10 SES 09 A, Teacher Education: Future, Potential, Image
This paper presents a research project of the Finnish school in an educational inclusive reform process (Rajakaltio & Mäkinen 2013). The project is anchored in the transformative educational reform based on the renewed legislation (Basic Education Act, 2010) and changes in the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (2010). The reform is consistent with the recent UNESCO (2009) policy guidelines that focus on inclusion by suggesting that the ultimate goal for equity in education is to promote participation and equal opportunities for all students (e.g. Ainscow, Booth & Dyson, 2006; Ferguson, 2008).
In this paper we focus, particularly, on the sub-study within the pre-service teachers as investigators exploring the Finnish schools in the midst of this educational reform. Hence, this sub-study makes a contribution to the teacher education research by presenting insights on the steps the schools are taking towards inclusive school culture examined and interpreted through the lens of pre-service teachers. Accordingly, in this paper we present a study addressed the following research questions:
- What are the pre-service teachers’ interpretations of the implementation of inclusive reform at the school level?
- What are the key factors that seem to promote or hinder the development of inclusive culture from the prospective teachers’ perspective?
We are inspired by the notion that the challenge for us as teacher educators is twofold: How to challenge pre-service teachers in critical observations and reflections on recently reformed inclusive oriented support system at the school level, and prepare them to meet the challenges of the students by maximizing their growing and learning opportunities in inclusive setting.
Context of the study
It has been quite corollary to agree inclusion ideology in Finland because education has traditionally been perceived as a mechanism for enhancing social justice, equity and equality (Sahlberg, 2011). However, the current education policy has become controversial and complex. The excellent PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) achievement (e.g. OECD, 2010), for example, has created tensions in schools to reproduce the success by raising the effectiveness of practices, by extending the requirements of knowledge content and academic achievement in the National Core Curriculum, facing pressure moving towards standardization and test-based accountability. The Finnish education system seems to be in a turning point in choosing the future way. As yet, Finland has not chosen a high-stakes testing policy as most countries have but is looking for a new way (Sahlberg, 2011; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009). The question is heard, the Finnish comprehensive school is moving in a more sustainable and creative direction or is it to an increasing extent in the instrumental stranglehold of neoliberal education policy.
The global pursuit of enhancing inclusion stated in the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) has been taken seriously in Finland. The amended legislation (Basic Education Act, 2010) has obviated the previous ‘twin-track system’ of labeling ‘exceptional’ students before they are entitled to receive individualized instruction, accommodations, and support most appropriate for their needs within special schools. The purpose of the reform is to focus attention on mainstream student-centered teaching and further reinforce the learning support mechanisms for all students (cf. Mäkinen, 2013). Thus, teachers should encounter and treat all students equally, regardless of their [dis]abilities, social class, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
The student diversity has taken increasingly account in the amended legislation by rebuilding the instructional ‘step-up support system’, where the support is divided into three steps: common, intensified and special support. In addition to these two distinctive educational intentions, the new multicultural approaches are topical in Finland; entailing educational strategies that incorporate previously marginalized racial and ethnic groups into the curriculum (cf. Finnish National Board of Education, 2014).
Ainscow, M., Booth, T., & Dyson, A. (2006). Improving schools, developing inclusion. London: Routledge. Basic Education Act (2010/642). Finlex. http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2010/20100642. Ferguson, D. (2008). International trends in inclusive education: the continuing challenge to teach each one and everyone. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 23(2), 109–120. Finnish National Board of Education. (2014). Retrieved January, 30, 2014, from http://www.oph.fi/english/education_development/current_reforms/curriculum_reform_2016. Hargreaves, A. & Shirley, D. (2009). The fourth way. The inspiring future for educational change. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Mäkinen, M. (2013). Narrative reflections as descriptors of teachers’ work engagement in inclusive schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 35, 51–61. National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (Changes and amendments 50/011/2010). Finnish Board of Education. Parks, A.N. (2008) Messy learning: Preservice teachers’ lesson-study conversations about mathematics and students, Teaching and Teacher Education, 24 (2008) 1200–1216. Puchner, A. & Taylor, A.R. (2006) Lesson study, collaboration and teacher efficacy: Stories from two school-based math lesson study groups, Teaching and Teacher Education 22, 922–934. Rajakaltio, H. & Mäkinen, M. (2013). The Finnish school in cross-pressures of change. In the Proceedings of European Conference of Curriculum Studies. Future Directions: Uncertainty and Possibilities, 530–536. Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish lessons. What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: College Teachers Press. UNESCO. (1994). The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education. Paris: Author. UNESCO. (2009). Policy guidelines on inclusion in education. Paris: Author. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy. New York: State University of New York Press. Van Manen M. (1997). From meaning to method. Qualitative Health Research 7(3), 345–369.
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