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Inclusive Education

A Tame Solution to a Wicked Problem?


Elizabeth Walton

Realising a vision of an educational system that is accessible to all, fosters participation, enables belonging, and results in powerful learning is not easy. This difficulty is caused by the pervasiveness of exclusionary pressures in education that have the potential to confound and constrain efforts towards greater inclusivity. While South Africa has policy and legislation to promote access to education for learners, and secure support for their diverse learning needs, there is still evidence of exclusion from and within schools. This chapter proceeds from the premise that an understanding of the problem of educational exclusion is necessary to ensure that inclusive education is imagined as a reform initiative to promote social justice. Given the complexity and intractability of educational exclusion I use the concept of a ‘wicked problem’ to explore some of the workings of exclusion in education, with particular, though not exclusive, reference to South Africa. Wicked problems are problems that are complex, dynamic, multi-faceted and intractable. I argue that given the complexity of the problem of educational exclusion we cannot afford a ‘tame’ or watered down idea of inclusive education that is merely concerned with ways of ‘accommodating’ learners with additional support needs in ordinary classrooms. Instead, it needs to be a social and political project that is bold enough to identify and challenge the impediments to meaningful inclusion and make the radical changes necessary to ensure quality education for all.

Inclusive Education

Making Sense of Everyday Practice


Edited by Vicky Plows and Ben Whitburn

Inclusive education has emerged internationally over the past thirty years as a way of developing democratic citizenship. Core to inclusive principles are that improved equity in education can only be achieved by eliminating the economic, cultural and physical barriers that currently impede learning for particular students.
To strengthen inclusive practice to this end inexorably requires that we attempt to make sense of it in its current form: to examine how it is enacted in educational settings from early childhood, schools, and communities and further and higher education; to contemplate the restrictions that it might inadvertently create; and to consider its effects on members of educational communities.
Contributions to this edited collection represent diverse perspectives, yet share a commitment to challenging existing forms of educational marginalisation through policy, practice, theory and pedagogy. The chapters emerged from discussions at the inaugural Inclusive Education Summit that was held at Victoria University, Australia in 2015. They present research that was conducted in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Spain and the UK—illustrating transnational interests and diverse approaches to practice.
Presented in four sections—provocations, pushing boundaries, diverse voices, and reflections, the chapters explore everyday practice across a range of contexts: from educating culturally and linguistically diverse, refugee, and/or socially and economically disadvantaged students, to issues of diversity brought about by and through gender, giftedness and disability. The book will appeal to academics, students and practitioners in disciplines including: education, sociology, social work, social policy, early childhood, disability studies, and youth studies.

Doing Inclusive Education Research

Foreword by Michael Apple


Julie Allan and Roger Slee

Those attempting to research inclusive education face an enormous challenge. Not only is it a highly complex field, but it is also fraught with tensions, sometimes spilling into over into disputes between researchers over ideology. Research textbooks present research decision-making as relatively straightforward and offer little help to students and novice researchers on how to navigate complex fields such as inclusive education or understand ideology. Doing Inclusive Education Research is an attempt to lift the lid on the processes of doing research and uncovers the experiences of key researchers in the field. Len Barton, Mike Oliver, David Gillbourn, Deborah Youdell, Stephen Ball, Ellen Brantlinger, Sally Tomlinson, Mel Ainscow, Lani Florian, Alan Dyson, Suzanne Carrington, Ken Kavale, Karen Harris and Kim Cornish have all opened themselves up to scrutiny and reveal the decisions and choices they made at different points of the research process, as well as some of their concerns as they undertook the work. They also respond to the invitation to discuss the positioning of their work and offer their ‘take’ on the ideological battles. Students and all involved in researching inclusive education will find Doing inclusive education research an indispensable, as well as fascinating, insight into the research process and will gain useful advice on how to engage with this complex field.


Jabulani Mpofu and Serefete Molosiwa

This chapter examines the historical and contemporary events influencing disability spaces for learning, teaching and administration of education in Zimbabwe. We reconceptualise and operationalise related practices from a power, knowledge and social difference perspective, projecting social policy driven agendas increasingly inclusive of organisation of and for people with disability. We propose an education community participation that is driven from a democratic citizenship education perspective, rather than one of inclusive education as accommodation, to best represent the development of inclusive learning spaces for learners with disabilities. Concepts from a democratic citizenship education perspective are directly linked and relevant to understanding the history or evolution of inclusive education spaces in the Zimbabwean education system. Applying democratic citizenship education perspectives, we consider the extent to which spaces for learning are welcoming places for all, driven by need rather than [disability] label. This approach shifts the focus away from the service providers to learners making education participation choices or enacting their school community citizenship rights. Prospectively, a rights oriented approach to inclusive education following the UN Conventions on disability rights as human rights will make for more inclusive learning spaces in the Zimbabwean education system, although the government is yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol, a cornerstone for inclusive education.

Ni Zhen

By combining theories of education, human rights law, and political philosophy, the author provides lenses to understanding inclusive education, thereby establishing consensus on the new, cognitive grounds over the description of a better inclusive education system for all children. The investigation is guided by two research questions. The first question concerns what description we should hold for a better education system inclusive of disabled children. The second addresses how to arrive at a consensus over that better system among stakeholders and within the whole society. To answer these questions, the investigation is conducted through both transcendental and comparative routes. Firstly, to contextualize this research, a brief review of theoretical disagreements on inclusive education is provided, and a case study of China’s struggles towards inclusion is presented. The theoretical review and the case study provide concrete information for later assessment and comparison between reality and the ideal plan. Meanwhile, the author discusses ways to go beyond binary thoughts and disorganized practice. To achieve the goal, transcendental thought experiments are employed to generate new grounds for a more comprehensive, inclusive project; the idea of a right to inclusive education is elaborated.

