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Telling The Story of Inclusive Education – From Canada to the World

By Connie Laurin-Bowie, Inclusion International

28.ConnieLaurin-Bowie2While the challenges of real inclusion for all students continues in Canada, it is remarkable and worth remembering that we point to Canada to prove inclusion is possible and it works! In many countries inclusive education continues to be perceived as an unrealistic proposition that requires expensive and complex accommodations. The real life experiences of students, families and classrooms in Canada show the world that not only is inclusion possible, it works and it results in better education for all children.

During the process of negotiating the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (CRPD) families and self-advocates from throughout our global network told us that inclusive education was there number one priority. Inclusion International brought the voices of people with intellectual disabilities and their families to be heard at the ad hoc committee meetings, as a result, Article 24 reflects those voices.

Since the CRPD came into force, governments have been required to implement inclusive education (Article 24) and to develop inclusive education systems. Inclusion International has worked with our members around the world to ensure a progressive interpretation of Article 24. We have done that through our global campaign on Inclusive Education including: the Global Report – Better Education for All; contributions to the General Comment on Article 24; and, a joint IDA position paper on inclusive education.

In September 2015, governments and international leaders adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals to guide the priorities and strategies for development and poverty alleviation following the Millennium Development Goals. Goal # 4 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Both the CRPD and the SDG have and will continue to challenge governments, school systems, teachers and communities to expand and develop education strategies that include all children.

Families and people with intellectual disabilities are clear that inclusive education is THE key to breaking down barriers and building inclusive communities. Research and statistics back-up the stories and experiences and confirm that life-long patterns of inclusion begin in our local schools:

• Children who are excluded from school are more likely to experience exclusion throughout their lives;

• Children who are included in school are more likely to be connected to their community, have meaningful relationships beyond their immediately family;

• They are more likely to get jobs and be healthier;

• They are more likely to be engaged in the civic life of their community;

• They are less likely to live in poverty.

Having all children learning together teaches children to value diversity, builds social capital and lays the foundation for inclusive communities. Interaction between disabled and non-disabled students provides a cornerstone for inclusion. It builds socially valuing relationships and sets an expectation that inclusion is the norm. Later, as parents, teachers, shopkeepers, employers, community leaders and government officials, all children will be better positioned to understand disability as part of human diversity and to put in place the conditions for inclusion.

For most people (parents, teachers, policy makers), seeing is believing. The most powerful evidence we have of the value of inclusive education is seeing it in practice. The experience of school districts in Canada provides inspiration for families and students in other parts of the world as well as concrete knowledge about how to make inclusion work. Our challenge globally is to create the vehicles for sharing experiences across jurisdictions in ways that make it possible for those who are leading change can adapt for their own community, schools and countries. On behalf of Inclusion International, I invite all of you who contribute to Inclusion Education Canada to be part of the global efforts to inspire and inform inclusive education in countries around the world. Join us in Orlando for Inclusion International’s Launch of our “global platform on inclusive education”.

Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities: Coming Together to Improve the Lives of People with Intellectual Disabilities and their Families Across the Globe, 27 – 29 October, 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

28.ConnieLaurin-Bowie1Connie Laurin-Bowie, Executive Director, Inclusion International, recognized by the UN as the global organization of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Inclusion International has over 200 national member organizations in 115 countries. Connie previously was Director of Policy and Government Liaison with CACL. She lives in Oakville, Ontario with her husband and two sons.


  1. Inclusion International, Hear Our Voices. 2006 www.inclusion-international.org.