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Why every school should care about inclusive education

Jayne Pletser, Curriculum Manager for inclusive education, and Kala Parasuram, Assessment access and Inclusion Manager at the IB, talk to Sophie-Marie Odum about how schools can help remove barriers to learning

inclusive ed photoThe IB believes that an inclusive education is something every IB World School should embrace and work towards. Students should be prepared to exercise their rights as citizens and take their responsibilities in the wider community. The IB Learner Profile implies a commitment to help all members of the school community to learn to respect themselves and others, as well as the world around them. Inclusivity then is larger than a recognition of cultural diversity.

“If you think you know what inclusion is, the next child who knocks on your door will challenge that belief,” says Jayne Pletser, Curriculum Manager for inclusive education. “Inclusion is about breaking down barriers to learning because if learning or access to learning is problematic, students may find themselves feeling excluded from the learning process or their peer group. Inclusion is about helping them move through this and affirm their identity in different ways – who they are and who they are proud to be.”

To help remove barriers during assessments, inclusive assessment arrangements (IAA) such as additional time, supports students during the assessment process. Sometimes the IB will receive unique requests, says Assessment access and Inclusion Manager Kala Parasuram: “We get questions such as: ‘What can we do with oral exams for a candidate who has social phobia?’ ‘Or how can we help a candidate who has autism when it comes to group interaction tasks?’

“We take these on an individual basis and arrive at what we call a reasonable adjustment. We do not change the assessment task or learning outcome, but suggest adjustments so the candidate can demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities.”

Inclusive education is a journey

To support schools on their inclusion journeys, the IB has published the ‘The IB guide to inclusive education: a resource for whole school development’.

Taking into account the IB Learner Profile and its importance in empowering students, and the IB Programme standards and practices, the guide is designed to facilitate inclusive school development by increasing awareness and knowledge, and provoking discussion through reflection and inquiry. Pletser says: “Up until now we were saying to schools: ‘we would like you to be inclusive’ and now we have a guide that helps schools think about what inclusion might look like”.

The guide consists of 43 statements, which reflect the ideals of inclusion. Each is accompanied by a series of reflective questions. It covers all elements where inclusion should be considered, such as a school’s philosophy, organization and curriculum.

Although the guide aims to support schools, it does not offer a set pathway to inclusion. This would be “wrong” says Pletser, as the development of inclusion cannot be removed from the context of the school and its student population. Parasuram adds: “We hope that the new guide will provoke discussions whereby each student is given the support that they need to fully access teaching and learning.”

“Schools hope we have the silver bullet for them to achieve inclusion, but we don’t,” says Pletser. “Instead, we hope the guide will get the whole IB community thinking about it. You might think you know what standard to choose, but when you start discussing it you may realize that it may not be right for your school, and want to look at a different standard. Inclusion is a journey; a never-ending process.”

Removing labels

A lack of resources or access to appropriate therapies are barriers to access and participation and strategic school development is necessary to overcome them. Schools may also be required to develop inclusion in line with local and national legislation. Pletser says: “The guide will help schools consider what next steps in their school development plan are necessary to increase access and participation.”

All students have different strengths and learning barriers can arise when the teaching and/or assessment is not geared towards enhancing these strengths and circumventing areas of unreasonable challenge. In schools where inclusion is embedded, students are taught which learning strategies will help them to achieve success. There is less focus on labels, which are not helpful, says Pletser: “They do not tell us about the individual student, their strengths or interests, but describe a whole range of issues that might have very little to do with their learning needs. Inclusion can only be successfully achieved in a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, support and problem solving.”

Parasuram adds: ‘’The IB supports students in the assessment process based on unique learning characteristics and requirements, rather than labels.”

Can schools be fully inclusive?

Inclusion is an ongoing process that will look different in every school, says Pletser. “We acknowledge and respect schools that are achieving inclusion in their own way, within their own legislations and within their allotted budgets. We don’t expect all schools to be fully inclusive, but we do expect them to begin their journey.”

“Attitudes can make or break the inclusive process,” adds Parasuram. “We hope The IB guide to inclusive education can facilitate positive attitudes to inclusion in the whole school community.”


