LETTER: Strike raised issue of inclusive education

Inclusion is done with the best of intentions, but it seems proven unpractical...

A tentative deal of a $400-million education fund for hiring additional teachers to address class size, class composition and the provision of specialist teachers will not alleviate the most pressing issue — overcrowded classes in BC public schools.

The recent dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the Government’s raised some fundamental issues about the inclusive education, a Canadian’s version of “No Child Left Behind”. Inclusion is done with the best of intentions, but it seems proven unpractical because most BC schools were built without the requisite infrastructure, equipment and facilities.

Fully inclusive classrooms have diverse students, ranging from typically developing students to severe disable students. However, can we expect teachers to appropriate individualized supports and services to diverse learners with disabilities, different languages and cultures, different homes and family lives, different interests and ways of learning without providing them adequate resources?

Inclusion can just be a dream if necessary measures have not been put in place, including human and material resources. Without adequate support to provide inclusion consultants, literacy consultants, behavior support workers, psychologists and various therapists, then maybe it is time to rethink the grand ideal of inclusive education. In the recent teachers’ job action, among teachers’ compensation and working conditions, class composition was the most difficult topic on the bargaining table because of the complication involved.

The value of social justice, which encompassed inclusive education, has often clouds the debate. While there is advantage with conclusive education, the Government’s budget does not match the needs of students who require behavioral assistance, physical learning aides or the presence of an adult with them at all times. According to the BCTF, there are not enough qualified teachers to handle special needs students. “There really are no special education teachers in the system at all anymore,” says Pat Mirenda, a University of B.C. professor and expert in special education and inclusion.

Who gains from the inclusive education? Inclusion is a widely debated topic among educators and parents alike. Without properly handle equity, class composition, class size, teacher preparation, and professional development, the benefit from inclusive schooling is debatable. The regular students’ academic and safety could be jeopardized when special needs students require one-on-one assistance or highly controlled environments. Furthermore, with limited education resources, many special needs students are frequently left in the regular class with no extra support. Until the public school is equipped for an inclusive education, it is necessary to reconsider other options.

Dr. Christine Tsou, St. John Brebeuf (SJB) Secondary School