04 SES 14 C, Comparative Inclusive Education Research: Global, National and Local Perspectives (Part I)
Symposium Part I, to be continued in 04 SES 15 C
Inclusive education has become a leading theme in education internationally over the past several decades. This multidisciplinary field addresses key issues, often controversial, of exclusion/inclusion, learning opportunities, and educational equity and justice. Despite the importance of comparisons in inclusive educational research, policymaking, and practices, we argue that these have not received the attention they deserve. This is the case although comparative and international approaches are crucial to addressing the key theoretical, methodological, and practical concerns in the field.
Among international organizations as well as supranational governments, we find an increasing emphasis on recognizing diversity and enabling education for all (UNESCO 2015, 2020). Visible in Europe at least since the Salamanca Declaration (UNESCO 1994), the overall “education-for-all” agenda has spread worldwide, as have the Sustainable Developments Goals (e.g. SDG 4; UNESCO 2018), and the ratification in most countries of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (e.g., Article 24; UN 2016), which mandates the establishment of an inclusive education system across levels, from early childhood to lifelong learning. This frame of reference is not only significant in terms of definitions and contents but also in the context of the strengthening of world society.
The world societal level is not the same as what occurs in the relations between nation states. This is evident in the definition of “inclusion” that has become significant internationally as a category signifying attempts to guarantee access and participation in different levels of education systems, but one that has contrasting and divergent understandings, implications, and implementation consequences between national and local contexts. The goal of participation that follows normatively and legally from such understandings of inclusion, is recontextualized and articulated differently, sometimes even paradoxically, when in fact segregated and separate settings are extended under the banner of inclusion.
In educational research, numerous publications have delineated the establishment of inclusive education from diverse perspectives and in different contexts—not least those of members of the EERA Network 4. Over the past decade in particular, this has occurred in relation to the UN CRPD, which also implies a connection to the world society-frame; however, theorization and in-depth empirical analyses are lacking to explain more recent developments on multiple levels. Even for nation-states, few systematic and comparative studies have analyzed the diverse forms of inclusive education in different contexts. The consequence has been a divergence between the national discourses of inclusive education, for example, in the German-speaking countries, that remain focused on special educational needs, and the more global discourses that understand inclusive education in human rights terms – addressing myriad dimensions of diversity – and a key developmental process in democracies.
In this symposium, recent comparative research projects provide insights into international and comparative inclusive education research from countries in Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa. The symposium is designed to provide an overview of these diverse contexts—and extend the dialogue of global, national, and local perspectives on inclusion, integrating case studies from the Global North and Global South. These multi-methodological and transdisciplinary perspectives are especially necessary in the case of inclusive education, whether as a source of inspiration, a reflexive critique of taken-for-grantedness or to identify disparities and social inequalities.
The symposium will ask presenters to consider three overarching themes and prepare to talk about the „lessons learned“ regarding comparative and international inclusive educational research. We will conclude with a discussion across these themes to synthesize the presented findings:
(1) Theoretical Perspectives/Approaches;
(2) Methodological Perspectives/Methods;
(3) Comparative Dimensions/Objects/Categories; and
(4) Concluding Discussion.
The symposium frames selected presentations by authors who have written contributions in the International Handbook of Inclusive Education (Köpfer, Powell & Zahnd 2021).
Köpfer, A., J.J.W. Powell, & R. Zahnd (Editors). (2021): Handbuch Inklusion International: Globale, nationale und lokale Perspektiven auf Inklusive Bildung / International Handbook of Inclusive Education: Global, National and Local Perspectives. Opladen, Germany: Verlag Barbara Budrich. https://shop.budrich-academic.de/product/handbuch-inklusion-international/?lang=en UNESCO (1994): Die Salamanca Erklärung und der Aktionsrahmen zur Pädagogik für besondere Bedürfnisse. UNESCO (2015): Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. UNESCO (2020): Global Education Monitoring Report 2020: Inclusion and Education – All Means All. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. United Nations (2018). Sustainable Development Goals. URL: https://www.un.org/sustainable United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2016). General comment No. 4 (2016), Article 24: Right to inclusive education, 2 September 2016, CRPD/C/GC/4. New York: UN.
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