The education of children with special needs is one of the primary responsibilities at the international level. It is a necessary condition for creating an equal society where everyone can feel needed. In recent decades, more and more countries have promoted the idea of inclusive education, open and flexible to the phenomenon of human diversity. Each learner is different and has its values, no matter what obstacles come on the way. Learning and development must also be unique to each student, depending on their style, rhythm, characteristics, merits, skills, expectations, and previous experiences. Inclusive education is gradually being implemented in various educational institutions, but how positive it is remains unknown. While specialized classes practice an individualized approach to each student, inclusion offers other more social methods. Both systems have a range of positive and negative factors, but it is unexplored which option makes the child feel more satisfied and helps achieve better results.
The inclusion of students with disabilities in the general school setting is a recent and somewhat controversial practice in education. It differs significantly from the special education system, based on learning in isolated school settings on a full or partial basis. Inclusive and particular study at the current stage are two separate subsystems of the institution of education. The first is an open, and dynamic one, which develops based on resolving contradictions between wishes and the actual state, overcoming imperfect technological support, insufficient psychological and professional readiness to educate children with special needs. The second subsystem – special education, is reasonably isolated due to the high degree of differentiation of programs, the need for psychological and pedagogical support (Niholm, 2021). The prospects for its development are determined by using scientific and technological progress in high-tech equipment and information technology. Functionally it is intended for a relatively narrow contingent of students with disabilities and tends to decrease due to the complexity of socialization and professionalization after general secondary education.
There is no common opinion about which system copes more effectively with the established responsibilities. Lack of research and monitoring data leads to unreliable assessments and conclusions. Therefore, it is essential to identify and examine the pros and cons of each system and understand which method of education provides the best opportunities for a child with disabilities. It is also essential to explore the best way to implement inclusive education. There are many fears and prejudices and many questions related to distrust and criticism of the idea itself (Niholm, 2021). The purpose of this research is to analyze the antagonistic positions in the context of assessing the status and attractiveness of special and inclusive education for different subjects by identifying the merits and advantages of each of the positions for students with disabilities. The paper also aims to describe the possible negative consequences associated with them in the context of the development of the educational situation in different countries around the world. The results of this analysis can be an occasion for reflection not only for scientists who assess the functioning of public institutions but also for politicians and economists who make strategic decisions in education.
Is an inclusive education more effective and tolerant than a special one? Will this method of learning allow to obtain quality knowledge and socialization? All these are still essential questions in today’s world. Therefore, an urgent task is to study cultural design, comprehension, and synthesis of the available international experience in developing the education system. This research will help to resolve doubts, misunderstandings and accumulate different approaches, mechanisms, and technologies of inclusive and special education. It will use the available resources, reduce risks and possible errors, correlate different (theoretical and practical) approaches and models of learning.
Overall, inclusion is the leading tendency of the current stage of education system development, which is often compared to the principle of integrated learning in the general and special education systems. The inclusive approach involves understanding the different educational needs of children and providing services following these needs through full participation in the process, community involvement, and elimination of segmentation and discrimination in learning. Despite the positive goals, the effectiveness of this method has not yet been studied. It is unclear whether inclusion can be an independent education system or just one of the various possibilities to study. It is essential to consider the weaknesses of both systems and to suggest possibilities for improvement so that children with special needs can realize their right to education in any institution and receive the specialized assistance they need.
In recent decades, there has been an evaluation of the idea of inclusive education, which is open and flexible to the aspect of individual diversity. Special education is designed with needs and individualization in mind, i.e., in contrast to inclusive education, each particular education student has a different plan depending on their abilities (Hodkinson, 2020). Historically, this area of education has been associated with special classes or homeschooling, which were options for pupils with disabilities before inclusive education was widely accepted.
