Chapter Three Inclusion
Changes to Special Education policy within a wider shift to inclusion in New Zealand from 1989 have impacted on the way education is delivered to students with additional education needs, and have continued to attract academic commentary. However, New Zealand’s legislative attempts to interrupt the nation’s long history of exclusionary forms of Special Education have not been straightforward, largely because of confusion around the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive education’, and also because of funding mechanisms that have complicated the planning and delivery of services in schools. The primary aim of inclusion and inclusive education has been to enable all students to have access to a meaningful education experience alongside their age peers in an environment that respects and validates them all. For students requiring additional educational support, this aim is entrenched in Ministry of Education Special Education policies and expectations, is a requirement for Boards of Trustees, forms an essential part of the National Education Guidelines (Ministry of Education, 1989a) and the work of the Education Review Office (ERO), and is written into the graduating teaching standards.
As discussed in Chapter Two, the major restructuring of New Zealand’s education system following the Education Act of 1989 reflected the tensions emanating from economic and social changes in the previous two decades. However, the plan to implement an inclusive education system was not laid out comprehensively for a further seven years, and once formulated, was fraught with challenges as successive governments grappled with the neoliberal marketisation of education that continued to dominate government endeavours and shape the nature of educational governance. For inclusion to be talked about without a clearly delineated policy direction was difficult enough, but because the principle of inclusion was at odds with past policy and practice, an additional layer of tension was added. Having taken segregated educational provision for granted historically, attitudinal change was a crucial element in supporting the attainment of successful inclusive schools and classrooms. The shift to inclusion required more than a policy statement to enable such a major philosophical reorientation (Annan & Mentis, 2013; Kearney & Kane, 2006).
Educators have also grappled with oscillating understandings of inclusion and inclusive education as the basis for practice, especially given the devolution of much government spending through which schools became rightful contenders for Ministry of Education funds to implement the policy. As Allan (2003) explains, in the challenge to achieve inclusive education there is also need for a pedagogical debate. It is over 30 years since the policy shift and New Zealand still struggles to interpret the theoretical underpinnings of the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive education’. Ideas about ‘innate problems’ of the individual that functioned to exclude young people from the regular national schooling system prior to the Education Act 1989 continue to be legitimated within the notion of individual difference and the discourse of ‘needs’ (Selvaraj, 2015).
This chapter argues that problems in achieving inclusive education continue to be, to a large extent, problems of uncertainty about what this term really means. With reference to national and international literature, it articulates the lack of consensus in past and current debates on inclusion and inclusive education, and considers the implications for meeting the aims and objectives of this direction for education. In particular, the impact of intersecting discourses of inclusion and diversity; inclusion and Special Education; and inclusion as policy and practice are demonstrated. To support the aims of the thesis in providing insights into possibilities for mediating the gap between policy and implementation through conducting empirical work in the fields of pre-service teacher education and secondary education, the chapter concludes with an examination of some key items of literature in these two aspects of the field, and juxtaposes the issues they raise with recent initiatives in New Zealand.
Inclusion: a quest for clarity
In a comprehensive collection of published works related to Special Education and inclusion, Mitchell (2006) noted that his key aim was to demonstrate how the fields of Special Education and inclusion had developed philosophically and technically since the 1970s. At the time of his writing, Mitchell (2006) claimed that Special Education was “facing a crisis of identity, with no issue more acute than its relationship to inclusive education” (p. 1). That ongoing relationship has been an equally problematic factor in making sense of what inclusion is and/or should be, and how it should be expressed in inclusive education. It remains so today.
The origins of inclusion as the new philosophical underpinnings of schooling are embedded within developments in Special Education that followed the contestation about segregation in the 1960s and international concerns for human rights (Ainscow, 2000; Osgood, 2005; Winzer, 2009). It was in part a response to the limitations of integration and mainstreaming in confronting the discrimination and social exclusion that had been identified through the social movements (Armstrong, Armstrong, & Spandagou, 2011; Brown & Thomson, 2005; Slee, 2001). Critique of the often inappropriate synonymous use of the terms integration and inclusion has, therefore, been integral to that response (Barth, 1996). As Dixon (2005) explains, it is one thing to share a physical space and another thing altogether to experience a sense of belonging in that space. At the same time, the realm of Special Education had shifted, with a (re)definition and expansion of categories, to highlight an over-representation of minority groups in the sector (Artiles, 2003; Heller, Holtzman, & Messick, 1982; Tomlinson, 1982).
As a theoretical concept, inclusion also reflects developments within Special Education research. These have underpinned a shift in discourse from deviance to inclusion (Lipsky & Gartner, 1996; 1999); the explanation of difference from essentialist to social (Oliver, 1991); and the complexities that are recognised in a postmodern discourse of diversity (Artiles, 2003; Brown & Thomson, 2005). The concept of inclusion as underpinning policy reflects also the influence of disability studies and arguments for the rights of students with ‘special educational needs’ to be schooled with their age peers (Oliver & Barnes, 2010). The current policy, therefore, has located inclusive education central to school performance, as opposed to looking at individuals who have deficits (Dyson, Farrell, Polat, Hutcheson, & Gallannaugh, 2004).