This series addresses the many different forms of exclusion that occur in schooling across a range of international contexts and considers strategies for increasing the inclusion and success of all students. In many school jurisdictions the most reliable predictors of educational failure include poverty, Aboriginality and disability. Traditionally schools have not been pressed to deal with exclusion and failure. Failing students were blamed for their lack of attainment and were either placed in segregated educational settings or encouraged to leave and enter the unskilled labour market. The crisis in the labor market and the call by parents for the inclusion of their children in their neighborhood school has made visible the failure of schools to include all children.
Drawing from a range of researchers and educators from around the world, Studies in Inclusive Education will demonstrate the ways in which schools contribute to the failure of different student identities on the basis of gender, race, language, sexuality, disability, socio-economic status and geographic isolation. This series differs from existing work in inclusive education by expanding the focus from a narrow consideration of what has been traditionally referred to as special educational needs to understand school failure and exclusion in all its forms. Moreover, the series will consider exclusion and inclusion across all sectors of education: early years, elementary and secondary schooling, and higher education.


Serefete M. Molosiwa and Jabulani Mpofu

Inclusive education is fundamental to addressing the needs of diverse learners though it continues to be controversial due to the varied understandings and practices of inclusive philosophy. This chapter highlights inclusive education practices and opportunities in the context of Botswana, particularly paying attention to how inclusive practices have evolved under the different education policies. International policies that cut across countries, such as child-friendly schools and the pastoral care, have contributed immensely to shaping inclusive education practice in most African countries. As signatory to UN conventions, Botswana is mandated by EFA and the MDGs to provide accessible and equitable education opportunities in pursuit of inclusive education, but in practice the country remains somewhat exclusionary due to its special education approach to teaching and learning that is evident in the existing special schools and classrooms. This chapter argues that the special education approach is justifiable, though it may be antithetical to inclusive education. In this chapter inclusive education underscores three theories that are important in guiding the reader to appreciate the authors’ perceptions of the concept, namely social constructivism, socio-cultural theory and the community of learning, all of which draw upon diversity and how learners support each other as they learn together in inclusive classroom settings.

Cui Fengming

While children with disabilities experience exclusion and segregation in education, parents’ involvement has been very limited due to the lack of parent support in China. Negative attitudes toward disability in an environment deeply influenced by the individual model of disability thinking makes it crucial for parents to advocate for their children’s rights in inclusive education through collaborative and organized efforts. This article examines barriers obstructing disabled children’s rights in pursuing inclusive education, barriers parents face to advocate for their children, and the development of parent support. The author argues that equal and inclusive education for all has a broader social impact beyond disability rights to eliminate barriers and pursue dignity for all. In doing so, the author reveals existing structural inequalities facing inclusive education, encourages the momentum for future changes, and utilizes a good example of parent advocacy for a deeper and meaningful policy advancement to overcome discrimination on the basis of disability that causes segregation and exclusion in education. Recommendations include strategies for the construction of a support network for parents to play their important roles in advancing the rights of their disabled children in inclusive education.

Inclusive Education in Italy

A Critical Analysis of the Policy of Integrazione Scolastica


Simona D'Alessio

This book provides an innovative and thought-provoking analysis of the policy of integrazione scolastica from an inclusive perspective. Drawing on historical and empirical research methods the book arises out of an ethnographic study, which investigates the extent to which the policy of integrazione scolastica can be considered an inclusive policy. The author poses two fundamental questions: why are there episodes of micro-exclusion and discrimination against disabled pupils still taking place in regular schools after more than 30 years have passed since the enactment of such a progressive policy? Can the policy of integration lead to the development of inclusion in Italy?
The research findings presented in the book indicate that exclusion and discrimination towards disabled pupils in education do not result from a lack of implementation of the policy at a school level, rather from the perpetuation of dominant discourses, which construct disability as an individual deficit. The book does not deny the progress made in the country following the application of this anti-discriminatory policy; rather it challenges the hegemonic abilist culture and the traditional perspectives of disability and schooling that undermine the development of inclusive education.
After having investigated the theoretical premises of the policy of integration, the author argues that this progressive policy is still rooted in a special needs education paradigm and that what was once a liberating policy has been transformed into a hegemonic tool which still manages, controls and normalizes disability leaving school settings and teaching and learning routines unchanged. She finally argues for a human rights approach for the development of an inclusive school for the 21st century.


This study investigated the attitudes of primary school teachers from the selected rural and urban areas in China toward inclusive education. The results indicated that, (1) teachers’ attitudes are composed of three dimensions: positive and negative effects of inclusion, and benefits of segregated special education; (2) most surveyed teachers demonstrated positive attitudes toward segregated special school education while supporting inclusion; (3) rural and urban teachers held significantly different attitudes toward inclusion, and urban teachers were more negative toward inclusion than rural ones; and (4) teachers’ attitudes were not essentially influenced by resources, teaching years or relevant special education training.