04 SES 03 C, Stakeholders' Voices
Inclusive education is increasingly being adopted as the most appropriate framework for organizing educational, but also social and political systems both in Europe and worldwide. In international documents such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations, 2006), inclusive education is defined as a global task of nations, while the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education is a central objective of educational policy in general (Armstrong et al., 2000; Zoniou-Sideri, Nteropoulou-Nterou, 2012). The development of inclusive policy and education is on the educational agenda of international organizations such as the United Nations (United Nations, 1989; United Nations, 2006) and UNESCO (1994, 2005). Pedagogical departments around the world, converging on sociopolitical trends internationally, have introduced a series of actions aimed at promoting the concept of inclusive education and relevant issues in their curriculum.
As part of the undergraduate curriculum of the Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE), National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, new courses have been introduced and successfully run over the past two decades focusing on disability and geared towards inclusive education. The purpose of these courses is to equip students of the department with a solid theoretical background regarding inclusive education, namely pedagogical approaches that have the mainstream school as a reference point and serve the principles of a democratic school in the context of 'equality for all' (Slee, 2004; Armstrong, 2004). The ultimate objective is to fight against exclusion and discrimination experienced by disabled students with the help of future generations of teachers.
In order for this goal to be achieved, the DECE has undertaken a research project which aims to explore the perceptions of students on inclusive education and disability, as the latter can decisively determine the scope for action, change and evolution of educational interventions adopted in educational practice. These perceptions are the outcome of many factors and do not only emanate from the university’s educational environment. In contrast, the experiences of students and the prevailing socio-political conditions play an essential role in their beliefs and attitudes towards disability (Zoniou-Sideri et al., 2005; Zoniou-Sideri & Vlachou, 2006).
This research aims to map prevailing attitudes and opinions about disability in a population that is on the borderline between completion of their higher education studies and the gradual familiarity with the educational reality through internships. Thereby, this research project contributes decisively to the debate on promoting inclusive policy in Greece and allows the exploration of attitudes and beliefs of a population group that, as part of their education, has been exposed to the philosophy of inclusive education.
The main objectives of this research are to monitor and study the views and perceptions of senior Early Childhood Education students on inclusive education and disability; to obtain feedback from students about the curriculum of the DECE in regard to inclusive education; and to detect possible differentiations between the views and perceptions of the DECE graduates in relation to practicing teachers (based on the results of previous research).
Armstrong, F., Armstrong, D. & Barton, L. (2000). Inclusive education: policy, contexts and comparative perspectives. London: David Fulton Publishers. Armstrong, D. (2004) Inclusion, participation and democracy. In A. Zoniou-Sideri & I. Spandagou (eds) Education and Blindness. Current Trends and Perspectives. Athens: Ellinika Grammata, 43-51. [in Greek] Boyatzis, R. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Bryman, A. (2004). Social Research Methods (2nd Edition). New York: Oxford University Press. Cohen, L., & Manion, L. (2000). Research methods in Education. London: Routledge. Fereday, J. & Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating Rigor Using Thematic Analysis: A Hybrid Approach of Inductive and Deductive Coding and Theme Development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5 (1). Rice, P., & Ezzy, D. (1999). Qualitative research methods: A health focus. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. Slee, R. (2004) Inclusive education and educational reform in the New Age. In A. Zoniou-Sideri & I. Spandagou (eds) Education and Blindness. Current Trends and Perspectives. Athens: Ellinika Grammata, 31-42. [in Greek] UNESCO (1994). The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. Paris: UNESCO. UNESCO (2005). Guidelines for Inclusion: Ensuring Access to Education for All. Paris: UNESCO. United Nations (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. New York: UN. United Nations (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disability. New York: UN. Zoniou-Sideri, A. & Vlachou, A. (2006). Greek teachers’ belief systems about disability and inclusive education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 10 (4/5): 379-394. Zoniou-Sideri, A., Karagianni, P., Deropoulou-Derou, E. & Spandagou, I. (2005). Inclusive Classes in Greece: New Names, Old Institutions. Inclusive & Supportive Education Congress. Zoniou-Sideri, A. & Nteropoulou-Nterou, E. (2012). Searching for the educational policy of inclusion. In A. Zoniou-Sideri, A. Mpalafouti & E. Nteropoulou-Nterou, Disability and educational policy. A critical approach of special and inclusive education. Athens: Pedio, 11-27.
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