ISEC 2005

Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress
International Special Education Conference
Inclusion: Celebrating Diversity?

1st - 4th August 2005. Glasgow, Scotland

about the conference

Working with the Index for Inclusion in a Segregated School System
Experiences in Germany

Ines Boban
Prof. Dr. Andreas Hinz
Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany;


When we saw the Index for Inclusion for the first time at ISEC 2000 in Manchester, we immediately knew that this would be something extremely helpful for our work in Germany. There are metres and metres of literature about school development, about roles of participants, methods and many other things, but supported by this one could develop an inclusive school, as well a selective school accommodating only ‘severe and multiple normal students’ or one could even develop a fascist elite school – because there is no basic orientation. So for us the Index for Inclusion is the first and the only material we know about that connects methods of school development with a basis of a certain philosophy. And so we did the translation and – with a lot more work and thinking – adaptation of the Index for the German speaking countries (see Boban & Hinz 2003).

The German School System

To write about using the Index in the German school system means initially to show the extremely segregated structures of this system (see Hinz 2003, 2005): There are o nly four years common schooling for most of the students, the primary school (grade 1 to 4), followed by four different types of secondary schools (grade 5 to 10), which include different academic levels, and followed by many different forms of academic and vocational schooling (grade 11 to 12 or 13).
Fig. 1: Tidying up Beethoven’s “For Elise” ( Wehrli 2004)

Fig. 2: Tidying Up Magritte’s “Galconde” ( Wehrli 2002)

So there is a strong tradition of trying to ‘tidy-up groups of learners’ to the most homogenous extent (see “Tidying-Up Art” by Wehrli 2002, 2004). Beethoven’s Elise and Magritte’s Galconde show which devastating effects are produced by the way German schools deal with the differences of students.

The tidied up version of Galconde shows that the focus on the completeness and incompleteness within a destroyed context leads to the meaning that there are only two complete persons – and a lot of incomplete. In this sense it is logical that beside the system of general education there still are ten different types of special schools, orientated to the old medical model of disability, which accommodate about 5% of all students. The biggest type, called school for students with learning disabilities, includes – in the western part of Germany – mainly students with backgrounds of migration and poverty. So it is not only a question about disability but also a question about other dimensions of heterogeneity. This situation is based on a very long history of 200 years of special education in the German speaking countries, which cannot be overcome in a few years.

Generally – although there is a sovereignty of cultural affairs and education in the 16 federal states of Germany – now two parallel systems exist: One with the whole range of special schools and – more or less – some integration too, organised as ‘integration classes’ (internationally called mainstream classes, integrating some students with disabilities) or as neighbourhood-school with single students with disabilities. Nevertheless: There are quite a lot of schools which call themselves and can be called being integrative and some inclusive.

Adaptation of the Index and first experiences

When we started to translate and adapt the Index within a research seminar at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, we had to think a lot about the meaning of integration and inclusion for the German context, about the different structures of the English and the German school system and about the chances within the German structures. Which sense would it make to bring a material in a system with a lot of ‘integration classes’ and so few inclusive schools? Which chances would be connected to all this in a system with a such limited autonomy on the school level and a extremely centralised system on the level of federal states? What could be the outcome of a democratic process in a quite hierarchical, old fashioned German school system with its middle-age roots and its social class traditions?

Many questions – and only a few ideas: For example the idea, that the most inclusive approach in Germany – the inclusive primary school in areas of poverty in Hamburg without any labelling (see Hinz 2003, 2005) – could have a strong support by the Index already being asked to develop school programs, and the idea, that those schools having ‘integration classes’ already for 25 or 30 years would have the chance to reflect about their quality after all this time.

After having finished the ‘zero version’ of the German Index we sent it to ‘critical readers’ in all federal states of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and in the German speaking parts of Southern Tyrol in Italy – mothers, teachers, principals, ministerial administrators and scientists. In their reactions we experienced the whole spectrum of opinions: One reader said that this had been long overdue, one called it brilliant, another called it a nightmare, because it would make such a pressure to be inclusive, another said that in her federal state there would not be one single school which could say ‘yes’ to one of the indicators or even one of the questions of the Index. Nevertheless in the last two years there were requests for more than 1000 copies of the German Index - many from schools within the segregated system including special schools.

