This article has been published in Enabling Education 9
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EENET’s mission is to create conversations around the world about how education systems can support the learning of all children. This means breaking with the history of treating some children as ‘special’ and of separating them from others. It is pleasing, therefore, to note that the international congress to be held in Glasgow, 1-4 August 2005, has chosen to change its title from the ‘International Special Education Congress’ to the ‘Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress‘.

By doing this the organisers are sending out a message that inclusive education addresses the needs of all marginalised groups, not just the ‘special’ education of disabled learners. In this issue of ‘Enabling Education’ you will find thought-provoking views on the debate about inclusive education and its connection (in the minds of many) solely with disability. Where do you stand in this debate?

EENET firmly believes in promoting a view of inclusive education that takes us beyond the inclusion of disabled learners to the inclusion of all marginalised groups. However, this does not mean that disability issues should be allowed to be ‘lost’ in wider debates on inclusion. Efforts to mainstream gender issues into development work have often resulted in the loss of specific projects on women’s and girls’ equality and empowerment. Yet the ‘mainstream’ work continually fails to embrace and address gender issues properly. Can we learn anything from these experiences? Can we rise to the challenge of promoting inclusive education for all, while ensuring that vulnerable groups do not become lost in the ‘mainstream’? EENET believes that we can – but we also know that there is still a long way to go!

Regular readers will notice that our front page this time features a range of images – rather than the usual editorial. We did this deliberately to highlight the potential of images to promote a different way of thinking about inclusion. EENET’s action research project in Tanzania and Zambia has used images to stimulate reflection and analysis among practitioners and stakeholders about the meaning of inclusive education in their context.

EENET believes that these approaches hold the key to developing a view and an understanding of inclusion that takes account of all learners. The use of photography, drawing, drama and other forms of art and non-written communication can increase the participation of marginalised groups in research activities – and so influence educational change.

As we write this editorial, a lively debate is taking place in England about inclusion and the future of special education – sparked off by Baroness Warnock. (It was the 1978 Warnock Report that began the move towards greater inclusion.) She has called for an inquiry to investigate how the current policy is operating, and has even described England’s ‘statementing’ system as ‘wasteful and bureaucratic’. The debate has polarised opinion for and against special schools. Such debates will continue – in England and around the world. And EENET will continue to contribute to them by making information available to those who need it most, and by encouraging people to think differently about inclusion.