Difference Between Mainstreaming and Inclusion

Among the academic programs, mainstreaming and inclusion are two of them. They are specially meant for IEP students, in which Individualized Education Program is the abbreviation for IEP.


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It is one of the legal documents which describes a specific required education program.  

It is specifically designed for unique child needs as well as requirements. These two academic programs are no more just a courtesy provided by the school but become mandatory in school.

To clear up the confusion between mainstreaming and inclusion, this article focuses on differentiating them. 

Mainstreaming vs Inclusion 

The difference between mainstreaming and an inclusion is that mainstreaming fits learners into a specific type of system or simply integrates learners into the existing system. On the other hand, inclusion is about respecting and recognizing the learners’ differences by building on the similarities. 

Mainstreaming vs Inclusion

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The chief purpose of mainstreaming is to involve students suffering from disabilities within the traditional classrooms.

Same opportunities should be given as other students to gain knowledge, access instruction, grow as an individual as well as participate in the socializing and academic environments offered by the school. 

Inclusion refers to children’s integration with various needs into mainstream schools. It is much more than the mere children enrolment with special needs and concern for mental health in regular classrooms.

It acknowledges that the academic potential of a child cannot be developed separately, from physical, social, and emotional potential. 

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonMainstreamingInclusion
InterpretationTo fit learners into a specific type of system or simply integrate learners into the existing system.It is about respecting and recognizing the learners’ differences by building on the similarities.
ServicesStudents travel to get them Brought to the student
TeacherSpecial education teacherGeneral education teacher
Introduction of conceptsOvide DecrolyMaria Montessori
FocusOn the learnerOn the adaption and support system accessible in a classroom

What is Mainstreaming? 

Mainstreaming is the method in which special education services in a general classroom are given to students while specific periods are the roots of their skills.

Special education classroom students at certain times combine the classroom of regular education that is suitable for the students of special education. The regular classrooms such as art or physical might be attended by students.

In a separate classroom, these students in some cases attend science and maths, but a separate classroom to attend English is also there.

School practicing mainstreaming believes that special needs students fail to the task to a certain extent in a classroom of general education due to belonging in the environment of special education.

Access to a classroom of special education of often known as a resource room or separate classroom is valuable to disabled students. Students can work one-to-one with teachers of special education and addresses any need for remediation.

Many educators, parents, and researchers have advocated these classrooms’ importance amongst political environments that want their eliminations.  

In comparison to exclusion, practices mainstreaming has shown more effective academically Oftentimes students have certain supports that they bring to the classroom of general education.

The most common support is to bring aid one-on-one to assist them. Some other equipment might be tools from their classroom of special education that assist them to keep up with demand to the classroom of general education. 

What is Inclusion? 

Inclusion is a version wherein most of the time of special needs students is spent with students who require no special needs. When it comes to special education, the program of individualized education or simply the 504 plan arises with it.

The aim is for special needs students to acquire mixed experiences for becoming successful.

The special classrooms or schools are used in inclusion to disconnect disabled students from students which are not disabled. These kinds of classrooms fail to accept the concept of a separate classroom.

Most frequently, the school uses it for selected students who require special needs ranging from mild to moderate.

Rarely, there are fully inclusive schools that did not separate the programs of general education and special education, instead, it is redesigned to learn together for all the students.

It is regarding the child’s right to participate as well as the duty of the school to accept that child.

There is a premium placed upon students with disabilities for their full participation and upon regard for the rights of civil, educational, and social.

The feeling is not limited to disabilities of cognitive as well as physical but also involves the full range of human diversity’s concerning culture, age, language, and other forms of differences.

Main Differences Between Mainstreaming and Inclusion 

  1. To participate in a classroom of general education a set of criteria must be met by a student in mainstreaming. Meanwhile, in inclusion regardless of student ability, it can participate in a classroom of general education.  
  2. Extra support is given to some learners in mainstreaming to fit into the normal classroom. On the flip side, to meet the full range of learning the support to educators, learners, and the system as a whole is given in the inclusion.  
  3. To work with the existing curriculum in mainstreaming, the student must demonstrate ability. On the other hand, the curriculum is modified and adapted to meet the student’s need for inclusion.  
  4. Mainstreaming works as a supplement in special education to the primary placement where particular academic and social opportunities are targeted. In contrast, inclusion is a philosophy in which setting up general education is the primary learning environment.  
  5. When the students do not need distinctively designed instructions then in mainstreaming, they bring them into the general classroom. But general education classes in inclusion are structured to meet all the student’s needs. 
  1. https://academic.oup.com/sp/article-abstract/12/3/433/1679271
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