Academic journal article International Education Studies

Students with Severe, Permanent Disabilities and Their Educational Inclusion in Spain

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Students with Severe, Permanent Disabilities and Their Educational Inclusion in Spain

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article analyses the educational inclusion of students with severe and permanent disabilities in the different autonomous communities of the Spanish State. After describing the Spanish socio-economic context, a comparative analysis is carried out based on the following indicators: the conception of severe, permanent disabilities; the regulation framework; responsibility of schooling and provision of services; identification and assessment of flaws; incidence in the population; curricular proposals (model and modalities of support); specific centers and units; human and material resources; the role of families and funding. The analysis of the implemented policies concludes by pointing out the challenges which should influence future improvements in order to accomplish real educational equality.

Keywords: inclusive education, special education, severe disabilities, educational policies, Spain

1. Introduction

Educational inclusion of students with special educational needs is one of the most fundamental reforms to have enriched the education system in recent decades. These reforms have made progress to achieving the goal of a complete, equitable education for all. Some significant milestones of that exciting process have been the proposal of "normalization" by Nirje (1969), Wolfensberger (1972) and Bank-Mikkelsen (1975); the "integration" extended throughout Europe by the Warnock Report (1978) and the current alternative of "educational inclusion" (e.g. Ainscow, 2007; Ainscow, Booth, & Dyson, 2006; Arnaiz, 2003; Barton & Roger, 1999; S. Stainback & W. Stainback, 1999; Vega, 2000). We understand inclusive education as the exercising of the inalienable right to a full, quality education for all, which guarantees personal development and maximum social integration, taking diversity among students as a core idea within the curricular process.

Inclusive education implies and demands equality as a principle that ensures equal opportunities and no discrimination. It is developed in an everyday framework, whenever possible, and aims to achieve harmony, participation and cooperation within the educational community. It is adapted specifically to each person's individual needs. It advocates a meaningful, constructive, cooperative, reflexive learning process. Finally, inclusive education involves developing the social values of respecting, appreciating, cultivating and enjoying diversity and solidarity. This is why inclusive education develops a culture based on inclusion as the first, essential step towards a necessary goal, that of an inclusive society. Consequently, a real education must be inclusive; otherwise it is not an education at all.

Most governments have shown their support for this type of education, which subscribes to various international declarations (e.g. UN, 1971; UNESCO, 1990; UNESCO, 1994). Among these, we would like to point to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was endorsed at the UN (2006) and UNESCO's 48th International Conference on Education (2008): "Inclusive Education: The Way of the Future" (Priestley, 2011).

The Spanish Committee of Representatives of the Disabled (CERMI) also gave its support in 2010 in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by issuing a manifesto: "Por una educación inclusiva real y efectiva" (For a Real and Effective Inclusive Education) (CERMI, 2010). However, our study deals specifically with students who have disabilities, especially those that are severe and permanent.

A first conceptual approach is provided by the Declaration of Madrid of 2002. Its 400 participants demanded not to be treated as subjects deserving charity, as patients or dependents, or as segregated people, but as independent citizens and consumers who are conscious of their decisions and responsible for their own actions. (Congreso Europeo sobre Personas con Discapacidad, 2002)

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization's "International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health" (WHO, 2001) avoids negative, segregating connotations of disability and emphasizes the importance of personal attitudes and contextual factors in how each person functions. …

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