Inclusive Education in Australia. Is it possible?


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  • This presentation looks at Inclusive education in Australia and its feasibility in the current climate of change?Inclusive education in Australia is widely supported and accepted theoretically but at this stage is far from reaching its goals. Inclusive education is constructed from a social justice perspective. It is based on the philosophy of the protection and promotion of all students rights to equality and excellence in education. It usually focuses on including students with disabilities in mainstream education but more recently focuses on supporting all students to succeed.
  • Australia is currently in a difficult situation where inclusion is valued by society and teachers and is expected by government bodies and yet in practice it is not being realised and is difficult to implement. So why is Australia in this situation?Why is there a gap between policy and practice?A significant part of this problem has been created by seemingly opposing aims of excellence and equality in education. However, it is important to note that education for all assumes that both equality and excellence are achievable and are critical if inclusive education is to be successful.This presentation and paper outlines three main obstacles that have been influential in the Australian context.A competitive school climateThe National curriculumAdditional responsibilities.
  • Firstly a competitive school climate where teachers are now held responsible for learning outcomes of all students, national testing with benchmarks that all students are required to reach and the comparative analysis of schools in relation to those results makes it very difficult for inclusive education.Australian schools, teachers and students are now in competition which is meant to drive improvement and change. However, the result is that students who are difficult to teach, are different or are unable to perform adequately on standardised tests have become a burden and an undesirable commodity. This is also compounded by teachers being held responsible for the outcomes that students achieve.This situation is certainly not supporting inclusive practices and is actually undermining teachers’ ability to embrace all students regardless of differences.While there is certainly a place for standardised testing, accountability and excellence in education. It needs to be successfully moderated with equality principles.
  • Australia is certainly in interesting times with the first ever Australian National curriculum being embraced. It is exciting to see that the National Curriculum is attempting to be holistic in its approach, supporting both equality and excellence. The curriculum acknowledges that all students are capable of learning, and require high standards to be set for each individual. It states that not all students will be able to work at the same level as their peers and claims to be flexible enough to cater for this. The ACARA body will produce advice in how to implement the Australian Curriculum while catering for learner diversity.What is not clear and is the focus of this presentation and paper is how this will translate into all ready busy classrooms. Is advice enough? Or is something more needed?
  • So Australia now has a competitive school market with the introduction of the new National curriculum that promotes both equality and excellence and yet teachers are still feeling stressed and overwhelmed.Classrooms are now very diverse places where teachers are required to cater for individual differences that can be enormous. Individuals differ across many dimensions and catering for all these differences is time consuming, difficult and some would say an impossible task.Many teachers are feeling guilty, confused, exhausted and frustrated as a result. Some of the main difficulties are:Lack of timeClose supervision required of special needs studentsBalancing the needs of all studentsBehaviour problemsLack of access to support personnel.Lack of perceived professional competenceBeing held accountable for students outcomesDemands and expectations of teachers have completely changed but teaching practices have not. Can teachers continue in this situation?
  • Many solutions are offered in the literature and government bodies have implemented some of these. Across the states there are varying degrees of support and funding depending on the needs of students. Even with the current steps taken there seems to be little progress in overcoming many of the barriers that exist. Teachers are still feeling overwhelmed by the lack of time for the ever widening responsibilities.Many of the solutions implemented are directed towards students' with a formal diagnosed condition. This has resulted in an increase in diagnosis which is often inflated to receive the necessary funding that is associated. Schools and teachers are expected to embrace inclusive education but have not been provided with adequate support structures.
  • Will Australia be able to overcome the obstacles? Only if changes are made that will allow teachers the time and resources needed to cater for individual needs.
  • Australia, like many other countries has followed a similar process to achieve quality education. The main strategies implemented have been standardised education, a focus on literacy and numeracy and accountability sometimes linked with funding. Finland on the other hand has taken a different path. Finland has been able to incorporate both equity and excellence and is moving towards a comprehensive inclusive approach to education.So what have been the main differences between Finland and Australia in this regard?Finland has no standardised tests until Year 12. The responsibility of the measurement of student achievement is the responsibility of individual schools.There is a broad focus of learning not just on numeracy and literacy. (Although these two areas are targeted immediately if problems arise). Instead of funding being linked with high performance, schools that are struggling to reach standards receive additional funding. Finland does not have policies that encourage a competitive market. They have high expectations for all students (which the new Australian Curriculum certainly encourages) and resources are targeted to low achievers. One of the main differences between Finland and Australia is that resources that are used to assist those struggling are not reliant on diagnosis at all. If any student is struggling then they will receive assistance immediately.The result has been high achievement across the board and socioeconomic factors seem to have little influence.
