International level guiding principles

International level guiding principles

At the international level, the key
legal frameworks impacting on inclusive education are outlined within the UNESCO Policy Guidelines on Inclusion
in Education (2009),
beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
, moving to the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960),
the Convention on the Rights of the Child
, and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion
of Diversity in Cultural Expressions (2005)
. Most
recently, the Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities (2006)
, specifically Article 24,
is highlighted as being crucial as it advocates inclusive education. It is
argued that these and other international documents: 

… set out the central elements that need to be addressed in order to ensure the right to access to education, the right to quality education and the right to respect in the learning environment (p.10).

Most European countries have signed
the convention and the majority of these have also signed the optional protocol
and are in the process of ratifying both the convention and protocol (see:
for updated information).

All European countries have
ratified the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action in
Special Needs Education (1994)
. This
collective statement is a major focal point for special needs education work in
Europe – it is still a key element in the conceptual framework of many
countries’ policies. All European countries agree that the principles
encompassed in the Salamanca Statement should underpin all education policies –
not just those specifically dealing with special needs education. These
principles relate to equal opportunities in terms of genuine access to learning
experiences, respect for individual differences and quality education for all
focused upon personal strengths rather than weaknesses.

The Conclusions and Recommendations of
the 48th session of the International Conference On Education (ICE) (2008)
called Inclusive Education: The Way of the Future
presented a number of key recommendations including:

  • Policy makers should acknowledge that:
    inclusive education is an ongoing process aimed at offering quality education
    for all;
  • Education policy and provision should aim to:
    Promote school cultures and environments that are child-friendly, conducive to
    effective learning and inclusive of all children (UNESCO, 2008).

The UNESCO Policy Guidelines (2009) document suggests that:

Inclusive education is a process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners … An ‘inclusive’ education system can only be created if ordinary schools become more inclusive – in other words, if they become better at educating all children in their communities (p. 8).

This document goes further by saying that:

Inclusion is thus seen as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education … Promoting inclusion means stimulating discussion, encouraging positive attitudes and improving educational and social frameworks to cope with new demands in education structures and governance. It involves improving inputs, processes and environments to foster learning both at the level of the learner in his/her learning environment and at the system level to support the entire learning experience (UNESCO, 2009, p. 7-9).

The Policy Guidelines highlight the following propositions regarding inclusive education: 

  • Inclusion and quality are reciprocal;
  • Access and quality are linked and are mutually
  • Quality and equity are central to ensuring
    inclusive education. 

More recently, the World Report on
Disability (2011
) advocates for inclusive
education and emphasises the importance of appropriate training for mainstream
teachers, noting that teacher education programmes should be about attitudes
and values, not just knowledge and skills.

The above propositions are fundamental
to the key principles evident within the Agency’s thematic