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In order to reach inclusion, an inclusive education system and inclusive methods of teaching and learning should be established, however, what is defined as ‘inclusive’ has changed within the last decade. The UN Convention rather focussed on students with disabilities, their needs, and how to support them in order to include them in mainstream schools. Later policy papers (e.g. the Sustainable Development Goals, see United Nations 2015) encompass all learners (see also Schwab 2019). In this context, a paradigm shift took place, emphasizing the organizations, asking how they produce barriers of inclusion themselves and how schools can ensure equality in education for all children (European Parliament 2017; Avramidis and Norwich 2002; Watkins and Meijer 2016).
Inclusive education in Germany
This paper presents data from Germany. First approaches to inclusion, pushed forward mostly by parents, emerged in Germany already in the 1970s when pilot experiments tried to integrate children with disabilities into mainstream classes. However, Germany did not ratify the UN Convention before 2009 (Klemm 2015). Whereas in the beginning some schools developed and experienced different practices voluntarily, after the ratification of the UN Convention the whole educational system was under pressure to implement inclusion. As the 16 Federal States of Germany have sovereignty in cultural and educational affairs, the UN Convention had to be transferred into the domestic Federal State laws.
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As a result, legislation and understanding of inclusion differ between the Federal States. This becomes evident concerning several dimensions. The settings for inclusion, the financial support for schools. And the access to schools includes the options for parents to choose a school for their child.
To support inclusion, schools often receive general funding for students. With (an official diagnosis of having) special educational needs (SEN) (‘throughput funding’, UNESCO 2017). The amount of these resources and the way to request them differs according to the respective Federal State legislation. Additionally, schools are quite autonomous in how they use the given resources (Klemm 2015).
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Although children with SEN have the right to attend regular schools. The choices of parents have been more or less limited according to the options they have. Usually, they can choose between special schools and regular schools. Which usually offer regular classes (without any children with disabilities), as well as inclusive classes (with at least one child with SEN) as children with SEN, are bundled into just a few classes, due to organizational reasons. Additionally, the rights of parents are limited by the number of places schools offer for children with SEN. Parents have the right to receive a place for their child in an inclusive school, but they cannot choose the school itself. This can be a problem for parents with children with SEN as some schools do not offer places for affected children (Klemm 2015).