Issuu on Google+

MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

“From Unconscious to Conscious Inclusion: Meeting Special Education Needs in China” A review, analysis and evaluation of inclusion in China. The Focus After identifying the major challenges facing education and researching the contemporary issues that affect all aspects of teaching, learning and assessment, the focus of this paper will be Inclusion. Linked to this will be the issue of widening participation. This area has been chosen as it reflects personal practice and the key debates and issues that are highlighted within the paper are constantly faced during my own professional practice. As a tutor delivering a variety of lessons to learners with special learning difficulties and disabilities (SLDD) the issue of inclusion is paramount. Learners should receive a personalised and accessible learning experience without facing any discrimination. Barriers to learning must be addressed to suit all learners’ individual needs. The idea of education representing society is explored by Mittler (2000), in this paper Mittler discusses the notion that education incorporates the principles and ideologies of a wider society. ‘Schools and the education system do not function in isolation. What happens in schools is a reflection of the society in which the school functions’ (Mittler 2000: p1) According to a northern college in the United Kingdom, inclusion can be defined as: “Inclusion is about all learners, staff and visitors. It involves taking action to remove barriers to participation and learning. Inclusion also involves eliminating discrimination and promoting equality.” 1


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

www.otleycollege.ac.uk/documents/edi/edi.pdf Doncaster College has a widening participation statement available on the Internet that states: “Education promotes social change by combating exclusion and, in this regard all staff are committed to promoting learning amongst those who have traditionally

been

excluded

from

education.”

http://www.don.ac.uk/about__college/equality__diversity/policies.aspx Educational institutions in the United Kingdom provide equality and diversity policies online that are readily accessible to the public. The Equality Act (2010) has replaced all previous equality legislation (education.gov.uk 2012) meaning schools and colleges cannot discriminate against any learner regardless of age, gender, race, disability religion or belief (education.gov.uk 2012). Part of the reason the Chinese case study was chosen was to see how an emerging world superpower deals with disability inclusion. Case Study Selection The idea of exploring how a different culture educates its disabled population was intriguing According to The BBC (2012), China’s economic growth increased rapidly in the 1990’s as a result of ‘mass privatisations’ and foreign investment. It’s claim as an emerging trading superpower wasn’t the only issue of interest. Returning to the Mittler quote, how do the ideological difference of China compare to those of educators, and society in the United Kingdom. The ideological differences between the West and the East also played a big part in the choosing of case study. Pang and Richey (2006) speak about China’s long and thriving education history, how education in China is influenced by Confucian theory; having more honour than vocational training and being in the centre of China’s administrative policies. How would China see children

2


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

with special education needs (SEN) and where would these children fit in China’s long and thriving educational history? The case study that was initially selected was from The Development of Special education in China by Pang and Richey from The International Journal of Special Education (2006). The article was informative and provided a useful insight into the development of special education. After presenting this the feedback received was that the paper was on too large a scale and a micro scale research piece would be more suitable. As a result of this, an article entitled From Unconscious to conscious inclusion: Meeting special education needs in West China was sourced and selected.

Overview and Summary of the Case Study The paper focuses on West China, more specifically four rural counties in Gansu Province. The counties are the poorest in Gansu Province and the paper maps the strategy undertaken by the Gansu Basic Education Project (GBEP) in implementing measures to ensure good learning opportunities. The authors specifically map the development of the special education component of the GBEP. The main purpose of the GBEP according to Deng and Holdsworth (2007) was to increase enrolment and retention in the four poor minority areas, basically an initiative to widen participation in the area and provide a universal education for learners in Gansu Province. Gansu Province has a predominantly rural population; Deng and Holdsworth (2007) state that over 81% of its population live in rural areas. This in itself raises a contemporary issue as China’s urban East is often juxtaposed with the rural West in terms of economy and poverty. According to Deng and Holdsworth (2007) the average income per person was ten times lower than the national average. Accompanying this is the issue of Muslim minorities living within Gansu Province. One of the counties, Linxia Hui Prefecture has a population of 3