Meanwhile the Index is promoted strongly by the German Teacher Union (“Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft”, Union for Education and Science) campaigning for “One school for all” after the – not surprising but terrible – results of the international comparative research organised by OECD. Especially the closest relation between students results and their social status compared to all other countries causes the beginning debates about the German school system and its structures. Hopefully now there is a chance to overcome a system which was established in the times of a society of classes.

Beside some invitations to conferences and schools it is necessary to think about appropriate strategies to announce the Index in Germany. So there have been taken some steps to get in contact with the advice services for school development as a key to general school development. Some of them work already with the Index and bring them into in-service training of teachers, especially for schools with integration classes. In Austria the parents organisation for inclusion tries to initiate a project in different federal states with the Index, but the response of the ministry of education still is indifferent. Also in Southern Tyrol some schools started to work with the Index.

One interesting experience occurs throughout all workshops for announcement of the Index: We very often ask the participants to tell us their favourite indicators and questions after having reading them, and in 99% of all cases these chosen items do not cost any money but a bit of time and coordination. So the insight arises: Working with the Index mostly does not mean the need of money for changes in schools.

Systematic research by ourselves starts in Summer 2005 with up to ten schools in the eastern federal state we live in. This will be connected to the creation of the whole day school, one of the consequence of the bad results of PISA. Within the application for money for the whole day school, schools had to make a concept responding to their actual problems and planning next steps for their solution. The two most articulated problems were: dealing with heterogeneity of students and doing internal evaluation – and for both of them the Index provides support.

Some schools already started working with the Index; three examples can show a bit of that.

Example 1: Ernst-Reuter-School Frankfurt

This Comprehensive School in a western federal state has to do some evaluation of its work, so some teachers had the idea of doing it with the help of the Index. The first step was to build a blended team of teachers, students and parents to learn about the Index, the second was to inform the councils of students, of parents and of teachers. As working with the Index is a fundamental democratic process, all three councils were asked to make statements about it, and only if all councils agree the work could begin. Here we made interesting experiences: One student with Turkish background mentioned, that changes would cost money but the city of Frankfurt would be broke; so he asked for the sense of working for changes. A girl with afghan background asked, whether there really existed a school which accommodates all students – a wonderful but maybe unrealistic idea, she said. And another student asked whether it really would be true that the whole thing would not start if the students council would say no to it – and we verified. We asked them not to decide immediately and to think about it. But they decided at once – positively. The same happened with the parents council. And after some longer discussions with the teachers council. So this school started to work, the blended team discovered a lot of ‘building sites’ and strengths of the school. But the pressures on this school – cuts of resources, political motivated problems because of a conservative government which obstructs the school in being comprehensive and doing inclusive education – has led to a very slow speed, so now after two years the important questions are pointed out and questionnaires for students, parents and teachers are prepared. The process will go on.

Example 2: Comprehensive School Cologne-Holweide

Since the status of ‘integration classes’ as a school experiment in secondary education in a western federal state ended after 25 years (!), a reduction of resources took place and a statement of the school was required about continuation or end of ‘integration classes’ at this school. So the teachers discussed about this, made some surveys about the quality of integration at school and decided with a big majority to go on and to extend it to inclusive education. When this statement was given, the students council protested because of two reasons: First because students were not involved and second because this topic should not be discussible, because integration being a part of the profile of this particular school! One teacher asked the students representatives whether their statement really would be representative for all the 1750 students. Therefore the students decided to do a survey, supported by an extern expert. So they started to think about inclusive education, about the Index and about meaningful questions. Within a short amount of time it was very clear, that the survey could not be about ‘integration classes’ but about strengths and ‘building sites’ of the school. So the students developed a questionnaire in collaboration with the University of Halle about quality of school, quality of learning, discrimination of students under different aspects of heterogeneity, team-teaching, practical learning in project-firms and the best and most critical items of the school. Many e-mails have been sent between students of the school and between them and students at the research seminar of the university, and finally the seventh version was taken for the survey.

