Inclusive education is a system that welcomes all children without discrimination into regular schools. Inclusive education not only focuses in accommodating children into school but also creates friendly environments that respond to the different developmental capacities and needs of all children. It also entails children accessing quality education and experiencing the necessary transition programs. Children denied access and participation to quality transition programs do not receive the full package of child development programs that young children require enhancing their learning. Various issues hinder childrens access and participation in early childhood environments. Some of the problems include educators qualifications and professional development, the beliefs and practices of the teacher, the curriculum and pedagogy, child ratios and class size, and safe and stimulating environment among others.
Teachers play an essential role in enhancing quality education. Educator qualification and training influence their practices of inclusion (Klibthong, Fridani, Ikegami, & Agbenyega, 2014). For the past years, the requirement of early childhood educators to possess relevant qualifications and skills has increased. A teacher who does not understand the cultural diversification in a classroom will influence the inclusion of children in that class. It is important that an instructor seek the relevant training in early childhood education to cater for the different needs of children and ensure their wellbeing is being met in the classroom. A teacher with more experience and qualification may indicate a positive inclusion of children with exceptional needs than a teacher with minimal experience. Therefore, ongoing professional development is crucial for early childhood educators to reflect on their practices. A teacher is required to build a mutual relationship with the learners, create an active learning environment, and encourage the involvement of all students in the classroom activities. An instructor who lacks the proper qualifications and training will have difficulty in incorporating all those aspects in the classroom; thus, leaving some or a majority of student needs unattended.
Safe and stimulating environment influences access and participation of early childhood inclusive learning environment. A learning environment should stimulate childrens physical, psychosocial, and cognitive development regardless of whether the child has a disability or not (Klibthong, Fridani, Ikegami, & Agbenyega, 2014). A well setup structural environment enhances a childs belonging, sense of learning, and well-being. Ross (2008) conducted a self-study of a teacher educator who was concerned about cultural competence, social justice, and peace in the preparation of teacher candidates. While teaching the students, learners from different countries would share their learning experiences. Pierre from Uganda narrates how war and violence affected his early years of learning. From the story, it is evident that war and violence directly affect young children. Such an environment will hinder the participation of children in home, preschool, and community contexts from accessing quality and inclusive early childhood education. Equally important, a child with cerebral palsy has limitations in body functions and activities that hinder their daily participation. If such a child is learning in an unsupportive environment, the impacts of restriction and involvement can be much higher because the child will lack support from the teacher who is crucial in ensuring successful inclusion of children from diverse backgrounds.
Child ratios and class size also influence the inclusion of children in early childhood education. A study by UNESCO indicated that small class sizes could lead to a positive outcome in educator-child relationships and educators classroom practice (Klibthong, Fridani, Ikegami, & Agbenyega, 2014). Low child ratios and small class sizes enable teachers to provide individual attention. High child ratios and class sizes result in poor learning quality and stress to the teacher and the students. Nakilini from Malawi narrates the effects of free primary education. Classes were congested forcing some students to stand outside the classroom during lessons. Teachers had a difficult time to control all the students and mark the work of sixty-three pupils since the ratio was 1:63 (Ross, 2008). Moreover, the educators beliefs and practices also affect the inclusion of children in early childhood education. Economic influences, family and traditional cultural values, social environments, and personal skills play a vital role in influencing the attitudes of the teacher. General education teachers have some experience with students with disabilities, but this is not enough to make them eligible to teach in an inclusive education setting. According to Monje (2017), older teachers usually have a negative attitude towards inclusion. The reason behind the negative reaction was the lack of proper training to enable the teachers to include students with disabilities in their classroom. Teachers have differing views about the inclusion of children with exceptional needs in their classroom. A majority do not believe they can teach such learners and the attitudes that the teachers have on these students significantly influences the success and effectiveness of their instruction. The curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood education have been affected by social values and knowledge situated in different nations. For instance, the United States federally mandated curriculum that consist of high stake tests leads to tolerance, injustice, and inequity (Ross, 2008). Such type of curriculum affects students of color, low socio-economic students, and second language learners. Research shows that a quality curriculum and pedagogy is beneficial to all children now and in the future academic experiences (Klibthong, Fridani, Ikegami, & Agbenyega, 2014).
Klibthong, S., Fridani, L., Ikegami, K., & Agbenyega, J. K. (2014). The relationship between quality early childhood programs and transition services in inclusive education of young children. Asian Journal of Inclusive Education, 2(1), pp. 35-55.
Monje, L. D. (2017). General education teachers attitudes about inclusion (Docstoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/dissertations/3102?utm_source=scholarworks.wmich.edu%2Fdissertations%2F3102&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages. (3102).
Ross, D. A. (2008). Culturally competent and socio-politically conscious teaching: A teacher educator works to model the journey to critical cultural competence. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 10(1), pp. 1-13.
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