Inclusive education is welcoming all students to attend their neighbourhood schools in age-appropriate classes, no matter who they are and their abilities or disabilities. Inclusive education is about ensuring all students learn and participate meaningfully with their peers. It does not stop at placing students with disabilities in the general education classroom, but a continuous active effort to remove barriers to learning and participation, such as:
- ensuring instructional language, teaching methods and curriculum are accessible to diverse learners, by normalising the use of adaptive learning tools and strategies and implementing flexible curriculum and learning goals.
- ensuring the school environment is accessible, including: classrooms, canteens, play areas, libraries, science labs, sports area, toilets, transportation.
- fostering understanding of disability and diversity within the school community.
- respecting and valuing the differences and diversity that students with disabilities bring to the school community.
Hence, inclusive education is not about ‘moulding’ students with disabilities to fit into general education classrooms. Inclusive education involves transformative change in the whole school community and education system to provide sustainable and quality education for ALL students, who are all different and unique in the way they learn.
This means that students with disabilities continue to receive support to address their needs in the inclusive setting (school or classroom), including specialist support and Individualised Education Plan (IEP). Specialist support could come from adults with disabilities, inclusion specialists, special education teachers, educational or school psychologist, occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, physiotherapist, etc. More importantly, IEP goals of students with disabilities are embedded purposefully into the general education classroom’s lessons and school activities, with appropriate accommodations to enable students with disabilities to participate meaningfully.
Definition of Inclusive Education in Malaysia
“An education programme for students with special educational needs in which they can attend in the same classroom together with other students.” — Special Education Regulations 2013 (under the Education Act 1996).
Inclusive education in Malaysian public schools is actually integration in disguise. According to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – General Comment No. 4, “Placing students with disabilities within mainstream classes without accompanying structural changes to, for example, organisation, curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, does not constitute inclusion.”
Diagram explaining exclusion, segregation, integration and inclusion according to the CRPD General Comment 4 (p. 4). Image with text excerpted from A Summary of the Research Evidence on Inclusive Education by the Alana Institute, p. 3.
Brief Overview of Situation of Inclusive Education in Malaysia
Inclusive Education Programme (Program Pendidikan Inklusif – PPI) as provided by the Ministry of Education (MOE) is a placement of students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms fully or partially in certain subjects. Inclusive education has not been adopted by the MOE as the mainstream educational practice, which has hindered widespread inclusive practice in mainstream classrooms in Malaysia.
Program Pendidikan Inklusif (PPI) is under the purview of MOE’s Department of Special Education. MOE encourages mainstream schools to implement PPI. According to 2020 MOE data on special education, 6,404 primary and secondary schools are implementing PPI. However, not all schools implement PPI. The decision to provide adequate support to students with disabilities within mainstream classrooms is still dependent on school leadership and teachers.
Obtaining education for students with disabilities in the mainstream setting can be challenging, and will often require strategic and persistent advocacy from parents and allies. The National Family Support Group for Children and People with Special Needs prepared an advisory document to assist children with disabilities and their parents/caregivers to advocate for their right to inclusive education in the mainstream setting (linked below).
*Note: Resources linked are in English and pdf or webpage format, unless stated otherwise.
Legislation and Policies – Malaysia
Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (Section 28: Access to Education, p.23)
FAQ to obtain rights to Inclusive Education in Malaysian mainstream schools (pdf) by the National Family Support Group for Children & People with Special Needs.
International Commitments and Frameworks
Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all
Reports and Research Papers – Malaysia
Reports and Research Papers – International
Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 by UNESCO – Full report available in English and Mandarin, and easy-to-read version in English
A Summary of the Research Evidence on Inclusive Education by the Alana Institute
Eliminating Ableism in Education by Thomas Hehir