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Inclusion festival

In Dubai, inclusion is a given, all schools must provide for all students. The powers that be became aware of ‘children’s plights’ and they changed the law rapidly.

In Pakistan Sencos model strategies for teachers since they work together for student success. Meetings about students at risk are entitled ”Student success meetings”.

Other countries are more frustrated, they are at war and there are children who can’t go to school. They have governments who don’t even fathom that all children should have the right to education. If a child has a disability they are naturally excluded from schooling and education. In one African country a teacher has managed to implement materials with Braille text and has been given permission to use them in special schools for the sight impaired. This is how inclusion work may get started.

The Inclusion Festival was organized by IFIP, International Forums of Inclusion practitioners, and aired 19-25 of June. It is now over and has left me inspired, hopefull, reflective, wanting to know more although I have learned even more than I thought I would before entering the festival. I’ve also gained a feeling of knowing all these people I have talked to and listened to, colleagues who are now somehow part of my professional life!

Barriers, needs, autonomy, assistants, diagnoses – same there as here

This is what I take away from this festival that was truly a celebration on inclusion as a natural basis for all students’ right to knowledge:

Everyone, regardless of where in the world or what stage of the inclusion work, talk about barriers and whether we see them within the child or in the learning environment. Everyone wants to move the understanding of barriers to the learning environment rather than within students.

Many talk about needs in various forms and ways. SPICE is an acronym that some use to identify needs:



I-Intellectual (they preferred cognitive but intellectual fits the acronym)


E – emotional 

Many use the word agency to underline the fact that needs are connected to the ability to own your learning, support for autonomy.

Many speak highly of Teaching Assistants as a way of creating possibilities but some schools and countries also want to be less dependent on them.

One thing we all have in common is a sense of frustration about how slow the process is and how that affects students negatively. This is regardless of whether you are in a segregated or mainstream setting. The problem seems to be not in where the student is but in our ability to meet them and create possibilites.

Everyone talked about seeing the human being and not getting stuck in labels, often diagnoses. We had an animated discussion about whether diagnoses are good or bad and I think we landed in agreement that it isn’t the diagnosis in itself that is important but what we do after. Daniel Sobel, one of the founders from Inclusion Experts, reminded us that the same diagnosis can manifest itself in various ways and that the same difficulty can be diagnosed in various ways. We can’t be fooled to believe that it is the diagnosis that will lead the way. Neuropsychiatric diagnoses is what we usually seem to refer to all over the world.

We were also in agreement that we need to cater to teachers’ needs and create learning teachers environments focused on working together. Not to do the same thing but together in order to get all the perspectives and create trust and the courage to do differently.

Teachers express the same challenges all over the world:

One thing that struck me was that teachers seem to express challenges around the same things:

”Crowded curriculum, large classes, so many needs in each class, University standards”

These four areas were teachers’ expressed challenges all over the world regardless of curriculum or grading system, regardless of class size or whether they taught in segregated settings or mainstream classrooms. Too much to teach, too many students, too many needs and traditional standards later on that students need to be prepared for.

My conclusion is this:

The curriculum plays a lesser role for the ability to create inclusive schools.

The grading system plays a lesser role for the ability to create inclusive schools.

Class size plays a certain role, if not for the student then for the teacher.

Governments come and go and they all want to make their mark on the education system but what makes a difference is what goes on in the classroom.

There is a fear all over about letting go of the traditional and in that making it harder for students to enter university level. This is regardless of what system we are in and how difficult it is to get to that level.

Understanding how learning and wellbeing are connected is crucial wherever we are in the world.

The picture below was shown in several of the talks and it became and even clearer visualization of inclusion as a process. It’s not something we already do. It’s not something we either do or don’t do. It’s something we work at on a daily basis in a process. We talked about the fourth picture frame that is missing below, the one where everyone participates. What will the fifth picture fram depict?

I wish you all a relaxing and creative summer! Looking forward to the next festival!

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com
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