Inclusion has demanded serious changes, “both in terms of society and its economic, social conditions and relations and in the schools of which they are a part” (Barton, 1998, p. 60). This is one possible explanation of why positive attitudes can still be met with resistance in practice. As a response to changes in society, O’Rourke (2015, p. 530) explains, inclusion requires “profound changes in the way we do things”. This can inspire dichotomous responses, he suggests, because it is “championed by true believers and villainised by those more resistant to change” (p. 530). Nonetheless, through the disability movement, and drawing on the possibilities in critical theory that seek social change and empowerment, inclusion owes much of its impetus to critically informed action (Oliver & Barnes, 2010). Parental, teacher and other interest group expressions of dissatisfaction with and resistance to ‘special’ institutional arrangements have been, and remain crucial to change (Dudley-Marling & Burns, 2014; Skrtic, 1991; 1995a; Stephenson & Thomson, 2014).
Initially concerned to question issues related to physical presence in schools, the later focus on understandings of inclusion has been about the nature and outcomes of the schooling experience and the rights of all students to attend their local school in a welcoming environment that values and validates participation of, and supports learning for, all students. As explained by Ainscow, Dyson and Weiner (2013, p. 16), this is a shift that encapsulates the importance of “presence, participation and achievement”. Schools with an inclusive culture will support participation that is meaningful and educationally effective within a safe and supportive environment. Yet, as Kearney (2011) points out, it is important not to lose sight of the legacy of exclusion as an explanatory factor in the struggle for inclusion. It is in exclusion, she argues, that can be found “the forces that are working against the presence, participation and learning” today (p. 2).
In New Zealand as elsewhere in the western world, inclusive education was explicitly articulated to reinforce a policy direction through which all students should be schooled in an inclusive classroom setting where additional paraprofessional and equipment support, curriculum adaptation and other resources and organisational structures would be provided to meet the needs of all learners (Thomson et al., 2003). It anticipated the creation of learning communities in the least restrictive environment which, within this discourse, is the general or regular education classroom. It holds the key to safe and meaningful participation in regular classrooms as the right of all students. For students who traditionally have been physically excluded and educationally undervalued, it has emancipatory objectives at its core
According to Allan (2006) and Slee (2006), however, inclusion and inclusive education are contestable concepts that have been framed in different ways across different historical and geographical contexts. For Hegarty (2001), conceptual and practical issues must be taken into account. Although similarities in policy direction and practice have been noted throughout much of the world, the purpose and form of inclusive education are reflective of nationally and historically specific social, political, economic and cultural contexts (Mitchell, 2010). What inclusive education might ‘look like’ in any context has long been a crucial question (Friend, 2006; Sebba & Ainscow, 1996). Theorists such as Armstrong et al. (2011) see differences as a reflection of the North/South power relations of the globalised world. In the North, they contend, effective inclusion is measured by the extent to which inclusion is managed with the least possible interruption to the wider schooling system and its demonstrated academic success. In the South, the role of post-colonial relations, development, and voluntary endeavour are integral to the process.
For Srivastava, de Boer and Pijl (2015), the western world contrasts starkly with that of developing countries where, they say, students are “more excluded than included” (p. 181). Here also there has been some change, but a review of literature from the past 10 years identified that, of 140 countries studied, only 16 had engaged in projects that focused on inclusion for students with disabilities. Srivastava et al. (2015) also note the possibility that where inclusion is a feature in the developing world, the likelihood of NGO contribution is strong. The outcomes, however, suggest that in developing countries, as in the west, including students with disabilities in regular education settings has positive effects. In addition, as some studies have revealed, factors impeding successful implementation of inclusive education in the developing world bear some similarities to those experienced in the west (Khan, 2011).
The difficulties of translating the principles of inclusive education into practice have, therefore, been multi-dimensional (Higgins et al., 2009). Part of the confusion has occurred because the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive education’ have come to be considered as descriptors for all expected educational practices, sometimes with and sometimes without reference to children who, traditionally, have been considered to have ‘special educational needs’ and disabilities. Justification for inclusion as a policy objective has included recognition of the possibilities in an inclusive education system for addressing wider social issues and discrimination – as a mechanism to enable all children to achieve to their full potential (Carrington & Robinson, 2004). For Māori in New Zealand, for example, a policy of inclusion speaks to their history of marginalisation.
The core Māori values that support inclusion, as explained by Bevan-Brown (2012), are culturally appropriate provisions, which for Māori would contribute to the greater inclusion of all students, regardless of their individual needs. Bevan-Brown also acknowledged the significance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi). As the country’s founding document, Te Tiriti is at the core of Māori rights and needs, being based on the principles of partnership, participation and protection of Māori lands, culture and language, it gave Māori the same rights and privileges as Pākehā. Also significant was the Education Act 1989, specifically Section 8, which enshrined in law a child’s right to attend their local school (p. 572). In her study, Bevan-Brown noted the impact of the Eurocentric understanding of what constitutes disability. For Māori, this was more about a loss of land, culture, identity, knowledge base, values, practices and language, an opposing view to that which centred on a Pākehā concept of individual pathology (Kingi & Bray, 2000; Phillips, 2005).
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Policy
Chapter 3 Inclusion
Chapter 4 Research Methodology
Chapter 5 Study One: Pre-Service Teachers
Chapter 6 Study Two: Secondary School Educators
Chapter 7 Study Three: Documents
Chapter 8 Conclusion
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Inclusion in New Zealand Secondary Schools: Policy and Practice