any perceived differences or abilities, have an equal opportunity for academic and social achievement.  

This approach involves adjusting and enhancing educational systems, methodologies, and policies to eliminate barriers and create an environment where all students can fully participate and thrive in the learning process. 

Inclusive education embraces the diversity of the student population and sees it as a strength that can enhance and enrich learning for everyone. It emphasises the need for educators to provide tailored instruction and necessary support for each student, considering their individual learning styles, abilities, and needs. 

The focus of inclusive education is not only on students who might have special needs or disabilities but also on any students who might be marginalised or at risk of exclusion, such as those from different cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds.  

Inclusive education fosters a sense of belonging, promotes social cohesion, and helps students to develop empathy and mutual respect. 

By adopting an inclusive education approach, educational institutions signal their commitment to equality and diversity, teaching students the value of inclusivity, and preparing them for a diverse and interconnected world. 

As we seek to prepare our students for a diverse and interconnected world, the concept of inclusive education has become more critical than ever. Inclusive education provides a learning environment where everyone, irrespective of their abilities, is valued, respected, and given equal opportunities to thrive. 

Inclusive education is a teaching approach that adapts to the diverse range of needs among students. It aims to eliminate exclusion that may be a result of abilities, gender, language, socio-economic status, or other factors. In the most fundamental sense, inclusive education is about ensuring that no learner is left behind. 

Contrary to traditional models that segregate students with different needs, inclusive education promotes a learning environment where every student learns alongside their peers in supportive, engaging, and collaborative ways.  

It champions the idea that diversity is not a challenge to be overcome but a strength to be celebrated. 

The Core Principles of Inclusive Education 

Inclusive education is underpinned by several key principles. Understanding these can help us implement this approach more effectively and foster a learning culture that embraces diversity. 

  1. Respect for Diversity: This advocates for acceptance and appreciation of differences, acknowledging that every student has unique learning styles and capabilities. Diversity in an inclusive setting is viewed as a resource for learning, rather than a problem to be solved.
  2. Equal Opportunities for Learning: Inclusive education ensures that all students have equal access to educational opportunities. This is not about treating every student in exactly the same way, but rather recognising their individual needs and ensuring they have the necessary resources and support to succeed.
  3. Full Participation: Inclusive education emphasises the active participation of all students in the learning process. It fosters a sense of belonging and community, ensuring that every student has a voice and is actively engaged in classroom activities.
  4. Community and Collaboration: Inclusive education is not just the responsibility of the teacher. It involves collaboration among teachers, students, parents, and the broader community. It encourages shared decision-making and cooperative efforts to meet the needs of all students.

Inclusive education presents a transformative vision for education—one that champions diversity, equality, and universal access to learning. It is an approach that not only benefits students with diverse needs, but also enriches the educational experience for all learners, fostering empathy, collaboration, and a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Portobello Institute Inclusive Education Students

Anna Dunlevy White worked as a financial underwriter before changing her career to become a Montessori teacher and an SNA.

She has been working as a teaching assistant in a mainstream school for almost seven years now and is currently studying for her BA (Ord) in Inclusive Education Practice at Portobello Institute. 

“My role is constantly evolving so in order to best support the individual needs of the children I work with I decided to challenge myself, for my own personal development, to become a better practitioner and pursue my goal of becoming a special education teacher.

“I have seen how the traditional academic approach to education in Ireland has not evolved quickly enough to fully and inclusively support SEN students, so I want to develop and broaden my skillset in order to become a better educator and advocate more effectively for the children in my care,” she said. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to Enda Bracken’s studies to become an Emergency Medical Technician he turned to special needs assisting and is now enrolled on Portobello Institute’s BA (Ord) in Inclusive Education Practice.

I completed my leaving certificate in June 2019. During the pandemic, I started an SNA course and I started subbing in a primary school ASD unit straight away as I could not return to work with the pandemic.

“This experience changed my mind completely, and I decided I would follow the career path to become a Special Educational Needs (SEN) teacher.

As I did not have the qualifications to be an SEN teacher, I began my search for the right course for me. Having looked at many different courses, I found that the Inclusive Education Practice course with Portobello was the course for me.

“I spent months looking at different courses to find one that suits my already busy schedule. Studying in a blended learning course, I believe was the best choice, as it allows me to continue to work helping pay for my expenses and fees.

“I currently work as an SNA which means while studying to become an SEN teacher, I will be gaining invaluable experience right up until I qualify,” he said.

Choose the course for the career you want 

As we continue to strive for a more equitable society, understanding and implementing the principles of inclusive education is a vital step forward. 

To find out more, read our longer deep-dive Discover Inclusive Education as a Fulfilling and Diverse Career Path.

If you are inspired to make a meaningful impact, transform the educational landscape, and champion a more inclusive future, a career in inclusive education awaits.

Portobello Institute offers a clear pathway to a successful career in inclusive education starting with a level 5 and level 6 Special Needs Assisting qualification you can progress to a BA (Ord) in Inclusive Education Practice, BA (Hons) in Inclusive Education Practice and an MA in Inclusive Education and SEN

This path is unquestionably fulfilling, continually reminding you of the difference you're making in creating a more inclusive world, one student at a time. 

If you are interested in any of our special needs assisting or inclusive education degrees you can book a consultation call with our expert advisor, Sarah Coyne, email sarah.coyne@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0028.

If you are interested in the MA in Inclusive Education and SEN specifically, you can speak with our expert advisor, Jennifer Matteazzi, email jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0031. 

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