04 SES 06 C, Schooling for All (Including 'Gifted' Children)
As evident in international treaties such as the Salamanca Statement, attempts to realize inclusive education have intensified during the last decades (Armstrong, 2005). Inclusion is about social justice, equity and citizenship; it is about the right of all children to full participation in education, and equal provision of opportunities, to help them reach their full potential (Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2009; United Nations, 2007; Vlachou, 2004). Despite the existing legislation however, shifting students around on the educational chessboard does not necessarily imply inclusion (Graham & Slee, 2008). Thus, effective inclusive practice at school seems to be impeded by discriminatory barriers related to current ideologies and everyday practice towards disabled children, which justify and perpetuate oppression (Abberley, 1987; Barton & Armstrong, 2001).
Hence, even though following a fixed curriculum provides an accessible framework for an educational course and an end goal for teachers, curricula may have negative implications, too, because of the imposed restrictions (Westbury, 2008). Thus, restrictive and monolithic curricula may raise barriers to inclusion, because they discourage change and quell innovation and flexibility (Erevelles, 2005). Inclusive teaching is about adapting instruction to the disabled children’s needs (Graham & Slee, 2008). Exclusion is related to the political character of curricula, which perpetuate dominant ideologies and power relations through pre-determined official knowledge (Apple, 2000). In this way, curricula propound selected aspects of social life which reproduce the social hierarchy and keep less powerful groups marginalized (Giroux, 2010).
Teachers become accomplices in this process of exclusion by remaining pathetic performers that always abide by the curriculum, even when the truth about the social construction of disability is sidestepped (Erevelles, 2005; Terwell, 2005). Thus teachers get trapped in the paradox of postulating commitment to promote learning, while at the same time they believe that they have no control on the presumed principal learning factor, i.e. learning ability, as an allegedly innate and unchangeable personal trait (Hart, Dickson, Drummond & McIntyre, 2008; Tuval & Orr, 2009). This assumption is confirmed through a curriculum that does not consider prior experience and learning opportunities, as well as individual differences; in contrast, an unfair assessment is proposed, that is based on a snapshot in time (Erevelles, 2005). As a result, children with disabilities get labelled as able or not able to learn. In this framework, teachers prefer to think in terms of the norm and then categorise their students according to abstract notions of intelligence, in a purely comparative and selective manner, underpinned by the curriculum (Graham & Slee, 2008; Tuval & Orr, 2009).
Given that, , Cyprus teachers tend to think on the basis of a medical and charity model, while they favour special schooling for specific groups of children, which result to marginalization and exclusion (Angelides, Stylianou & Gibbs, 2006; Symeonidou & Phtiaka, 2009), the objective of our study was to understand the effects of the Cyprus curriculum on everyday teaching practice and the consequent implications regarding the inclusion of children with disabilities. Our research questions were:
- To what extend are equal opportunities in education confirmed by the official curriculum in Cyprus?
- To what extend do teachers abide by the given curriculum and what are the implications on inclusion?
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