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

nearly 1 million of whom 60% were Muslim minorities. (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). Without even discussing the issue of disability education, the paper already highlights socio economic issues and issue of ethnic and religious minorities in relation to education and schooling. According to Deng and Holdsworth (2007) special education institutions were not established until the late 19th century, increasing gradually in number during most of the 20th century; though Pang and Richey (2006) argue that the origin of special education in China can be traced back 2000 years, based on Confucian ideology. They state that ancient texts advocated treating disabled people with tolerance. Both papers agree though that the influence of western organisations was the catalyst of special educational institutions in the early 20th century. According to Deng and Holdsworth (2007) based on a 1987 survey there were 8.14 million children of school age with disabling conditions, 1988 saw less than 7% enrolled in school. Defining special educational needs is a challenging and complicated issue, for example according to Deng and Holdsworth (2007) many intellectual disabilities are unrecognised or undiagnosed; autism and some learning difficulties fall under this category. With these barriers to learning unrecognised, Deng and Holdsworth state that learners with intellectual disabilities still formed the largest part of the disability population of school age with 5.39 million. If autism and learning difficulties were recognised or diagnosed, this number would be much higher. In the mid 1980’s China launched a nationwide movement gearing education towards inclusion, ‘Learning in Regular Classrooms’ (LRC) (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). In 1988 there were 57600 learners with disabilities enrolled in schools, by 2003 the number had reached 364700 (Ministry of Education of China 2003). Despite this rapid increase, there were still learners excluded from the education system.

4


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

It is worth noting at this point that the paper follows a British funded project from the Department for International Development (DFID) fully supported by Cambridge Education, who according to their website “provide expert education services” camb-ed.com. The authors Meng Deng and Janet C. Holdsworth are from Huazhong Normal University in China and Cambridge Education respectively. The fact that one of the authors was from the consultancy organisation that supported the project could raise questions of reliability and bias. The project began in 1999 and continued until 2005 (Deng and Holdsworth 2007) with the special needs component starting in 2002. It focused on ideological and practical changes (Deng and Holdworth 2007). Important phrases mentioned in the paper at this point are ‘awareness’ and ‘acceptance’, key words when discussing inclusion and widening participation. From a professional perspective, with awareness and acceptance comes enrolment and quality of teaching, this is a focus of the GBEP. The component was implemented in three phases between 2002-2005. Phase A was named baseline, an investigation to obtain data of disability, population, distribution and educational status (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). Phase A was carried out by a team of international, national and local consultants (Deng and Holdsworth 2007) from the project management office. There are no direct references as to who these consultants are other than the fact that they are consultants for DFID/Cambridge Education. This phase saw two main observations; most children with special needs were excluded from education and there were no specialists with knowledge in special education (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). Phase B was named local capacity building, which was further split into 3 interventions. Piloting, development and mass training. The strategy seems to be very linear and initiatives were implemented to ensure that when the project reached its mass training stage there were enough local practitioners who had the training to become qualified local experts.

5


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

Phase B saw 10 ‘outstanding local personnel’ (Deng and Holdsworth 2007) form a writing team for the development of resources and training materials; following this, 33 practitioners standardised the materials to then implement in the third intervention, Mass training where all schools with over 6000 teachers and head teachers attended a 5 day training course. The national and international teams had in essence formed a team of local trainers to bridge the ‘expertise gap’ (Deng and Holdsworth 2007) that had existed in special education. Finally, Phase 3 large-scale implementation made sure that all practitioners fully implemented a special education programme in their school, ensuring the development of an individual education plan and addressing inclusion amongst the requirements. Deng and Holdsworth (2007) state their data was collected from a variety of sources; importantly, they have sourced data from students with disabilities as well as parents, teachers and consultants. They state their methods were used to triangulate a holistic evaluation of the project implementation (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1989). Whilst both quantitative and qualitative research methods had been employed throughout the research the authors state that mainly qualitative investigation formed the study. The qualitative research was undertaken through informal interviews with more than 50 head teachers and teachers interviewed. The authors state that 16 key informants were interviewed more formally with a breakdown of gender and belief a key point to note. During the three years of the project, the authors visited Gansu Province seventeen times with ten visits lasting between two days to one week paid directly to classrooms. The results of the findings are then presented in sub headings; the first main theme is that of unconscious inclusion. The baseline findings showed that while some schools had students with disabilities on their courses, they were often isolated and teachers felt sympathy, this is what the authors define as unconscious inclusion. According to Deng and Holdsworth, enrolment of SEN students increased by 60% since the start of the project. They give a specific 6


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

example of a learner initially refused entry then admitted once the project had been implemented. Deng and Holdsworth (2007) also identify a key factor in inclusion, they state that positive attitudes of stakeholders are the most decisive factor for successful inclusion. Changing attitudes of teachers was imperative as this was something new for locals with many doubting the necessity (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). Labelling and stigma was an issue for locals, informal terms such as ‘slow’ and outdated terms such as ‘handicapped’ were used and more frightening was the idea that educating these students would bring down the results of the group. Unfortunately, these traditional views still stood strong with locals, parents dubious of the necessity of sending their child to school in fear of bullying or that the project was trying to receive more money from them. The importance of knowledge was a key theme highlighted in the results. The term ‘disability’ was ambiguous, with physical problems such as having six toes being classed as disabled whilst the learners with behavioural issues were undiagnosed and seen as lazy and unsociable. In the UK these issues are addressed at a young age and can be attributed to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum conditions (ASC). Without medical diagnosis, these learners will continue to be excluded from school, despite the intentions of this project. To counteract labelling and stigma, the GBEP included sessions on these major issues and were required to use broad descriptions. Similar to strategies implemented in my own personal practice, the project encouraged peer learning and the authors state this as a key finding. One participant claimed the classrooms were kinder and learning is shared (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). A major difference between the UK and China however is the class sizes, the authors visiting a class with eighty students.

