The road to inclusive education is congested with challenges, from weak governance to lack of resources, from privatization to the proliferation of separate education systems in the name of quality education. For inclusive education to flourish, common ground needs to be found that allows for a reconceptualization of education. Some contend that special education developed and has become an established practice due to the inability of existing systems to educate all students. We propose that a truly inclusive education system – that fosters everyone’s participation - would render parallel (even special) education systems unnecessary.
An inclusive education system values what exists without exception, gives due credit to merit, and builds itself upon the strengths of its participants. An inclusive education system is created upon the spaces opened by indigenous voices, women or all races and ethnicities, persons who identify with various sexual orientations, as well as the knowledge about what works in education or, more importantly, their knowledgeable professionals. Together, ways of life and professional know-how support ALL teachers in teaching ALL learners.
However, inclusive education is not the replacement of a structure with another, the renaming of an existing practice, or the restructuring of special education. It requires the rethinking and reconceptualization of education and of ALL elements within it. Its main challenge is how to organize teaching and learning so that it capitalizes on the existing knowledge and skills without perpetuating the scheme of segregation in which they have operated. Segregation is not the exclusive domain of disability; exclusion and segregation are most visible when multiple characteristics work to compound disadvantage. Sometimes these are notions of ability, other times gender; a combination of race and sexual orientation, or ethnicity and geographic location. Inclusive education will have to address any and all barriers to participation, to be able to address exclusion, and to be flexible enough to address future challenges. Thus, the road to inclusion is never-ending.