Have you used ‘The IB guide to inclusive education: a resource for whole school development’? Tell us how it has helped change your approach to offering an inclusive education: email

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  • Sonu Khosla

    Completely Agree.

  • Neeta Sharma

    I do agree with you about inclusive education

  • Beth

    Where can I find ‘The IB guide to inclusive education: a resource for whole school development’.? I can’t locate it on the OCC.

  • SellaS

    “Inclusion is a journey; a never-ending process.”

    I agree..

  • Kala Parasuram

    On the OCC, go to Support areas>Special educational needs/ inclusive education>The IB Guide to inclusive education

  • Jennifer Byun

    The IB transdisciplinary Skills, Learner Profile, Attitudes and Concepts Skills, Learner Profile, Attitudes and Concepts itself is so powerful. Whether students attend an IB school or not, I believe many if not most teachers implements these skills and attitudes everyday with their students. When our students in the “IB world” engage in their exhibition, they focus on how to break down “barriers”. They focus on how the world is not a “they and we” type of world or a “you and I” type of world, they focus on how “we” can work together to achieve something to contribute world-wide. Same goes for inclusion. Every single student deserves to be included. Included in activities, included in events, included in classroom with typical peers, and included simply in the world. First of all, there should not be any barriers between the general education students, special education students, or gate students. Modifications? Yes! Equality? Yes! barriers? No!! I believe in every students to experience school life. Every child to experience childhood. Inclusion and IB profile, attitudes, skills and a teacher will deliver modifications and accommodations for every child who is learning impaired, hearing impaired, developmentally delayed and gifted. Everyone is a person. Everyone deserves a chance. Barriers should be non-existent because we all deserve a chance to become who we are meant to be. I love working in an IB school. Although every teacher focuses on students being a well-rounded person, in an IB school, we practice skills along with every unit, sing songs, write and encourage the students to actually “experience” all the learner profile attributes and attitudes.

  • Shaun Douglas Pennington

    I’m currently a student at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana where I am receiving my license with IB – PYP Programme. I recently completed a project for my license on the inclusion processes of the IB. Curiously while the IB completely supports the thought of conclusion there is not set plan for inclusion itself. There is a very vague framework that you can find within the “IB Guide to Inclusion Education” but to really say that the IB has its own philosophy or strategic academic plan when it comes to inclusive practices would be farce: that is left up to each individual school after they have asked IB for permission to become an inclusive school, of course. I agree that the IB fully supports inclusion and that it should be a measure attended to in every single academic setting – I’m unsure that there are supports in place that assure special education students the attributes to become Internationally Minded; I feel this is because of the thought and understanding that inclusive education is an ongoing process and exists in a continuum of constant growth and learning. Because as with all students – what meets the needs of all isn’t the same as meeting the needs for one. So you can see the IB practices as two-fold; either that they haven’t invested themselves into inclusive practices as they have in other areas – or they have accepted the fact that no matter the practices put in place, the needs of all students won’t be met so to regard those practices as individual is the best bet for successful inclusion!

  • Mounds Park Academy

    Absolutely, all students should be taught to respect themselves and others first and foremost. Once this is achieved, the learning process becomes easier. Great post!

  • Page Private School

    Inclusive education is so important, thanks for sharing!

  • Labels are difficult because every child is different. Even to say that several have a type of learning disability, it affects each one differently…so I like the idea of treating each one as an individual and including them, vs making them feel left out. Great post.

  • John Mclaughlin

    It really does seem like there are certain things that need to be adjusted when it comes to the education system. I personally agree with your topic about removing labels. For me, school was just going and leaving, but my brother struggles with some ADHD and it makes it hard to perform in certain tasks like reading. That being said, he is far superior in math and other subjects that are geared towards engineering. Thank you for sharing.

  • taffy perucci

    I am late to this conversation but found this thread because I was looking into how IB schools offer support to students struggling with basic skills in PYP. I am a school psychologist by training going on 15 years in the field. My experience in many educational settings has led me to believe that effective education and inclusive practices without labels starts with strong teaching practices that include ways to regularly monitor students for skill acquisition that can inform instruction and remediate barriers before they become “labeled” per se. When I have asked how this is monitored I have been told a variety of very vague answers that can be summed up as “I feel” statements by the teachers and administrators.

