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Article

The concept of inclusive education and the way it is considered within the educational policy frameworks of European countries have changed and are still changing. Inclusive education is increasingly being understood as a systemic approach to education for all learners of any age; the goal is to provide all learners with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community, alongside their friends and peers. There is a need to examine the policy of inclusive education, both its recent changes and its future direction, that European countries are undertaking, highlighting implications for both practitioners and academic researchers. Such an examination should not focus on practice—that is, the actual implementation of country policy—or on academic research into policy or practice for inclusive education in countries. Rather, it should focus on recent policy developments that are shaping practice in European schools, as well as potential future developments. The key messages emerging from a consideration of the European experience are highly applicable to other global regions.

Article

There exists today a critical discourse on educational policy, as it has evolved alongside dominant notions of development and its critique. This dominant notion of development emerged following the Second World War. At that time, the global order was characterized by a cold war, with its bipolar division of a “First World” and a “Second World,” based on ideological grounds. There emerged simultaneously, a conglomerate of countries referred to as the “Third World,” sharing a common colonial past, located mostly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and viewed to be in need of development. Underdevelopment in these countries was a construct—understood as descriptive structural features of poverty, illiteracy, traditional orientation, among others. Economic growth and modernization were the prescribed measures for development—as if the “Third World” would progress by following the structural features of more “evolved” Western countries. Education was an important tool in this project, responsible for creating the appropriate civic attitudes both for modernization and for stimulating economic growth. The human capital theory was an economic variant of the ideas of modernization—it underscored the notion that investments in education were akin to physical capital; these would yield future benefits to society. There was an abundant desire amongst the political elites of these newly independent countries to provide for mass education as a way of liberation and progress. National education policies, and systems to implement them, were set up incorporating these ideas. Leading international organizations—such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), later the World Bank, and now the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), helped translate these ideas into policy choices and influence agenda setting for educational policy. By the 1990s, there was abundant critique of modernization as development and of national systems of education as systems of power bereft of normative ideas about the intrinsic value of education. This gap was filled by the capabilities approach enunciated by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. The capabilities approach argues that the ends of development are not simply economic growth, but the expansion of opportunities and substantive freedoms. Education is intrinsic to the development of capabilities and for substantive freedoms. Since the 1990s, the capabilities approach and the human development paradigm have been guiding influences in development policy and education. Education policies influenced by the human development paradigm recognize the complex challenges poor people face and do not advance a fixed template of policy prescriptions in the name of development. Following the Education For All conference in 1990 and, a decade later, the adoption of Millennium Development Goals in 2000, there have been significant efforts, on a global scale, toward converging the educational policy ideas and actions of international agencies and national governments. Simultaneously, the expansion of globalization on an unprecedented scale now influences education policy in unanticipated ways, as the nation-state declines in importance. In an era of global governance, transnational policies on education that emphasize learning achievements, benchmarking, and testing are gaining currency. National education systems may no longer matter. Globalization, especially its alliance with neo-liberalism, also finds strong criticism from social movements and from scholars who question development, argue in favor of post-development, and call for respect and recognition of diversity of competing epistemes of learning.

Article

Ann Cheryl Armstrong and Derrick Armstrong

The Pacific island countries occupy over 1000 islands in the world’s largest ocean. Their histories and traditions have created bonds between nations that run deep in the cultures of the region. Yet, across this vast ocean, the cultures of the region also differ significantly. The introduction of Western forms of education have often ignored these cultures. Currently, “inclusive education” programs are being promoted in the region, particularly by outside agencies and funding bodies. The disability-inclusion model that underpins many of these initiatives comes from outside the region, and attempts to engage with the cultures of the region in promoting these initiatives have tended to be very limited. Often the initiatives promote an agenda that draws its direction and purpose from the donor countries rather than those of aid-recipient countries. Interaction between cultures over different perspectives and priorities is very healthy but the process of implementation can also easily be detached from the experience and worldviews of the recipients of these programs. Engaging with cultures and the social experience of the citizens of the island countries of the Pacific should be the starting point for the development of educational policy and practice so that the disempowerment of external imposition is avoided. In this chapter we argue that the inclusive education narrative of the Pacific island countries is often subsumed by, and therefore becomes ‘lost’ within, the broader context of the Asia-Pacific which is much larger and includes the world’s most populous countries. We conclude by advocating that research needs to be conducted on issues and cultures in the Pacific region that can contribute to the development of more meaningful and contextual approaches to inclusive education.

