Contributions from: David Mitchell - New Zealand, Lilian Lomofsky - South Africa. Nathalie Belanger, Gary Thomas, Lani Florian and Martyn Rouse - UK.
There are few issues that have attracted as much publicity and controversy as special education. For most of the last 20 years, special education has been a battleground as protagonists have vigorously debated a wide range of issues. Some of these have been quite specific to the field of special education, while others have been more general, with special education becoming the proxy for wider concerns such as political, legal or social ideology. Comparisons between the development of special education in different countries therefore offer a potential exploration of the larger political, social and legal issues which influence education reforms. How have political predilections set by governments, the courts or special interest groups interacted with public expectation and institutional policy? Further, each jurisdiction is rapidly evolving, resulting in major shifts in policy and practices, often poorly informed by the experiences of others, and therefore without considering their potential impacts in the practices of special education and on the larger teaching profession. We propose to compare and contrast such principles of special education as integration/mainstreaming, equal educational opportunity and access, teacher and school accountability and contestability, and the provision and raille ized of special educational services. Prominent policy researchers from six countries, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, France and South Africa are brought together to examine the context and trends in each country in order to compare policies, practices and outcomes for special education, with a focus on delivery of programs and services such as mainstreaming/inclusion. The symposium will provide the opportunity for us and our audience to compare the impact of change in each country and to predict the outcomes which might occur in countries which are in the process of implementing similar policies.
1. New Zealand
David Mitchell, (Symposium Discussant) University of Waikato, New Zealand
There are few sectors in New Zealand education that have been as frequently reviewed and subjected to such wide-ranging policy changes as special education. The evolution of special education policy that has taken place in the decade since 1989 reflects the coalescence of several paradigm shifts. Some of these have been in the field of special education, where there has been an international shift away from categorising students in terms of their disabilities, to making judgements on their needs for educational support, and away from segregated educational provisions to more inclusive approaches. Others reflect changes in the broader education system, in particular the shift towards more local control of decision-making about resource allocation. This paper will examine the tensions inherent to these paradigm shifts and the interactions between them.
2. Great Britain and the US School reform and special education in
Britain and the United States
Martyn Rouse, Institute of Education, University of Cambridge UK
Governments around the world have become increasingly concerned about education during the past decade because it is seen as the cause of, or the potential cure for, many of society's ills. In some countries, the process of reforming schools to make them more accountable and to raise academic standards began in the nineteen eighties and has continued without pause since then. School reform is an international phenomenon, the United States and the United Kingdom being two of the countries that continue to experience a series of major changes to the structure, organisation and content of their educational systems. Since the agenda of these reforms is primarily about raising academic standards, it is not surprising that students who find learning difficult have not been the central focus of many of these initiatives. Indeed, it could be argued that in the first phase of the reforms, students with disabilities were irrelevant to the agenda of policy makers. This paper reports comparative research carried out over a number of years that has examined the opportunities, dilemmas and tensions associated with the education of students with special needs in the context of the reform agenda in Britain and the United States. Parallels may be drawn between two systems that have a long history of 'borrowing' ideas from each other. In both countries the pace of change has been remarkable, but the chronology of the changes is different. Thus, there are opportunities for the study of the impact of change in one country before it is implemented elsewhere.
3. Great Britain: lnclusional Rhetoric and Segregative
Gary Thomas, and Chair, Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley, Oxon UK
One of the principal advisers to the government in the drafting of the central piece of UK education legislation this century was Sir Cyril Burt. In the 1944 Education Act he established 10 categories of special school in a system of categorisation from which we have been trying, without success, to escape since the late 70s. Since that time, conservative governments have spoken the language of inclusion and passed legislation notionally encouraging it while maintaining all the paraphernalia of exclusion. The outward response to an increasingly anti-discriminatory environment has been the use of an inclusion rhetoric, with the simultaneous and dogged maintenance of administrative and fiscal systems which reproduce special education structures, segregation and exclusion. There is, in other words, a disparity between an inclusional imperative for public consumption and a more market-driven and pragmatic emphasis on maintaining the status quo for as long as possible. In the two decades since legislation has been passed, there has been little or no discernible move away from special schooling. I shall look to Bourdieu for an explanation for the need for the reproduction of existing structures and argue, after Rorty, that the role of the academic in changing to a more inclusive school system is to focus on the detailed and difficult agenda of administrative and fiscal measures needed to effect such change.
