ERG SES H 10, Gender and Education
This paper reports my Doctoral research exploring British South Asian maternal preferences regarding school placement settings for children with Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND). Current research provides an insight into parental expectations of educational settings; for instance, Runswick-Cole (2007) suggests parents who supported mainstream placement valued integration, whereas parents choosing special schools valued one-to-one support. Similarly, Lindsay and Dockrell (2004) found parents chose mainstream because it positively impacted their child’s social skills. My Doctoral research probes deeper into maternal expectations of schools including their notions of the ‘perfect school’.
Research Aims and Questions
This research explores South Asian maternal preferences for special or mainstream placements for their disabled children, and the experiences, roles and attitudes of South Asian mothers towards inclusive education. The following research questions are addressed:
- What are the views and expectations of South Asian mothers (of children with SEND) of their own roles in their child’s education?
- What are the views and expectations of these South Asian mothers with regards to the school’s role in their child’s life?
- How do broader influences (culture, religion, gender, and immigrant history) affect their experiences of supporting their child in the UK?
- What factors influence South Asian mothers’ preferences for deciding on special or mainstream placement for their children with SEND?
The first two research questions are crucial to address. Mothering skills coaching has historically been provided by health, education and welfare services through child-rearing pamphlets or workshops, and Griffith and Smith (2005) argue that ‘good mothering’ is gauged by how well women perform against benchmarks set by these institutions. Therefore, understanding broader familial experiences of inclusive education necessitates examining the multiplicity of maternal roles.
The third research question necessarily links broader discourses on religion, culture, immigration and gender to the participants’ everyday experiences (Sayad, 2004). Exploring their level of mainstream integration measures their belongingness to society, and their polarised or hybrid identities. This question also explores whether gendered attitudes to education affect parental placement decisions. Examining broader discourses highlights how participants identify with each factor, shaping participants’ interactions with SEN provisions.
The fourth question asks how parental placement preferences are determined, how informed parents’ decisions were, and the relationship between inclusion and placement choices. This question examines external factors influencing decisions, and how professional ‘expertise’ interacts with parental concerns and knowledge.
Including maternal voices within academic work without a critical objective would be essentialist, unless it addresses the plurality of maternal experiences and “intragroup differences” (Crenshaw, 1991, pg.1242). In proposing Intersectionality, Crenshaw (1991) posited women’s experiences were shaped by multiple identities, and that understanding social inequalities could address social injustice for women with hybrid identities. However, Crenshaw (1991) conceded the intersectional framework was only a starting point to considering a woman’s identity.
Intersectionality became synonymous with minorities living outside mainstream experiences. Feminist academics (Yuval-Davis, 2007; Meekosha, 2005; Weber, 2001) adapted Intersectionality to explain the inequalities women experienced through multiple social divisions. Björnsdóttir and Traustadóttir(2010) also utilised Intersectionality within disability studies. The conceptual flexibility of Intersectionality allows researchers to specifically consider factors relevant to their research, without diminishing the importance of other social divisions. Postcolonial feminist researchers used Intersectionality to challenge essentialist perspectives like ‘rescuing’ Muslim women from oppression or terrorism post-9/11, scrutinising their ethnic, political and religious identities without engaging with them (Brah and Phoenix, 2004).
Weber (2001) adapted Intersectionality as a theoretical lens to draw-out common themes that characterise social divisions. I want to understand South Asian maternal perspectives about their children’s SEND whilst recognising that their fluid identities developed through intersecting social divisions outside the mainstream.
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