Inclusive Education in Europe

When talking about the right to inclusive and high quality education for all, we have come a long way over the last decades. Since the Salamanca Statement of 1994, there is a political will within the 27 EU countries to carry out the necessary changes in the field of legislation and school organisation. Both on European & national levels, authorities worked on the realisation of legal frameworks facilitating inclusive education for all within the frame of their competence:

These declarations and policy documents clearly state that all children and adults with a disability (and their families):

  • have the same right to high quality and appropriate education as everyone else, in order to maximize their potential and to make their contribution to an inclusive society;
  • have the right to choose and receive education in an inclusive environment;
  • have the right to specific resources and expertise to meet their educational, therapeutic and citizenship needs;
  • have the right to services which at all times act in their best interest.

Also numerous research projects have been carried out in order to improve the situation for children with special educational needs in primary and secondary education [1].

Still, we have a long way ahead before reaching a society where equal opportunities are guaranteed for all. Inclusive and high quality education  is central to achieving this goal. In many special as well as mainstream schools, however, much uncertainty and lack of knowledge can still be seen. What up to now is missing is practical advice and guidance for policy makers, school administrators and other key actors.

In this section you find an overview of the statutory legislation and prescriptions regarding inclusive education in several European countries, an assessment of how inclusive education is organised in practice, and the progression of implementation with regard to mainstreaming inclusive education in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia.

The material was collected on the basis of a questionnaire, developed by the University of Siegen, which resulted in a Barometer Assessment of inclusive education in the participating countries.

The concept of a ‘European Barometer on Inclusive Education’ has been developed and used to assess and compare different national situations. The barometer instrument was inspired by the German Inklusionsbarometer [2]  presented by Sozialverband Deutschland (SoVD) in 2010 and conceptually follows the idea of an ’informed rating’ on inclusive education of persons with disabilities and/or special educational needs (SEN) in participating European countries. The objective is to use available data to identify tendencies and produce information that is relevant for policy makers and other stakeholders to promote the implementation process of inclusive education.

The information on these pages was collected in the autumn of 2010 and reflects the view of the authors.

[1] Lebeer J.- Learning to think together: activating cognitive learning skills and inclusion of children with a wide variation in development.- In: Project INSIDE: how to activate cognitive development of children with or at risk of developmental or learning problems inside the educational system? / Lebeer Jo [edit.], Southsea, Down Syndrome Educational Trust, 2003

Lebeer Jo [edit.].- Bouwen aan leren leren: cognitieve leerbevordering bij kinderen met risico op ontwikkelings- of leerstoornissen.- Leuven: Acco, 2003.- 284 p.: ill..- ISBN 90-334-5069-0

Ghesquière, P., Maes, B., Vandenberghe, R., & Moors, G. (2000). Inclusief onderwijs als innovatieproces. Analyse van de succesfactoren in tien praktijkvoorbeelden. Leuven/Apeldoorn: Garant.

Ghesquière, P., Moors, G., Maes, B., & Vandenberghe, R. (2000). Onderzoek over inclusief onderwijs als vernieuwingsproces in Vlaamse basisscholen: een meervoudige gevalsstudie. Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsrecht en Onderwijsbeleid, (1), 18-25.