  • Finland is committed to both equality and excellence in education. One of the main ways it has been able to work successfully towards both is the part time special education program. Part time special education is offered to all students who are experiencing difficulties regardless of why. It doesn’t matter whether they have a medical condition, difficult home life or any other issue. If they are having difficulties then assistance is utilised quickly. The program is flexible in terms of intensity and duration and as such is responsive to individual needs. It is targeted to early years and much of it happens within the mainstream school environment. It has a strong preventative focus and has been so well integrated that special education no longer has the stigma that can often occur and exclusion rates are decreasing. Australia has not been able to achieve this to date.Finland is built on the notion of school’s welcoming all children by progressively minimising barriers of inclusion that can be related to structures, attitudes and pedagogies. Finland has been able to successfully embrace and unify both equality and excellence in education. – something Australia is just embarking on and the next step is crucial if we are to be successful.
  • Australia will need to introduce some radical changes so that inclusive education which encourages the best education for all students can be realised. Teachers need to be supported to be the best educators they can in contemporary learning environments where diversity is the norm.Classroom structures need to change to allow teachers to have the necessary time, skills and support to be effective educators that can incorporate both equality and excellence.The four recommendations mentioned here are further outlined and explored in the paper with reference to a proposed model. The proposed model is in addition to support structures already in place. Medical diagnosis should not be the basis for assistance as inclusive education needs to develop the best education for all.All teachers should receive additional time away from face to face teaching to allow for collaboration, planning, and specific training.All class sizes should be reduced to aid teachers in catering for individual needs. Finally, government bodies need to ensure that policies and practices align with both equality and excellence.
  • Will Australia be able to overcome the obstacles? Only if changes are made that will allow teachers the time and resources needed to cater for individual needs.
  • Inclusive Education in Australia. Is it possible?

    1. 1. Inclusive Education in Australia. Is it possible?<br />The title of the paper linked with this presentation is:<br />Taking the Next Step <br />in Overcoming the Obstacles of Effective Inclusive Education in Australia<br />Presentation by<br />Kerryn Hukkinen<br />
    2. 2. Obstacles of inclusive education in Australia.<br />Competitive School Market<br />The Australian National Curriculum<br />Additional Responsibilities<br />
    3. 3. A Competitive School Market undermines inclusive education.<br />
    4. 4. The Australian National Curriculum supports both equality and excellence<br />“ . . . ACARA . . . will produce advice about using the curriculum to address the diversity of student learning.” (ACARA, 2011, para 1)<br />Will it be enough?<br />
    5. 5. Additional Responsibilities make inclusion difficult.<br />Frustrated<br />Accountability<br />Lack of Time<br />Exhausted<br />Confused<br />Supervision<br />Guilty<br />Professional competence<br />Balancing Needs<br />Support Personnel<br />Behaviour Problems<br />
    6. 6. For Australia to take the next step teachers need to be supported.<br />
    7. 7. Will Australia be able to overcome the obstacles?<br />Only if changes are made<br />
    8. 8. Finland has a different approach and is having amazing success.<br />Result: <br />Little difference in high achievement regardless <br />of socioeconomic factors.<br />
    9. 9. Finland’s part time special education program – all the difference<br />Result: <br />Currently the number of children attending full time special schools is decreasing.<br />
    10. 10. Funding and assistance for all students who struggle – regardless of diagnosis<br />Further release time for all teachers<br />Reduce class sizes<br />Policies and Practices need to align with both equality and excellence<br />Recommendations so Australia can achieve both equality and excellence.<br />
    11. 11. “Our whole system here is all about inclusivity . . . all our kids have special needs. . . There’s very few of our kids who don’t have some kind of special need, even though they might not fit into a funding box.” (Graham & Spandagou, 2011, p. 227)<br />Inclusive education in Australia – not if things don’t change.<br />The title of the paper linked with this presentation is:<br />Taking the Next Step <br />in Overcoming the Obstacles of Effective Inclusive Education in Australia<br />
    12. 12. References<br />Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2011). Diversity of learners [Information Sheet]. Retrieved from Sheet_Diversity_of_learners.pdf<br />Brackenreed, D. (2008). Inclusive education: Identifying teachers' perceived stressors in inclusive classrooms. Exceptionality Education Canada, 18(3), 131-147. Retrieved from 127&sid=99c291c9-b306-4c0b-8640-7426cb4ca396%40sessionmgr114<br />Bourke, P. (2010). Inclusive education reform in Queensland: implications for policy and practice. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14(2), 183-193. doi:10.1080/13603 110802504200<br />Dare to be Different [Image]. (2011). Retrieved from http://smashfly.files.wordpress. com/2011/08/success.jpg<br />Florian, L., & Linklater, H. (2010). Preparing teachers for inclusive education: using inclusive pedagogy to enhance teaching and learning for all. Cambridge Journal of Education, 40(4), 369-386. doi: 10.1080/030576 4X.2010.526588<br />Forlin, C. (2001). Inclusion: identifying potential stressors for regular class teachers. