Towards inclusive education in Latin America and the Caribbean
Discover what we do so every child and adolescent with or without disabilities can learn
A new approach to education for all
UNESCO defines inclusive education as the “process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education.
It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision that covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children”.
Commit to changing mindsets
Transforming our way of conceiving education implies a series of changes at different levels, from the individual, through the community and society, to the institutions. This new vision requires to:
- Be based on human rights and the social model of disability.
- Understand that it is a dynamic process that constantly evolves according to the local culture and context.
- Recognize and respect all differences based on age, gender, ethnicity, language, health, economic status, religious beliefs, disability, lifestyle, and other characteristics.
- Enable communities, systems, and structures in society to combat discrimination, celebrate diversity, promote participation, and overcome barriers to learning and participation for all.
- Understand that learning begins at birth, continues throughout life, and takes place at home and in the community, in formal, informal, and non-formal settings. Furthermore, it covers a wide spectrum of community initiatives, such as community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programmes.
- Comprehend a broader strategy to promote inclusive development, which aims to create a world where there is peace, tolerance, sustainable use of resources and social justice; a world where everyone’s basic needs and rights are met.
"Changing the education system to adapt to students, instead of trying to change students to adapt to the system."
Advantages of the inclusive education
- When teachers are trained to include children and adolescents with disabilities or with special educational needs, the level and quality of learning improve both for this population and for students without disabilities or learning difficulties.
- Including children and adolescents with disabilities or with different forms of learning in regular schools leads to overall improvements in the quality of the education provided, since it increases efforts to achieve good learning outcomes among all students, including those without disabilities.
- Some research studies show that children and adolescents with learning difficulties or disabilities have better learning outcomes and, in general, behave better in regular schools than in segregated educational settings.
- All children and adolescents, particularly those with learning difficulties, benefit because they focus on their individual goals while engaging with their similar-age peers.
- In general, inclusive education provides children and adolescents with disabilities access to a broader curriculum than that offered in many special schools. Moreover, inclusive classrooms tend to allocate much more time to teaching than segregated settings do.
- Increasing the diversity of the school population benefits teachers, administrators and educational personnel, as it contributes to developing more inclusive practices where adults learn from other adults and from their students.
- Inclusion allows teachers and school staff to increase awareness of the abilities of all their students and, in a virtuous circle, improve their expectations regarding teaching and learning for students with disabilities or other learning difficulties.
 Lewis, Ann y Brahm Norwich, Special teaching for special children: a pedagogy for inclusion? Open University Press, Maidenhead, 2005.
 Helmstetter, Edwin, et al., ‘Comparison of General and Special Education Classrooms of Students with Severe Disabilities’, Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, vol. 33, no. 3, September 1998, pgs. 216-227.