The 'Index for Inclusion' in use: learning from international experience

Tony Booth

The Index for Inclusion: Developing learning and participation in schools is a set of materials, launched in England in 2000, to support schools to review all aspects of their cultures, policies and practices so as to plan for their inclusive development.

Inclusion, in the Index, is seen as a principled approach to education and society; an attempt to put values into action concerned with equity, participation, respect for diversity, community, rights, compassion, and sustainability. The Index supports a detailed investigation of what such values mean for the experience of education in classrooms, staff rooms, playgrounds, homes and communities.

We had experience of thinking about educational development in both countries of the North and South. Discussions with colleagues in South Africa gave us confidence to talk about the experience of barriers to learning and participation which could arise in any aspect or at any level of the system -rather than the narrow medicalised view of educational difficulty as having to do with the special educational needs of children and young people.

Nevertheless when the Index was first published, we only thought about its use in England. We had aimed for a set of materials that could be used flexibly by any group of people involved in schools and adapted to local circumstances. We found, however, that our materials had far wider application than English schools. We began to receive interest and translation requests from a number of countries in the North and South. The Index has now been adapted for use in about 25 countries and translated into about 20 languages.

We thought the basic concepts, review framework and much of the suggestions for analysing school and classroom cultures, policies and practices might apply reasonably well to privileged settings (in the North or South). However, we felt that they needed to be adapted so that they could support educational development within economically poor communities, and relate to the diversity of circumstances of urban and rural poverty.

We started examining the materials, in this light, in a workshop in Mumbai, India, in 2001. We shared investigations of the use of the Index from India, Brazil, South Africa and England. As a result,1 a version of the Index was produced in Arabic, with the support of Save the Children UK. This has been used in challenging circumstances in the Middle East and North Africa. A particular feature of this work has been the involvement of children in planning change in their schools. These comments give a flavour of the voices that are being heard as a result of the use of the Index.

'Nobody is a failure, everybody has a talent, but we must co-operate together to know what it is' Child member of Index co-ordinating group, Bourg el Borajnie, Lebanon

'The slow children should be put with the faster children because they have better communication with them than the teachers' Child member, co-ordinating group, Gouberie, Lebanon

'Previously we always said "this child is badly behaved" and thought all the problems came from the children. We didn't notice that the problem could be with us: the adults, or with the activity' Teacher, Egypt

'Before this we thought parents were the enemy. Now we see that they are on the same side, we all want what's best for our children' Teacher, Morocco

Source: J. Williams, (2003), 'School Improvement for Inclusion, Mid-year Review', London: Save the Children UK, Middle East and North Africa Region

We are currently putting together a book about the Index in use in 14 countries.2 We see this collaboration as an opportunity to share knowledge about the possibilities for, and barriers to, inclusive educational development. The Index is 'a work in progress' and out of this collective experience we aim to improve the materials so that they are better able to support ourselves and others, whatever their contexts, to put their values into action.

Notes

1Booth and Black-Hawkins (2001) 'Developing Learning and Participation in Countries of the South: the Role of an Index for Inclusion', Paris, UNESCO. Available soon on EENET's website.

2Colleagues from Australia, England, Eritrea, Finland, Germany, India, Middle East and North Africa, New Zealand, Norway, Wales will share a symposium about this work at the ISEC conference, Glasgow, August 2005.

Tony Booth is Professor of Inclusive and International Education, Canterbury Christ Church University College

North Holmes Road
Canterbury
CT1 1QU, UK
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