    As a mother with 2 kids attending IB schools, I was concerned that there was no clear plan or framework to identify early when a student’s learning needs were not being met. In a flexible and responsive system all student’s basic skill acquisition would be screened and monitored to ensure progress and when or if more support was needed. I hear from other parents at my children’s IB school that they have been told that “maybe you should have your child tested” and “maybe they are not a good fit for our school” which only reinforcing an “exclusive” practice by way of labeling without first having determined if it is a single skill the child needs remediation on or a sign of larger need that may need to be more throughly assessed to get a profile of individual strengths and needs. My concern for students is that when the “exclusive” practices in a classroom or school results in students not receiving additional support early, it can lead to a false positive for a learning disability later. Once labeled, it almost does not matter, in practice, if it is or was a true learning disability or poor instruction that lead to the students struggle because the accountability of progress has moved from the teacher to the student. If the student does not make further progress, it then must be because of the “label” (insert any label) and not due to instruction that might need to be refined. And there we have the circular argument on why a labeled student is or isn’t making progress, because of the label and not the instruction. So I am curious if anyone can guide me in my understanding as to how, or if, IB programs and a response to intervention framework (RTI) can compliment each other? I know, RTI is a buzz word in education since 2004, but as described above, it can have a place if not by name but by framework in any system. Is there any research in this area?

  • Jayne Pletser

    Do IB programmes and RTI (Response to Intervention) complement
    each other?

    to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tier approach to the early
    identification and support of students with learning and behaviour needs
    and is an approach commonly used in the US. RTI approaches align with
    similar approaches used in other national systems and international
    schools throughout the world. Such approaches are commonly used in IB
    World Schools to differentiate learning for a diverse range of students.
    Many IB World Schools are legally obliged to meet student needs
    according to national legislation and this legislation differs from one
    system to another. While the IB cannot stipulate which frameworks,
    procedures or processes a school must use to meet learning needs the
    IB’s standards and practices do require schools to differentiate to meet
    learning needs.

    Differentiation is the process of identifying,
    with each learner, the most effective strategies for achieving agreed
    goals so learning opportunities can be created that enable every student
    to develop, pursue and achieve appropriate personal learning goals. The
    differentiation process starts with assessing learning by gathering
    evidence and should be a constant feature throughout the teaching and
    learning process. Assessment for learning gives scope to not only
    inform the students about themselves but also for them to self-reflect
    and be actively engaged in their own learning. It lends the important
    opportunity to adapt
    teaching which is essential when working with a diverse group of students in an
    inclusive classroom.

    The move away from using deficit labels to identify students allows
    teaching and learning to focus on the areas of challenge that a student
    may experience; reading, writing, mathematics, social emotional learning
    and behaviour, mental health and psychological wellbeing, speech
    language and communication, vision, hearing, sensory integration,
    giftedness, physical, medical/illness. It recognises that all students
    may experience barriers to learning at some point in their school
    The answer then to the question is yes.

  • Even on down to vocational and trade schools, there is a lot of truth in this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sergey

    have your college papers written for you

  • Makena Conteh

    Every children has the right to education. In inclusive classrooms, children with and without disabilities are expected to learn to read, write and do math. With higher expectations and good instruction children with disabilities learn academic skills.

  • The sad thing is that people are more focused on the label vs the end result. As a parent with a child who had issues in school, they were more afraid of using labels than they were of actually getting them into something that could help. I have never forgotten how constraining that was. There has to be better ways to teach.

  • Great article. I really liked the phrase: “Inclusion is a journey; a never-ending process.” Schools need to be constantly trying to improve on all levels. Life is a journey. 🙂

  • jenan1

    Thanks Michael. Really appreciate the feedback.

  • Nancy Lee

    Prior to retiring in the States, I was a central office administrator for a suburban Detroit school district. We trained the school principals and teachers at every level on inclusion and how to design an inclusive school; whereby ALL students could access the curriculum in the least restrictive environment. We saw success…and it did not happen over-night.