07 SES 17 A, Reading Images of Educational Fields: Representations of Inclusive Education, Refugee Education and Family Literacy.
As a result of its growing emphasis in (inter)national policy, scholarship and practice, inclusive education has a strong presence on the internet. Kress and van Leeuven (2006, p.5) argue that designers’ work and image banks exert a “a ‘normalising’ … influence on visual communication across the world.” As a result, images play a role in constituting what people understand by inclusive education. A tension exists as to whether inclusive education should focus on disabled children and young people or all children vulnerable to educational exclusion (Unesco, 2018). In this presentation we explore ways this tension manifests in on-line images of inclusive education. We seek to understand how disability is constructed within the overall field and interrogate the extent to which these constructions advance or subvert inclusive education’s aims. Critical visual literacy offers a theoretical lens with which to analyse how ideologies are encoded in images (Wang, 2014). To conduct the study, we identified the first 100 Google images using the term ‘inclusive education’. We then eliminated text-centred images and photographs. 73 images formed the final data set. We use Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) representational, interactional and compositional metafunctions to analyse the data. We analysed narrative and conceptual functions within the representational metafunction, social distance and attitude within the interactional metafunction and salience and framing within the compositional metafunction. Four findings emerged. The first finding is that disability is used as a signifier of difference. Difference is shown as significant in these images represented though naturalistic depictions of humans. Social relations that emerge from the interpersonal analysis reveals the subversion of difference because able-bodied whiteness remains dominant. Second, while disabled children are present, there is social distance. Disabled children seldom hold hands with, or touch others, mostly they are separate, or touched by others. We argue that this perpetuates a limited notion of inclusive education. Third, the images reveal inclusion as celebratory, eliding the challenges of securing access and support for disabled children. Finally, disability is embodied in ways that create alterity. Although disabled children are used to show diversity and connection, their bodies become impossible, distorted and caricatured. These findings have implications for producers and consumers of images of inclusive education and disability. We argue for greater criticality in the production and use of these images and suggest that proponents of inclusive education need to acknowledge and challenge prevalent visual (mis)representations and (sub)versions of the field.
Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design 2nd edition. London: Routledge. UNESC0. (2018) Concept note for the Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 on inclusion. Paris: UNESCO. Wang, J. (2014). Criticising images: critical discourse analysis of visual semiosis in picture news. Critical Arts, 28(2), 264-286.
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