The reform of public education through the application of principles of free-market capitalism, particularly notions of competition and choice, has long enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, reflecting trends in other industrialized countries. The basic assumption is that the competitive pressures of the market, instantiated through various forms of school choice and high-stakes accountability, will necessarily lead to more efficient and effective schools while honoring parents’ right to determine what is best for their children. Concurrently, another group of educational reformers, advocating for the rights of students with disabilities, have pushed for the transformation of schools, with the goal of creating spaces congenial to the range of human differences, including disability. The problem is that the basic assumptions that underpin free-market reforms and the principles of inclusion are incompatible. One of the requirements of school choice, for example, is the production and marketing of data based on standardized assessment practices and standardized curricula. This tendency toward standardization in market-oriented schools, saturated with the ideology of normality, is antithetical to the conception of diversity that informs the desire for inclusive schools.
Katherine Crawford-Garrett and Matthew A.M. Thomas
Over the past two decades, teacher education has been increasingly conceptualized as a policy problem in response to what school reformers, policy-makers, and philanthropists have depicted as a global education crisis necessitating national and international solutions. Teach For All (TFAll), an organization that has sought to respond to global achievement disparities by recruiting elite university graduates to teach in underperforming schools has a presence in more than 45 countries and is a key player in education reform worldwide. In enacting its vision of educational change, TFAll has reshaped notions of teaching at the classroom level by positioning teachers as saviors, leaders, and social engineers; reconfigured city school systems through promoting privatization and deregulation; and contributed to the rapid neoliberalization of education internationally by fundamentally altering educational policies and discourses on a global scale.
Neoliberalism is a political project carried out by the capitalist class to consolidate their ability to generate profits by exercising influence in political processes, such as elections, in order to privatize or direct state institutions and regulatory powers in ways favorable to their interests. These efforts coincide the propagation of a neoliberal common sense that is grounded in an understanding of all aspects of society in economic terms of competition in markets and return on investment. However, in practice, neoliberalism does not promote competitive markets as much as it results in the privatization of public institutions and creation of new sites for private investment through state policies. The field of education, traditionally a site of local democratic control, is increasingly subject to neoliberal governance, as elected school boards are consolidated under appointed leadership, district schools are replaced by charter schools, and school resources, such as curriculum, testing, and even the training of teachers, are provided by private companies. Neoliberalism frames the purpose of education in terms of investments made in the development of students’ human capital. What students should learn and the value of education is relative to their individual prospects for future earnings. This narrowed conception of education raises important questions about the purpose of education and the relationship between schools, democratic life, and state governance. Developing a critical relationship with neoliberal common sense is necessary in order to recognize both how actually existing neoliberal policies primarily serve the interests of capitalists and that there are other, democratic, sources of value and purpose that can ground debates and efforts in the field of education.
Serge Ebersold, Edda Óskarsdóttir, and Amanda Watkins
Financing plays a critical role in achieving more inclusive education systems, and most European countries are considering how the way they fund education impacts the policy goal of more inclusive practice in schools. The way financing is determined in laws and regulations has a direct impact on decision-making and implementation in relation to identifying learners’ educational needs, diagnostic and assessment procedures that might be used. Crucially it impacts on the placement of learners in different types of provision, including separate special classes or special schools. Financing inclusive education systems differs from financing special needs education in several important ways. In addition to providing shared educational opportunities for learners with recognised additional needs with their peers in mainstream settings, financing inclusive education systems aims to enable all learners to gain access to the educational support they are legally entitled to. Financing inclusive education systems is also far more complex than financing general education as it relates to a multilevel and multi-stakeholder framework of policy and provision that includes non-educational aspects of educational provision that are needed to ensure all learners access to high-quality inclusive education. These non-educational aspects may cover factors such as accessibility of the physical environment, specialist support, different resources for reducing the functional consequences of different disabilities, as well as financial support for families in meeting the direct and indirect costs of education. Effective mechanisms for financing inclusive education systems entail the provision of additional funding and resources that encourage mainstream schools to develop inclusive education policies, as well as innovative and flexible learning environments that meet a wider range of learners’ academic and social needs and requirements. A higher amount of funding does not in itself guarantee better learning conditions; the successful implementation of inclusive education policies depends on how funds are allocated and to whom the funds are addressed, rather than solely on how much money is available. Effective inclusive education systems build upon funding mechanisms and strategies that consider and manage the deployment and manipulation of resources at the school level, governance mechanisms, capacity building, and school development approaches. All these strategies must be targeted at achieving the policy goal of more inclusive practice in all schools.
Roseli R. Mello, Marcondy M. de Souza, and Thaís J. Palomino
Self-determination of the original peoples of any nation, preservation of their territories, preservation of traditions, and negotiation of customs facing national cultures are central themes in the debate about and among indigenous peoples in the world. School education is directly linked to such themes as an instrument of acculturation or self-determination and emancipation. As in other countries of the globe, throughout history, what happened and is happening in Brazil is not isolated fact. Current conditions are the product of colonization processes, the development of industrial society, and more recently of globalization. Such historical processes bring struggles, confrontations, transformations, and solidarity. In the legal sphere, international conventions, declarations, and treaties have influenced more or less directly the norms and laws on the subject: from the papal bull and treaties between colonizing kingdoms, to the Declaration of Human Rights, to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, the Brazilian indigenous issue, like that of many other countries, is also based on, supported by, or held back by actions, debates, and international interests. But what makes the case of Brazil worthy of relevance for thinking about indigenous education? Two elements make up an answer: the specific way the governors establish relations with the original peoples, and the fact that Brazil has the greatest diversity of indigenous communities.