7


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

A poignant finding was when the teams built a disabled toilet, locals didn’t know what to make of it. They didn’t have ‘decent’ toilets themselves but the project and school had provided a disabled toilet for a minority of disabled learners. Deng and Holdsworth (2007) claim that the ideas of the west sometimes proved too challenging and that it would need time to integrate these changes into the minds of the locals. The authors present the issues that are still to be addressed, stating that inclusion is a “long term development issue” and they “would be foolish to expect completion” (Deng and Holdsworth 2007). Issues to be addressed are the need for more resources, effective appraisal methods and a drive for wider social changes. Unfortunately some local teachers believed that once the project had finished, the changes would soon disappear and that cultures would soon set back in, especially concerning gender equity. They conclude that according to Confucian theory, people with disabilities are in “the lowest strata of social life” (Deng and Holdsworth 2007) and that female education is not encouraged. They do believe though that enough progress was made under difficult circumstances to foresee further change in the future Evaluation and Assessment of the Case Study The case study is very thorough in describing the route taken and strategies implemented during the project and give an insight into the challenges faced and issues that are still to be addressed. The authors talk about equity; specifically females in the education system, this is initially highlighted on page 509 with a figure of female enrolment in one of the counties of Gansu project. They fail to follow through with this key issue, only mentioning gender when discussing the sample of key informants and then when talking about cultural issues and beliefs. The equity issue could be researched in a different paper, as the main themes in this article are inclusion and widening participation for learners with SEN. 8


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

Another weakness of the paper is the repeated use of one particular informant, Mr Ma. While there are direct quotes from other sources, Mr Ma is used on a number of occasions and as a result it feels like the researchers haven’t used enough interview quotations in their presentation of the project. I feel that the authors could have visited the classrooms more frequently to further triangulate their data. Deng and Holdsworth visited the classrooms 10 times during three years. The duration of their visits did seem enough to ascertain the data required with visits lasting between two days and a week, they were however vague in how long the actually lasted. Another vague statement was the amount of teachers that were interviewed. The authors claim that ‘over 50’ head teachers and teachers were informally interviewed. Again, we are unaware of specific numbers and the figure of head teachers could be misleading. One accurate figure was the sixteen key informants. The authors were very specific with this key fact addressing the gender, job role and religion. If this was the case for the key informants, the authors could have been more specific with other participants in the project. A pertinent point drawn from the study was the involvement of stakeholders, this can be used for comparative purposes within my own practice. If leaders and practitioners are not enthusiastic about inclusion or delivering a personalised learning experience, the community will fail to embrace the educational establishment. The

project

implemented

SEN

groups

within

the

community

with

representatives from all parts of the project. This could be another strategy that is implemented within the organisation that I work. Sharing good practice and having community involvement would increase enrolment. Conclusion 9


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

In conclusion I feel that this UK funded project has gone some way to addressing SEN inclusion in Rural China, however there are many challenges that need to be addressed in order to provide an accessible education for all. Ideological values and attitudes were challenged to some extent but the culture that is based on centuries of Confucian attitudes will struggle to accept such changes. Enrolment of SEN learners had improved dramatically and China have addressed SEN education with policies, however there is still much room for improvement. As a result of reading this case study there are several other articles that I will explore in the future including the history of SEN in China as a macro study and the juxtaposition between urban East China and rural West. I would also like to further research autism in China as it is currently not recognised as a learning difficulty and is often undiagnosed.

10


MAC01 Contemporary Issues in a Professional Context

Chris Medwell Part II – Case Study

References Meng Deng, Janet C. Holdsworth From unconscious to conscious inclusion: meeting special education needs in West China Disability & Society Vol. 22, Iss. 5, 2007 Mittler, P (2000) Working Towards Inclusive Education: Social Contexts, London, Fulton Yanhui Pang & Dean Richey (Tennessee Technological University) The development of special education in China International Journal of Special Education Vol 21 No1 2006 www.don.ac.uk/about__college/equality__diversity/policies.aspx 14th December 2012

 

11

accessed


MAC01 Pt2