Chapter 1

 

Inclusion and Exclusion:

An Introduction

by Sarah Rose


   Much has been written about the importance of education. To be successful in today’s career driven, economically based society, having a good education is not only desirable for young people to be successful, but necessary. Education is important on both an individual level, and a societal level. The education of children ensures the continued success of our society, this is for the common good; and for individuals, education creates opportunities for success, for further learning, for work and income.

            Labaree (1997) highlights the complexity of these issues through a discussion of the contested nature of education. He argues that there are three major educational goals, each in opposition to the other, yet also at times in alliance. The goal of Democratic Equality contextualises education as a public good, in which society is committed to access and success for all, the goal being to educate students to become active and informed members of a democratic society. In the goal of Social Efficiency, education is also for the public good, and aims to enable society to harness student abilities for common economic ends. The Social Mobility approach argues that education is a private good, a commodity which will enable young people to improve their social standing within society (Labaree, 1997).

            In Australia, our educational ideology of access for all is discussed in The Adelaide Declaration on the National Goals for Schooling in the 21st Century (MCEETYA, 1999). This document recognises the “capacity of all young people to learn, and highlights the role of schools in developing that capacity” (MCEETYA, 1999). The Adelaide Declaration believes that schooling should be ‘socially just’ with all students having equal access to schooling, to enhance their success in terms of educational outcomes. Despite the rhetoric, many young people face enormous battles to both participate and be successful in education. This book will explore the critical roles of teachers and schools in the processes of inclusion and exclusion.

Structural and Individual Barriers

There are both structural and individual reasons why students become excluded from mainstream education. In this book we have brought together a collection of different issues, both structural and individual, that we as pre-service teachers believe are barriers to an inclusive education for all students. We have highlighted the inadequacies of education policies, and lack thereof, for dealing with these diverse issues.

            Evans (1994) highlights several elements that can impact on young people’s access to education. These include: poverty; ethnic-minority status; family factors (such as single-parenthood, standard of family education, housing, a breakdown in relations between home and school, and child abuse); poor knowledge of the language of instruction; the type of school attended and its location; and community factors (such as lack of support, poor accommodation, lack of leisure facilities and political voice). These issues can lead to “low attainment, low satisfaction and self esteem, dwindling participation in school activities, growing truancy and school refusal, drop-out, behavioural problems and delinquency” (Evans, 1994, p. 1).

            How schools respond to the different experiences that students bring to school also affects access and success in education. Structural issues include how the school groups students, the nature and structure of the curriculum (separate disciplines or integrated studies), the way it rewards or punishes certain approaches, the degree of cooperation or competition on which it is based, the ethos of the school (how relationships are structured and people are treated) and the flexibility it has to acknowledge and respond to individual needs.

Educational Access

In 2002, most students continue in school to year 12. Victorian retention rates are 85.3% (DET, 2002). Yet this disguises the fact that 15% of students don’t complete year 12, and that retention rates differ in some areas (eg. between urban and rural areas) and in some types of schools. For example, retention rates in non-Government schools are 12% higher than in Government schools (DET, 2002). Overall retention rates reflect only the enrolment figures, and often mask the more covert issues facing students in schools. Just because students are enrolled in school does not mean that they are attending regularly, or are gaining anything positive from the school experience.

            It is perhaps better to look at educational access in terms of ‘full participation’. Hixson and Tinzman (1990) argue that there are three systemic barriers to full participation for students:

•       Discrimination and Differential Treatment – They argue that while schools today have far higher enrolment from students from diverse backgrounds (cultural, linguistic, racial, socio-economic, disabilities), the education of these students is not always equally resourced, lower expectations are placed on students, and many receive differential treatment. This may not necessarily occur by intent, but can occur through lack of training and resources.

•  Structural and Programmatic Barriers – In many schools there are structural barriers such as narrow curriculum, lack of democratic governance, abuses of tracking and ability grouping, and school structures that are based more on tradition and history than on individual student and family needs.

