Mainstreaming vs Inclusion
Mainstreaming and inclusion are concepts that are used in education, and especially education for students with disabilities. It was in 1975 that Congress passed a law that required that all students should get the education at least in a restrictive environment. This law was in essence a law meant for the education of disabled students. Mainstreaming is a concept that evolved out of this law with inclusion being a rather new concept to achieve the same purpose of education for students with special education needs. While both harp on the need to educate children with disabilities with normal children, there are differences in the concepts of mainstreaming and inclusion that will be talked about in this article.
Mainstreaming is a concept that believes that removal of students with disabilities from regular classrooms leads to a system where two classes are needed, and both are ineffective. In this practice, disabled students are sought to be educated in regular classrooms. Least restrictive education is based on the premise that disabled students should be brought to the mainstream and taught alongside normal students to the greatest extent possible. Mainstreaming believes that disabled students should not be restricted to special classrooms in sheltered environments and that they should be brought into the mainstream of education by allowing them to study in regular classrooms.
Inclusion refers to the latest approach in the education of students with disabilities, and that is quite similar to mainstreaming as it believes in educating such students with normal students without disabilities as far as possible. The practice of inclusion is more comprehensive in approach than mainstreaming. However, there are many variations of inclusion to have a clearly defined concept. In general, it has to be understood that it remains a situation that tries to educate disabled students with normal ones in same classrooms providing support for special education needs for the disabled students whenever needed. The need for inclusion was felt with an increasing number of mainstream schools being pointed out as treating children with special needs as being different and even reports of misbehave with disabled children coming out.
In clear terms, inclusion stands for education for the disabled in regular classrooms with no discrimination by the students as well as the teachers. It also means that students with special needs do not need to be put in the same classrooms with normal students 100% of the time as there is evidence to prove that disabled students benefit more when placed in self-contained classrooms.
While the goal of both mainstreaming and inclusion is to educate disabled children in least restrictive environment, there are differences in approach; inclusion appears to be more sensitive to the special needs of the disabled and more comprehensive too. Mainstreaming tries to treat disabled at par with regular, normal students and conducts education for the disabled as far as possible in regular classrooms. However, it has been seen and experienced that there have been cases of discrimination by the students and even teachers even in schools that take pride in being called mainstream schools. Also, there is evidence to suggest that a disabled student really do not need to be taught 100% of the time in regular classrooms as they benefit more when placed in self contained classrooms for the disabled. This is the reason why it has become necessary to adopt a heady mix of the two approaches to benefit the disabled students.
In any case, mainstreaming has been found to be suitable for disabled students who could perform to near average of the regular classroom students whereas inclusion works well for the disabled who require support systems and systems where they need not perform to a required skill level.