Until now, there have been restricted reports on the comparative impact of special and inclusive educational contexts on social bonds between children with disabilities and other students. However, in the study of the social relationships of these two groups, the assessment of emotional development seems to be a difficult task using traditional, standard assessment tools. Moreover, it is evident that inclusion can be practiced almost everywhere, and this is an evolutionary stage in social development. At the moment, there is no understanding of which of the systems is more successful in ensuring adequate acceptance of children with disabilities by their companions (Hodkinson, 2020). Proponents of inclusion believe that it is the right of all pupils to learn alongside their peers. That inclusion will enhance social and academic development, strengthen citizenship, and promote a strong society. Additionally, there is a need to organize access for children to specialized conditions for effective academic and social learning.
According to the theory of behaviorism, students’ behavior is created and regulated by the environment in which they interact. Thus, the effectiveness of education in special and inclusive schools is different. The theory also proposes to consider in practice the changes that occur with students with disabilities. Thus, the application of inclusive behavior-based education is included in known learning approaches, such as explicit or direct learning (Al-Shammari, 2019). The method showed positive results of the study with students with special needs in general education classes. Practices based on explicit or direct learning are systematic, including a step-by-step process provided by the teacher and performed by students during learning (Zhang, et al., 2016). Behaviorists evaluate students during the learning process to determine when to begin learning and which amplifiers are most effective and how a teacher can promote a child’s development.
Another theory used by proponents Inclusive of education is theoretical cognitivism, which focuses on the attributes of thinking, memory, self-reflection, and motivation to learn. The cognitive approach focuses on the student’s mental activity, which influences responses and determines the processes of mental planning, goal setting, and organizational strategies. Cognitive theories emphasize the acquisition of knowledge and encourage learners to be more organized and capable of comparing new information with existing knowledge (Al-Shammari, et al., 2019). The practice of inclusive education based on cognitivism implies that students are invited to express their priorities and show knowledge, learning experience, and the ability to acquire new information provided to them. For example, teachers often practice learning strategies such as framework, abstract, mnemonics, mapping concepts specifically to support the cognitive needs of pupils with special educational needs.
According to Schwab, there is no unique point of view on whether inclusive education is necessary and what the criteria are for organizing children. One of the most critical reforms in the school system of European countries is inclusive education. The reason for this is that the number of kids with disabilities in regular classes is growing. At the same time, the division of students with disabilities in separate school conditions is decreasing (Schwab, 2020). Despite the significant purpose of introducing inclusive education in the European Union, its practical implementation is limited in most countries. There are considerable differences in how inclusion is achieved in separate countries and the individual challenges that each nation faces. For example, different stakeholders in various countries decide whether a child with special needs will attend inclusive or special education. For example, parents frequently make this choice in some nations, and in other countries, professionals decide which school is most suitable for students. Moreover, the financial and educational resources available for inclusive education vary widely across Europe.
Therefore, the research gap is that existing theoretical approaches and concepts do not explain the specific criteria and benefits of education in special or inclusive classrooms. At the same time, the question arises about the ability of teachers in inclusive classrooms to modify to the needs of pupils with disabilities.
Al-Shammari, Z. N. (2019). Using Evidence-based Behaviorist Instructional Strategies with Effect Size in Inclusive Elementary Schools in Kuwait. International Journal for Research in Education, 43(2), 180-208.
Al-Shammari, Z., Faulkner, P. E., & Forlin, C. (2019), Theories based Inclusive Education Practices. Education Quarterly Reviews, 2 (2), 408-414.
Hodkinson, A. (2020). Special educational needs and inclusion, moving forward but standing still? A critical reframing of some key issues. British Journal of Special Education, 47(3), 308-328.
Nilholm, C. (2021). Research about inclusive education in 2020–How can we improve our theories in order to change practice? European Journal of Special Needs Education, 36(3), 358-370.
Schwab, S. (2020). Inclusive and special education in Europe. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Web.
Zhang, X., Anderson, R. C., Morris, J., Miller, B., Nguyen-Jahiel, K. T., Lin, T. J. & Latawiec, B. (2016). Improving children’s competence as decision makers: Contrasting effects of collaborative interaction and direct instruction. American Educational Research Journal, 53(1), 194–223. doi:10.3102/0002831215618663