4. Great Britain: Secondary Reform in the UK: Inclusive Classroom
Practice and the Demand For Higher Standards
Lani Florian , University of Maryland, USA and University of Cambridge UK
Although there is some agreement in the professional literature about the teaching strategies thought to promote inclusive practice, little is known about how they are used in secondary schools, given the demands of the national curriculum and the call for higher standards for all pupils, including those with a wide range of needs. This paper reports on recent research in five English secondary schools designed to ascertain the extent to which teachers from different subject areas are familiar with, make use of and consider effective, the strategies and techniques that are thought to promote inclusive classroom practice. Findings illuminate the impact of the national curriculum and national systems of assessment on such practice, and the paradoxes which these create for teachers.
5. Ontario, Canada: Reversing the gains made in special
Anne Jordan, (Symposium organizer and session chair) Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
From 1997 to the present, Ontario Education has undergone major reforms that are designed to make schools more accountable for student achievement and for spending. The reforms share many of the characteristics of market-based or business models which emphasize public accountability and contestability between agencies to provide service. There has also been a devolution of decision making to local school councils which consist of elected parents of students in each school. As in several States in the U.S., the government now releases the average school scores for student performance on province-wide tests of language and mathematics achievement. These changes will be examined in terms of the provision of services to students with special education needs, using a comparison of the impact on such students of policy shifts in other jurisdictions which have adopted similar reforms. The case will be made that the integration of students with special needs and other reform policies which were designed to comply with United Nations and national Canadian Charter provisions of rights to equal educational opportunity cannot be met within the provincial reform initiatives, and that they present educators and parents with untenable paradoxes in meeting student needs with equity. Implications are drawn for education systems that are governed at a local level, with a permissive rather than mandatory state provision for equality of educational opportunity.
6. France: The Republican tradition of care
Natalie Belanger, Assistant , Franco-Ontarian Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
If we examine the major French policies relating to special education since the beginning of the twentieth century, it is clear that they progressively articulate a substantive idea of equality, although some of these are considered today to be highly discriminatory. The purpose of these policies was to provide educational opportunity to every student and "care" to every citizen by attempting to provide an institutional response to needs. However, in France like in the United States and United Kingdom, some disability advocate groups, wish to move away from the State's "medical model" and "needs approach", which seems to locate difficulty only within the individual. These advocacy groups argue for legislating "rights" rather than individual "needs". They try to promote an approach in terms of equity and social participation. However, the goals of social participation cannot be achieved in France easily, since the French Republican tradition is attached to a sovereign law that purports to express the general will of the population, and consequently allows little room for claims of particular groups for "positive discrimination". In this republican tradition, which contrasts with the trends towards decentralization of other first world countries, recent French policies regarding special education and school integration will be examined.
7. South Africa: Special education as a case of social
Li]ian Lomofsky, University of the Western Cape, Capetown, South Africa
Since 1994 the new democratic South Africa has been in a process of social, political, economic and educational transformation aimed at developing an egalitarian and healthy society. In order to redress the injustices of the past, general education has been transformed into a unitary non-racial system and the demand to meet the special education needs of all learners with the provision of support services is great. Recommendations for legislative changes have been guided by the following principles : the human right to basic education, a unitary system reflecting non-discrimination, redress of educational inequalities and recognition of democratic rights for teachers, parents and students. Besides the integration of education into one non-racial system, there is also a growing practice of ensuring the inclusion of learners with special needs into the mainstream. While this is legislated in the S.A. Schools Act it is by no means a universal phenomenon.
The move towards inclusive education is a moral issue related to human values. In redressing past deficiencies, the government is attempting to restructure and strengthen the mainstream with the introduction of a new National Outcome-Based Curriculum which aims to develop learners who will cope with a technological society and compete in a market related global economy. The National Curriculum is by nature inclusive of learners with special educational needs by accommodating a diverse range of learning and educational needs. However, inclusive education presupposes the availability of strong and adequate support services emanating from within the school as well as backup support from the district. This creates a challenge for special education whereby the legacy of the past has created a teaching force who, by and large, are unprepared for the innovation and changes dictated by policy.