Inclusion is commonly defined as a process of reorganization of the educational institution to serve students with a full range of abilities in the mainstream education classroom with suitable in-class support (Horne & Timmons, 2009). Recent studies demonstrate that promoting inclusive practices in mainstream schools result in better overall learning outcomes of the entire school system (Barber & Mourshed, 2007). According to many authors, several important aspects such as training, resources, legislation and teachers play a key role in successful implementation of inclusive education policies and practices (Boer, Pijl & Minnaert, 2011). The latter are regarded as key persons in the development and implementation of inclusive education (Subban & Sharma 2006; Malinen, Savolainen & Xu, 2012).
Furthermore, inclusive education is one of the major strategies to address the issues of exclusion and discrimination (Peters, 2003). According to the philosophy of inclusive education, schools should be considered as a safe environment educating all children regardless their differences in ability, gender, language, class and ethnicity. Therefore, it is the primary role of school principals and teachers to commit to the transformation of their school environments for the successful implementation of inclusive education (UNESCO, 2009).
There has been a mixed reaction to the implementation of inclusive practices in the classroom among teachers in different contexts (Horne & Timmons, 2009). In general, researchers argue that successful implementation of inclusive education largely depends on qualified teachers’ positive attitudes toward inclusive education (Subban & Sharma 2006; Malinen, Savolainen & Xu, 2012).
In their study Horne & Timmons (2009) studied teachers’ perceptions of the inclusion of children with special needs in the regular classroom. By adopting a mixed-method research design, researchers concluded that teachers from regular elementary classrooms were generally positive about inclusion of children with special needs into regular classrooms; however lack of teacher training, poor leadership, and the shortage of time present numerous challenges to meet educational needs of all students.
Subban & Sharma (2006) further explored teachers’ attitudes and concerns towards the implementation of inclusive education in the light of policy changes in Australia. According to authors’ hypothesis, teachers’ attitudes may influence their practices and behavior in acceptance of children with special needs, which in turn may influence on the implementation of inclusive education practices. Findings of their quantitative study revealed that teachers’ attitudes are less positive, if to include students with emotional/behavioral disorders and who may disturb everyday classroom activities. Furthermore, findings indicated the difference in attitudes and confidence among teachers who had some previous training in teaching students with special needs.
If Kazakhstan follows international trends in regards to inclusive education, then there is an urgent need to develop national model of inclusive education, which should include preparing qualified and competent teacher professionals.