•  The Societal Context: Declining Support for Schools, Children, and Families - The declining willingness of the community to support ‘other people’s children’ who have increasing social, personal, emotional, and health-related needs, has meant that many students are missing out on crucial services and supports that others may take for granted. Hixson and Tinzman attribute this less to structural problems than to historical patterns of who deserves an education, and to what type of education they have the right.

Educational Success

Take a moment, and think back to your experience of education. Were you successful, and for what reasons? What defined success at school for you?

Was it:

•  Learning to read?

•  Managing to finish a really difficult maths test?

•  Getting a high ENTER score?

•  Going to University?

•  Getting a job?

•  Being an active participant in school? Being on the SRC?

•       Meaningful relationships you formed within the school and wider community?

•  Learning for knowledge?

            Obviously, the idea of educational success would be a combination of the above and others, but the concept of success is different for every person.

            Current community and societal definitions of success are much more limiting and narrow, and exclude students who do not fit within their confines. Too much emphasis is placed on academic success, particularly at the VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) level. Much of secondary school is just a lead up to the VCE, in which students prepare for the ‘real world’. The emphasis in the VCE is achieving a good ENTER (Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank), which determines whether or not students will make it to their desired university or TAFE (Technical And Further Education) course, or whether they will make it at all. While VET (Vocational Education and Training) and enterprise programs exist in most schools, they are still a very small proportion of the curriculum.

            The Youth Research Centre at The University of Melbourne, is currently conducting research on vocational and enterprise education. This research is finding that students in these courses believe they are pushed into these streams because they are unable to keep up in other, more academic classes1 . The different skills and attributes that students have are being undervalued by assumptions about what constitutes a worthwhile education.

            Thomson (1997) views the approaches taken by schools as ‘vocationalist’ or ‘generalist’. Rather than divide courses between general (or academic) and vocational subjects, Thomson (1997) suggests that the approaches taken by schools can be viewed as having ‘vocationalist’ and ‘generalist’ aspects, and that these aspects can and should appear in all subjects.’

 

Vocationalist approach

Generalist approach

General subjects

Provides knowledge and skills required for specific further and higher learning.

Development of mind for participation in social life.

Vocational subjects

Provides knowledge and skills required for successful market participation.

Development of critical understanding of nature, context and values of the world of work.

Stokes & Holdsworth (1998)

            Similarly, the Finn Report (AEC Review Committee, 1991) argues that both a vocationalist and a generalist approach need to be brought together in schools for the sake of individuals and for the economy generally”. Furthermore, it argued that “schools needed to be concerned with employability, and that the vocational sector needed to be concerned with more general, broader vocational education” (Gonczi, 1996 in Stokes & Holdsworth, 1998, p. 7).

            We as teachers and policy makers have choices about how we construct success. For example, sport doesn’t have to be about ‘winning’. The athletic policy in Tongue River Middle School in Wyoming is that all students who try out for a sporting team and attend practice consistently may play every game (Hixson & Tinzman, 1990). The rewards for students at this school are much richer than simply winning. Team work, persistence, effort, skill building, and participation are much more important skills to be learning, and the experience of winning is all the more enjoyable. Similar approaches have been adopted in Australia and around the world. One example is Kanga cricket, which is a modified version of cricket and which makes it more accessible for all children to participate. It also focuses on the development of skills, with modified equipment still being used but the rules allowing for the continued development of the players (see Cricket in South Australia, 2002)

The Issues Explored

The notions of inclusion and exclusion can be linked to the wider notion of the way in which society constructs difference. This book therefore devotes itself to examining the issues that contribute to the inclusion or exclusion of students and teachers, who are different from the constructed ‘norm’.

