The paper explores the development and implementation of an inclusive policy. A review of available literature on inclusive policy implementation in the education sector was conducted. The findings of the study reveal that international and national policies on inclusive education have been adopted by Commonwealth member states. In addition, the number of CaLD students has grown over the years, which has necessitated the reforms of education systems to cater to the different learning needs. Finally, it was established that school culture plays an important role in the successful implementation of inclusive education policies.
Keywords: Inclusive education policy, policy analysis, CALD students, policy implementation, secondary school context.
Inclusive Policy Process and Policy Implementation
In an educational institution, inclusion is defined as the involvement of all students in learning activities (Kearney & Kane, 2006). In an inclusive system, all students are treated as valuable members of the school community. Inclusive education requires the administration to listen to the views of the stakeholders and focus on eliminating any potential source of exclusion (Stainback & Stainback, 1996). Schools can always strive to achieve greater inclusion irrespective of their current state. In this regard, inclusive learning communities should always encourage cooperation and collaboration for the common good.
Inclusive education implies that students can participate in the learning process alongside their peers by having schools make reasonable adjustments to pedagogical approaches. The changes introduced by the schools are meant to ensure that all the needs of the students are addressed (Edwards, Van Dyke, Drahota, & Har, 2007). Inclusion is embedded in the culture, policies, and all the aspects of secondary school life. Thus, it is a fundamental right for all learners, especially CALD students who are enrolled in regular schools.
Inclusive schools should provide a learning environment that fosters collaboration, problem-solving, and critical discourse. Stereotyping leads to divisions among students and teachers, and it is against the democratic nature of learning institutions (Taylor & Sidhu, 2012). Schools should promote inclusivity by recognising and respecting the differences among the learners in order to enable them to construct their unique identities. Slee (2018) asserts the need for schools to realign all their components towards improvement. Instead of adopting a “fix it” orientation, the system should be aligned to the policies and programs that form the foundation for inclusion. Therefore, schools must continuously endeavor to improve their curricula and classroom to ensure that the learning environment is capable of meeting the needs of the students.
IEd Policy for CALD Students
Migration often leads to an increase d cultural and linguistic diversity for the education system. Recent statistics suggest along with the movement of people from low-income to high income countries, Canada and Australia are considered as traditional migration destinations. To deal with growing number of transnational students in the classroom, there is a need to equip teachers with an expanded set of skills and attitude to support and facilitate effective learning. It is expected that beginner teachers in Australia should know their students as per the Professional Standards for Teachers. Thus, teachers must possess diverse skills to effectively teach transnational students.
The first standard concerning professional knowledge, which is broken down to several strands, requires teachers to have knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the needs of students who come from diverse backgrounds. Australian universities must have their teacher education programs approved by the National Program Standards to ensure that the graduates meet the stipulated standards. These programs have mandatory units of study that relate to inclusive teaching, and learning how to teach CALD students from diverse backgrounds.
It is argued that whatever teachers are taught during the preparation programs influences their attitudes and practice that they bring to work. Teaching students from CALD background is not only about covering the curriculum; rather it is about bringing social justice in Australian institutions. Emphasis of such values in the classroom contributes to the compliance with the Melbourne Declaration goals that seek to promote equity in Australian schools. If such strategies for teaching CALD students were adopted across the country, all young Australians will be informed citizens.
Inclusivity Through School Culture
An inclusive culture is promoted when all members of the school community feel that they are part of the institution. The social composition of secondary schools and classrooms in developing countries is changing due to an increasing number of transnational learners enrolling in Australian schools (Cole, 2008). Multi-age and multi-ability have become common features in classrooms. Therefore, it is important for school administrators to promote a culture that enhances inclusivity.
School administrators are responsible for developing a culture among teachers and students to foster inclusivity. Culture plays a central role in the creation of a friendly environment, which enhances students’ performance. Thomas (2013) and Vlachou (2004) note that some of the CALD students who do not fit in an institution usually make statements such as “the school does not care about me,” which shows a feeling of exclusion. Therefore, all members of the school community must work towards helping learners CALD students to meet their academic goals.
