04 SES 07 A, Envisioning Inclusion: Transnational Perspectives
With the adoption and subsequent ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) in 2006 (United Nations, 2006), inclusive education became an international human right and a global norm. Most of the 182 countries that signed the petition also ratified it soon after, thus expressing their commitment to reducing the exclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN; UN-OLA, 2020). Nevertheless, “Education for All” remains a worldwide challenge and is seen as a process and goal rather than an achieved status (Anastasiou et al., 2020; Powell, 2018; UNESCO, 2015). Whereas some societies with comparatively advanced inclusive education systems (e.g., the Nordic countries of Europe) were praised for their efforts to provide education for all; in countries with highly stratified education systems, such as Germany and Switzerland, students with special educational needs (SEN) remain predominantly or exclusively schooled in special schools (Biermann & Powell, 2014; Powell, 2016, 2018; Powell & Hadjar, 2018; Werning, 2014).
The objective of this study is to find explanations for the cross-national difference in the level of institutionalization of inclusive education. Therefore, this study for the first time analyzes cross-national differences in inclusive education coverage (IEC) in over 50 societies.
In order to clarify under which national conditions inclusion is implemented or institutionalized more comprehensively, the present work draws on theoretical assumptions of the new institutionalism. Although this theoretical perspective so far found little application in the discussion on inclusive education, it still offers important insights for the introduction and institutionalization of inclusive school systems (Nohl, 2018). According to Berger and Luckmann (2003), institutionalization takes place as soon as habitualized actions are reciprocally typified by types of agents. Every typification that is carried out in this way is an institution (p. 58). Hence, instead of simply accepting the existence of institutions, the new institutionalism points to the importance of institutions as connecting structures between society and the individual actor (Maurer & Schmid, 2002). Only then, the formation, nature and change of institutions can be understood. The institutional development and establishment of inclusive education therefore depends on the overall societal recognition of instruction for all students as a common good. In most societies, however, the learning environment appropriate to the needs of students with SEN was – if at all – for the longest time located in exclusive settings such as special schools - not regular schools.
To reduce the risk of decoupling of schools from the official goal of providing education for all and thus explain cross-national differences in IEC, four national factors are deemed especially important: economic resources, education system, political conviction, and classification of SEN in a country. I will briefly discuss the hypothetical impact of these factors on IEC and derive hypotheses to be tested in the analysis section.
The data used in this analysis cover 52 societies and come from different international (World Bank, UNESCO, United Nations, and EASIE) and national sources (ministries of education as well as national statistics bureaus). Data were targeted for the year 2018 or the closest year. First, correlation statistics for the country-level predictors are presented. These correlations allow statements about fundamental relationships between variables and are important for the subsequent identification of possible mediation effects. Second, using the percentage of inclusively school students per country (IEC) as dependent variable, hypotheses are tested using the most popular quantitative approach to analyze country effects: OLS regressions. Although many multi-country data sets contain thousands of individuals, most include rarely more than 30 countries. With more than 50 cases (societies) the here used data offer a comparatively high number of cases and greater reliability than most other studies (see Bryan & Jenkins, 2016). In Table 3, the different predictor groups are independently tested before they are combined in one overall model. This way, the hypotheses are tested individually before checking which factors best describe the differences in IEC across countries. Finally, to ensure the reliability of results, robustness and multicollinearity checks are briefly discussed.
Findings show that (1) national income or educational expenses have no impact on the level of institutionalization of inclusive education in a society; (2) the cross-national differences in school inclusion are mainly due to the structural conditions of the school system and its own institutional logic (especially the degree of institutional differentiation) and (3) the definition of what is recognized as special educational needs (SEN) and promoted in a national education system. In conclusion, the new institutionalism employed in this analysis proved beneficial for our understanding of the institutional development and establishment of inclusive education based on the societal recognition of “Education for All” as a common good. The further development of education systems towards this goal largely depends on determined educational policies, which can only have success if politics and public commonly value and push inclusive education. Since the UN-CRPD and other similar agreements are examples of forced isomorphism, the danger of decoupling the set goal of education for all from educational practices in school is likely. So long as school systems are characterized by high educational institutional differentiation and its immanent institutional logic, a fully inclusive education system will not be achieved. Hence, whether a shift towards full inclusion becomes reality largely depends on how willing policy-makers and societies at large are to change their education systems, focusing stronger on equality instead of competition, stratification and excellence. Comprehensive education reforms targeting the whole education system are necessary to enable fully inclusive education. Second, the cross-national differences in inclusive education are not least due to what is officially recognized as SEN and promoted in an education system. The national differences in the classification or attribution of what is considered SEN is highly problematic and often serves to overlook students with actual need for inclusive schooling.
Anastasiou, D., Felder, M., Correia, L. A. D. M., Shemanov, A., Zweers, I., & Ahrbeck, B. (2020). The impact of article 24 of the CRPD on special and inclusive education in Germany, Portugal, the Russian federation, and the Netherlands. In J. E. Kauffman (Ed.), On Educational Inclusion: Meanings, History, Issues and International Perspectives (pp. 216-248). Routledge. Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (2003). Die gesellschaftliche Konstruktion der Wirklichkeit.Eine Theorie der Wissenssoziologie. Fischer. Biermann, J., & Powell, J. J. W. (2014). Institutionelle Dimensionen inklusiver Schulbildung – Herausforderungen der UN-Behindertenrechtskonvention für Deutschland, Island und Schweden im Vergleich. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 17, 679-700. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/s11618-014-0588-0 Bryan, M. L., & Jenkins, S. P. (2016). Multilevel Modelling of Country Effects: A Cautionary Tale. European Sociological Review, 32(1), 3-22. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcv059 Maurer, A., & Schmid, M. (2002). Die ökonomische Herausforderung der Soziologie? [[New Institutionalism: Concerning a Sociological Explanation of Organization, Morale and Confidence]]. In A. Maurer & M. Schmid (Eds.), Neuer Institutionalismus: Zur soziologischen Erklärung von Organisation, Moral und Vertrauen (pp. 9-38). Campus. Nohl, A.-M. (2018). Inklusion in Bildungs- und Erziehungsorganisationen. In T. Sturm & M. Wagner-Willi (Eds.), Handbuch schulische Inklusion (pp. 15-29). Verlag Barbara Budrich. Powell, J. J. W. (2016). Barriers to Inclusion - Special Education in the United States and Germany. Routledge. Powell, J. J. W. (2018). Inclusive Education: Entwicklungen im internationalen Vergleich. In T. Sturm & M. Wagner-Willi (Eds.), Handbuch schulische Inklusion (pp. 127-141). Verlag Barbara Budrich. Powell, J. J. W., & Hadjar, A. (2018). Schulische Inklusion in Deutschland, Luxemburg und der Schweiz: Aktuelle Bedingungen und Herausforderungen. In K. Rathmann & K. Hurrelmann (Eds.), Leistung und Wohlbefinden in der Schule: Herausforderung Inklusion (pp. 46-65). Beltz Juventa. UN-OLA. (2020). Database of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) https://treaties.un.org UNESCO. (2015). Education for All 2000-2015: achievements and challenges. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000232205 United Nations. (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities.html Werning, R. (2014). Stichwort: Schulische Inklusion. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 17(4), 601-623. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/s11618-014-0581-7
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