            The following  chapter focuses on different gender roles of students within schools and Chapter Three investigates how a student’s socio-economic background is pertinent to his/her success later in life. Chapter Four explores a diverse range of issues dealing with sexualities. This includes gaps in policy and discussion of bullying, discrimination and harassment based on sexuality with reference to homophobia and a heterocentric curriculum. This chapter also includes details of a range of support services for people of diverse sexualities. Chapter Five explores multicultural policy issues within the Victorian education system and researches the inclusion of the needs of students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Chapter Six focuses on the inclusion of indigenous students in policy and curricula and examines the responsibility of teachers. The seventh chapter focuses on the inclusion and exclusion of students with special educational needs. The chapter examines the benefits of an inclusive education for all students as well as providing a range of inclusive strategies for students with special educational needs. Chapter Eight examines issues surrounding gifted students and explores the benefits of providing a differentiated curriculum for gifted students and provides a range of inclusive classroom strategies for those students. Chapter Nine discusses the problems faced by students during the middle years, offers some personal insights and suggests solutions. Chapter Ten examines the traditional and alternative approaches to discipline and how these contribute to the inclusion or exclusion of students from access to education and academic success, and presents inclusive strategies for schools and beginning teachers to provide a positive outcome for all students. The Final chapter deals with the role of the curriculum as a factor in inclusion and exclusion in schools.

            The authors have approached the notions of exclusion and inclusion in a different manner, offering insight into how issues can be tackled to help educational structures and processes interact positively to engage with each individual student. While all the topics are diverse and require different approaches, there are several general ways in which we can include young people from the very outset.

            Inclusive education implies a need to reconsider and reform school curriculum in order to cater for all children (Forlin and Forlin, 1998). Clark et al. (1995, p. 5) define inclusion as “a move towards extending the scope of ‘ordinary’ schools so that they can ‘include’ a greater diversity of children”. In this book, our focus is on the ways in which schools need to change to incorporate such diversity. The primary role of policies within schools is to guide us, to set the guidelines and principles for practices to achieve more inclusive schools.

            There are many ways in which we can begin the process of incorporating diversity. School must be a caring and supportive environment for students, being a major part of a young persons life, and it must be a positive experience. To do this, the physical surroundings need to represent the students who attend the school. Images and symbols need to reflect the true student population (Hixson & Tinzman, 1990). The school must be accepting of all students, thus encouraging students to become part of the school community. The culture of the school should encourage active involvement of students, parents and members of the community (Hixson & Tinzman, 1990).

            We, as a society, must redefine the current definitions of educational success, to a broader definition of active involvement, communication, and co-operation skills, among other things. To do all this in a positive manner however, we must redefine the cultural and social values of school and the wider community. We must create an understanding within the community that everyone deserves an education, and we must reform educational structures and our own teaching to incorporate students of diverse abilities, sexualities and backgrounds.

Bibliography

AEC Review Committee (1991). Young people’s participation in post-compulsory education and training / report of the Australian Education Council Review Committee, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Clark, C., Dyson, A. and Millward, A. (Eds.) (1995). Towards Inclusive Schools?, David Fulton Publishers, London.

Cricket in South Australia (2002). at:  www.cricketsa.com.au/cricket_in_sa/development/junior_cricket.html  [Accessed 8th November 2002].

DET (2002). Summary Statistics Victorian Schools, February 2002, Department of Education and Training, Melbourne.

Evans, P. (1994). “Tackling Educational Disadvantage”, OECD Observer, Feb/March. No.86 p. 20(3).

Forlin, C. and Forlin, P. (1998). “Constitutional and Legislative Framework for Inclusive Education in Australia”, Australian Journal of Education, August 1998, Vol. 42(2), p. 204.

Hixson, J. and Tinzman, M.B. (1990). Who are the ‘At Risk’ Students of the 1990s, North Central Regional Educational Library (NCREL), Oak Brook, at:  info@ncrel.org

Labaree, D.F. (1997). “Public Goods, Private Goods: The American Struggle Over Educational Goals”, American Educational Research Journal, Spring 1997, Vol.34 (1), pp. 39-81.

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (1999). The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, Curriculum Corporation, at www.curriculum.edu.au/mceetya/nationalgoals/natgoals.htm

Stokes, H. and Holdsworth, R. (1998). Vocational Education: Options and Directions, Youth Research Centre: University of Melbourne, December 1998.

Thomson, P. (1997). ‘Learning (Not) to Labour’, Paper at Fourth National Unemployment Conference, Australia.

Note:

 1            Research notes by S. Rose from focus group within the Young Visions Project, Australian Youth Research Centre, Melbourne, 2002.


[Reflections] [Contents] [Chapter 2]

 



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