Additionally, an inclusive school culture entails sensitising students on bullying. Gillies and Carrington (2004) assert that culture is more than developing a school statement that touches on the issue of inclusion. Instead, it requires a change in the attitude of all members of the school community as well as the development of policies that promote inclusive behaviour. Thus, real inclusion is not a matter of words or statements, but rather actions that depict inclusivity.
Policy Strategic Implementation Plan
Policy strategic implementation plan provides ways that Australian schools can improve learning for CALD students in the classroom. Booth and Aniscow (2000) note that the Index for Inclusion provides a useful resource that can be used to support inclusive development in schools. It is comprehensive document that provides ways of improving schools by promoting inclusive values. The concept of inclusion is about making schools supportive places for staff as well as students. In this regard, the implementation of the policy shall be done in three phases.
To begin with, there shall be exploration of the knowledge of parents, staff and students on CALD students. Before policy development, it is important to identify the areas that need improvement based on the experience of the stakeholders. All teachers and students shall be granted an opportunity to contribute their ideas on how the school can promote inclusivity. Parents will also be involved in the process as they are a key group in the policy development and implementation.
Secondly, policy material shall be made available to various schools and teachers subjected to additional training. Increasing availability of learning resources on the inclusive policy will help increase awareness among teachers and students. Members of the larger school community will be informed about the index. This might also involve someone outside the school who has familiarized themselves with the policy to train teachers.
Finally, the schools administration shall undertake the process of equipping their teachers with skills that enables them teach CALD students. It is important for teachers to be trained on how to deal with students from diverse cultural and linguistic background. This will help improve learning outcomes of CALD students and promote inclusivity in the classroom.
The literature review on inclusivity in schools reveals that the adoption of universal laws and the signing of conventions by countries have contributed to the reforms in education policies. Governments have developed guidelines on the foundation of international convections, which provide a strong framework on how to implement reforms for inclusivity in schools (Vlachou, 2004). While significant milestones have been realised in introducing reforms in the education sector, the increasing diversity of school populations requires continuous evaluation of the system. Thus, there is always room for schools to improve their level of inclusive education.
Inclusive education requires the participation of all members of the school communities. Many times, CALD students struggle to fit in because of the unavailability of provisions for promoting inclusivity (Booth & Ainscow, 2002). As a result, exclusion negatively affects these students’ academic performance, as well as their future integration into the community. When all members of the community work together, creating a favourable learning environment for students with CALD students would be much possible. Therefore, school administrators have a responsibility of developing and enforcing policies for promoting inclusivity in schools.
Another important factor that influences the enforcement of inclusive education is the school culture. Gillies and Carrington (2004) note that students and teachers need to change the attitude in order to promote inclusivity of CALD students. Scholars note that despite the various inclusive education policies and statements that have been developed over the years, the school culture affects their effectiveness. Thus, there is a need to identify new ways that would lead to attitude change towards CALD students in the school community.
Australian education policies have focused on creating an inclusive environment for transnational student. While CALD students have been integrated into the regular school system, they are still marginalized as their needs are not fully addressed. The policy implementation plan highlights the steps that seek to promote inclusivity of students in the regular classroom. Some schools are yet to make adjustments to their pedagogical approaches and facilities to cater for the needs of students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, school administrators should work towards enhancing inclusion by always evaluating the learning environment to identify areas for improvement. Scholars note that the school administration plays a central role in creating an environment that promotes inclusivity. Culture does not refer to the development of inclusive education but a change in attitude among members of the school community. Teachers training programs should continuously be reviewed to ensure that the graduates are equipped with the requisite skill to deal with diverse students. Lastly, international conventions and policies have provided a strong foundation for governments to develop pieces of legislation that promote inclusivity in institutions of learning. Thus, schools should build on this framework and push for change.
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