After the survey 1330 questionnaires from grade 5 to 12 arrived at university for input and analysis of data. Some weeks later a delegation of students of the school visited the university for a discussion about the results of the survey (see Schwager 2004):

After the analysis of the data four students of the school presented their research on a conference of inclusion researcher of German speaking countries. And now they discuss their results with the students council, especially about the self-exclusion of some groups – supported by a final exam work of one of our university students. Meanwhile the parents council also started a survey about the opinions of parents about the school. So the discussions continue.

Fig. 3: Presentation of results of students councils research on a conference of inclusion researcher of German speaking countries

In this case the Index was introduced to the school-community through a group of the students council. This made sense not only because of the student’s interests, but also because the school already had done a lot of actions for professional development and it would have provoked some resistance by teachers if there would have been some additional material for self evaluation. Our role was not more than to support the research of students at school – their research.

Example 3: Primary School in Wolfen

This is a small school with only seven classes from grade one to four in a little town in the eastern federal state we live in. In this school a group of class spokesmen is working with one teacher facilitating them. This group already had done some survey about contentedness of the students with their teachers. So it was easy to continue the work about school quality after getting in contact with this school by working on teaching projects with a seminar at university.

Fig. 4: Control of the questionnaire at Primary School in Wolfen

We asked this group of class spokesmen to start a time journey that takes them one year ahead and to experience the best school they could imagine (following the approach of person-centred planning, see O’Brien & O’Brien 2000, 2002). Recording this on an overhead sheet we deduced the questionnaire – and for this the Index gave orientation. At a next meeting the group controlled the questionnaire in terms of clarity and understandability and did some corrections. So now the results have to be put up for discussion. And again – our role is not more than supporting the research of the students.


Up to now there is no systematic research about the use of the Index in Germany. But as far as we know and as the examples show there are quite different ways of using the Index in our quite differing country. They make clear, that the Index provides a wide framework which has to be adapted to the conditions and needs of the individual school. Of course working with the Index cannot change the whole educational system, cannot bring in more money for education, cannot make the system generally less rigid and more democratic, but it can increase the ability of an individual school to reach a better quality, to work better together, to think about and to do more systematically school development, to overcome barriers of learning and participation within this school, to empower the role of students, really to be a democratic school for all.

It could be one of the problems based on the cultural background, that many Germans tend towards a very systematically course of action which needs a lot of time and could make the whole process not even smooth. Systematic research will start in summer 2005, connected to the development of the whole day school in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. And to us one thing is very clear: Even s chools within a segregated system have a tremendous need on the topic of how to deal with heterogeneity.


Boban , Ines & Hinz, Andreas (Hrsg.) ( 2003) : Index für Inklusion. Lernen und Teilhabe in Schulen der Vielfalt entwickeln. (Übersetzte und adaptierte deutsche Fassung von Booth, Tony & Ainscow, Mel ( 22002): Index for Inclusion. Developing Learning and Participation in Schools.) Halle (Saale): Martin-Luther-Universität (Index for Inclusion. Developing Learning and Participation in Schools [translated and adapted German version of the Index for Inclusion].)

Hinz , Andreas (2004): From Segregation to Inclusion in Germany. In: Heung, Vivien & Ainscow, Mel (Eds.): Inclusive Education: A Framework for Reform. Hong Kong: Institute of Education, 135-145

Hinz , Andreas (2005): Towards Inclusive Education in Germany – Structures, Practices, Theoretical Approaches. In: Bunch, Gary (Ed.): International Inclusive Education. Toronto: Inclusion Press (in press)

O'Brien , John & O'Brien, Connie Lyle (Eds.) ( 22000): A little book about Person Centered Planning. Toronto: Inclusion Press

O'Brien , John & O'Brien, Connie Lyle (Eds.) (2002): Implementing Person-Centered Planning. Voices of Experiences. Toronto: Inclusion Press

Schwager , Michael (2004): Erste Ergebnisse der SV-SchülerInnenbefragung an der IGS Köln-Holweide. Powerpoint-Präsentation. (First results of the students survey by students council at the Comprehensive School Cologne-Holweide. Powerpoint-presentation.)

Wehrli , Ursus ( 2002): Kunst aufräumen. Zürich: Kein & Aber (Tyding-Up Art.)

Wehrli , Ursus (2004): Noch mehr Kunst aufräumen. Zürich: Kein & Aber (Some more tyding-Up Art.)


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