ERG SES G 10, Inclusive Education
“I am very happy to go school because everyone (loves, cares, respects and supports) welcomes me in the school”
Gita (student with visual impairment of grade six of NHSS).
These thoughts were expressed by a thirteen years old student with visual impairment who attended Namuna Higher Secondary School (NHSS). She was telling here of her experiences of inclusion in a public school in Nepal. Her experience describes the school culture of NHSS which she recognises as respecting diversity, equality and inclusion in the school. Not all people working within the school experienced inclusion in the same way as Gita. Some people recognised a stigmatised and prejudiced culture for children with disability within the school. This may have been evident in the ways teachers, school administrators and students without disabilities had a positive attitude, respect, care and support towards Gita and her peers. It could facilitate Gita’s learning and inclusion in the school.
Literature has reported the inclusion of children with disabilities in the regular classroom as the best practice in school since the 1990s (Lee and Low, 2013). The government of the Republic of Nepal has endorsed and signed an inclusive education policy, namely the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) for more than two decades. Before signing the inclusive education policy (in the Salamanca Conference, 1994), students with special needs had been taught in special schools in Nepal. After the Salamanca Conference and Education for All (EFA) policy in 1990, some special needs students have been learning in the regular classroom with other students. However progress has been very slow and there continue to be high dropout rates for children with disabilities (Department of Education, 2014). This study examines some key effects of human rights-based discourses of disability within socio-cultural practices in the Nepalese education system. It focusses on visions of hope within education. The impact of positive views of disability and difference are analysed using Nepalese education documents, interviews and participant observations. Furthermore, it critically examines how primary level school teachers, school administrators, and students with (dis/ability) have identified key concepts of inclusive education. Their experiences and perspectives are used to identify supportive factors for inclusion in schools to move forward from the current practice.
This study provides some preliminary findings of my doctoral research which was conducted in two higher secondary schools in two districts of Nepal. The participants were enrolled within Year 11 classes (Class Six). The data was collected through semi-structured interviews, focus-group interviews, participant observations and document analysis as well as an informal dialogue with teachers and students from March to July 2015 in Nepal. A total of 48 participants were selected including government officers, school administrators, teachers, parents and students with and without disabilities. Furthermore, semi-structured and focus-group interviews were originally conducted in Nepali. They were then translated into English. Additional data was also collected from the participants at the school during the member check in December 2016.
Social constructionism and symbolic interactionism were used as the epistemology and theoretical lenses to conduct this research. This study recognises the school administrators’, teachers’ and students’ experiences of education in the regular classroom as providing opportunities to investigate inclusive practices. These perspectives may provide information to answer the following research questions:
1. How do primary level school administrators, teachers, and students with and without disabilities understand, perceive and experience inclusive education in the regular classroom?
2. What are the factors that support the development of inclusion in the school?
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