Africa is associated with Ubuntu values such as inclusiveness and treating others with fairness and human dignity. Such values align with human rights and social justice principles and are also integral to a social approach to inclusive education. However, there are several contextual and interconnected dynamics—environmental, cultural, and systemic—which impact on education systems and must be acknowledged when considering inclusive and special education. Several global developments have been endorsed and ratified by most African countries, such as the Education for All campaign, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of the SDG 4 framework, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, due to an African renaissance in the building of human capital since the 19th century, education policies and practices are also transforming to address the specific needs of the African context. Human rights and social justice are sanctioned as basic principles of education by the majority of African countries. Great strides have consequently been made in the development of education policies to address the inclusive education drive. However, the emphasis in these education policies seems to be on integrating students with special needs or disabilities into public education, mainly by placing them in separate units or classes attached to mainstream schools, or in special schools. It is therefore essential that, within the Ubuntu approach of everyone belonging to a greater community, both local communities and wider society make a commitment wherein interactive political, cultural, social, environmental, and systemic dynamics influencing learning, as well as causing learning breakdown, are acknowledged and addressed. A focus on the individual child as a problem to be remediated and segregated from mainstream society and education should therefore be rejected. Consequently, The education community (including governments, education departments, local education offices, schools, teachers, parents, and learners) must regularly come together to reflect and develop in-depth understanding of the philosophy, theory, terminology, and practice of inclusive education within the African context, which should then reflect in specific developed policies and consequent practices.
Fikile Nxumalo, Lisa-Marie Gagliardi, and Hye Ryung Won
Inquiry-based curriculum is a responsive approach to education in which young children are viewed as capable protagonists of their learning. Inquiry-based curriculum has the potential to challenge the dominance of developmental psychology as the primary way of understanding young children’s learning. This approach to curriculum-making also disrupts the instrumentalist “technician” image of the early childhood educator. Practices of inquiry-based curriculum can also extend beyond the early childhood classroom as a potentially transformative teacher education tool, and as a research methodology that counters dominant deficit discourses of childhood. Inquiry-based curriculum in North American early childhood education has been greatly influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach, which is a powerful alternative to predetermined theme-based didactic curriculum. The revolutionary possibilities of inquiry-based curriculum, inspired by Reggio Emilia, are not standardized frameworks to be copied in practice; rather, they create critical entry points into contextual, creative, rigorous, meaningful, and justice-oriented curriculum. One of these entry points is the practice of pedagogical documentation, which not only makes children’s learning visible but also enables educators’ and researchers’ critical reflection. Such reflections can act to foreground the complex, political, and dialogical thinking, doing, and exchanging that happens in inquiry-based early childhood education classrooms. Reggio Emilia–inspired inquiry-based curriculum has brought attention to the important role of the arts in young children’s inquiries. Important research in this area includes work that has put new materialist perspectives to work to gain insight into new pedagogical and curricular possibilities that are made possible by attuning to children’s relations with materials, where materials are active participants in learning. While more research is needed in this area, recent research has also engaged with how attention to the arts and materials does not preclude attending to and responding to issues of race and racialization. In U.S. early learning contexts, an important area of research in inquiry-based curriculum has demonstrated that this approach, alongside a pedagogy of listening, is central to shifting deficit-based practices with historically marginalized children. This is important work as access to dynamic inquiry-based curriculum remains inaccessible to many young children of color, particularly within increasing policy pressures to prepare children for standardized testing. Finally, there is a growing body of work that is investigating possibilities for inquiry-based curriculum that is responsive to the inequitably distributed environmental precarities that young children are inheriting. This work is an important direction for research in inquiry-based curriculum as it proposes a radical shift from individualist and humanist modes of understanding childhood and childhood learning.
Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.