The United States’ higher education system offers a wide range of options, including universities, colleges, and trade schools that are public, private, and online. This diversity is one of the strengths of the education system, and it can be further enhanced by promoting inclusion among students, staff, and faculties. Paulette Chaffee, a teacher and children’s advocate, emphasizes the importance of inclusion in higher education. It contributes to an enriching educational experience, strengthens workforces and communities, improves economic competitiveness, and promotes personal and societal growth. Here, Chaffee further explains why inclusion is critical to the success and diversity of higher education in the United States.
What is inclusion in higher education?
In higher education, inclusion is a continuous and evolving transformation process that involves enhancing educational systems and structures to prioritize and meet all needs of those in higher education and, to a large extent, disadvantaged groups. Essentially, it means to structure a system that meets all learner’s needs, regardless of background.
To truly create an inclusive higher education system, inclusivity must be integrated into every aspect of the educational experience, from accessibility to curriculum to building design. This includes ongoing efforts to challenge and dismantle systems of inequality, which in turn allows for the advancement of social justice for students who have been historically marginalized.
London’s Kingston University is a shining example of an institution that is truly committed to inclusivity. They have an award-winning Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Unit that has been instrumental in creating an inclusive curriculum framework. This framework prioritizes accessibility for all students and actively involves them in the curriculum design process to ensure that their needs are being met.
Why should inclusion be included in higher education?
As Chaffee highlights, incorporating inclusion in higher education brings numerous benefits to the education system. One of the key reasons is that diversity enriches the higher education experience considerably. A classroom with a diverse group of students representing different perspectives and experiences leads to dynamic discussions and opportunities for students to learn from one another and deepen their understanding of various concepts.
Inclusion should also be infused into higher education as it challenges stereotypes, elevates critical thinking, supports anti-racism, and boosts skills revolving around intercultural competence, making communication skills more effective in a global environment. In addition, the American Council on Education (ACE) states that inclusion in higher education can generate stronger communities and workplaces, better preparing students for diverse interactions and being good citizens.
How does inclusion in higher education prepare students for the real world?
In addition to the priorities of Kingston University’s inclusive curriculum framework stated above, another key to the curriculum’s framework is making sure students are adequately prepared and fully equipped to work efficiently in a diverse world that embraces global mindedness.
ACE emphasizes the importance of a diverse and inclusive higher education system in order to sustain America’s prosperity and competitiveness in the 21st century. Through inclusive classroom experiences that promote mutual respect and teamwork, students are better prepared for the professional world and are able to contribute to the nation’s overall success.
About Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is an educator, children’s advocate, grants facilitator, lawyer, and member of various non-profit boards. She obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands in Communicative Disorders and a California Lifetime Teaching Credential. She is currently the Ambassador for Orange County 4th District and a board member of All the Arts for All the Kids.