Article

The challenge of providing education that is inclusive and seen as equitable for all children is one that has exercised policy makers and education professionals in most countries throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. International agreements such as UNESCO’s 1990 Jomtien Declaration and 1994 Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education were instrumental in promoting debate about the rights of children who were denied access to an appropriate schooling and who, in some instances, had no opportunity to obtain any formal education. The Education for All Goals, which were used to prioritize the development of universal primary education, and more recently the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Education Goals, which reiterated a commitment to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (Goal 4), have increased the focus upon developing inclusive education. This has encouraged governments around the world to re-examine the ways in which they provide schooling for their children and young people. With such a plethora of initiatives, agreements, and advice, it is only to be expected that most national administrations have felt it necessary to respond and to demonstrate that they are taking action towards improving educational opportunities for all. However, the relationship between policy and practice is complex; and in some instances, the development of legislation has failed to provide increased equity in the manner that was intended. This article considers two distinctly different routes towards achieving inclusive education and discusses those factors that have either supported or inhibited success. In drawing upon examples from current developments in India, it additionally proposes that researchers who conduct investigations in international contexts should invest time in understanding underlying policy and cultural and historical factors that may impact upon the ways in which we interpret meaning from data.

Article

Crain Soudien and Yusuf Sayed

After 1994, the South African government put in place an ambitious policy framework to transform the system of teacher education to promote equitable quality education for all. This framework has resulted in the merging and integration of all teacher training colleges into the university sector and ended the racially based apartheid system of teacher training. This ambitious policy program, however, is not underpinned by a robust implementation strategy that sufficiently tackles the country’s historic and structural inequities. What is required, it is argued here, is a transformation teacher education strategy that gives concrete expression to the intent of the post-apartheid teacher education policy framework ensuring that high-quality teachers are trained for the schools serving the most marginalized and disadvantaged learners.

Article

International agreements that aim to achieve universal primary education for all children, regardless of need or ability, have ensured that governments around the world have considered policy development to support greater equity in education. Many of the world’s more economically advantaged countries have made significant progress to ensure that all children have opportunities to attend school. Progress has also been evident in countries which are less advantaged, though often this has been inhibited because of a lack of resources and expertise. The relationship between policy, provision, and practice in education is complex, and in responding to international agreements, governments have needed to take account of their own cultural and socio-economic circumstances. While many administrations have adopted models developed in other countries, the need to take account of existing practices and to build upon local expertise is apparent.

Article

Any analysis of inclusive and special education in Asia, past and present, must account for the immense variation in what constitutes Asia and recognize that finding patterns in the development of inclusive and special education across this vast continent is difficult. The variations relate to geographic topography, historical experiences, and cultural values, as well as to contemporary socio-economic and political conditions. For example, although both Oman and Timor Leste struggle with issues of accessibility and providing services in remote areas, Timor Leste’s mountainous terrain presents very different challenges from Oman’s desert conditions. Similarly, the different cultural influences of, say, Hinduism in Nepal, Islam in Jordan, and Buddhism in Cambodia have significant implications for attitudes towards disability, while differences in economic development between Japan and Bangladesh, for instance, have rendered the former a donor of international aid that sets the inclusive education agenda and the latter a recipient of both aid and agenda. While efforts to identify patterns in inclusive education globally have also attempted to define the nature of development in Asia, these analyses do not always account for the unique intra-continental variations. Overlooking these variations in socio-political and economic contexts becomes problematic when attempting to find solutions towards providing culturally responsive and culturally specific services appropriate to these unique circumstances. Additionally troubling is the more recent development of a geopolitical climate which assumes that inclusive and special education could and should, in fact, be the same, whether in Bangladesh or in Japan. Embodied by international aid agencies, such as the World Bank, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), these expectations have been captured within global policies, such as the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education, the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and more recently, the 2015 Millennium Sustainable Goals, and furthered through UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s curriculum packages and professional development training on inclusive education. There is a nascent body of scholars in some Asian countries that is beginning to identify indigenous alternatives, which, if allowed to thrive, could contribute to the development of an amalgamated structure of services that would be more appropriate to the individual contexts.

Article

In 2013, the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China initiated fundamental reforms of the Matriculation English as a Foreign Language Tests (the Matriculation EFL Tests hereafter) in order to solve problems in college admissions and K–12 education. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, provinces announced their specific reform plans. This round of reforms features holding the Matriculation EFL Tests multiple times per year and involving nongovernment testing companies in test development and administration. This indicates China is on the way to aligning with international educational assessment standards and practices. Meanwhile, some proposed reforms are unexpectedly deviating from the longstanding English fever and have triggered heated debates and disputes in China. Proposed reforms of the Matriculation EFL Tests reflect China’s current language policy and the trend of de-Westernization. These reforms will have both positive and negative influences on test development, the K–12 EFL curriculum, instruction, and learning. Social impacts and potential influences on social justice caused by this round of reforms also deserve attention.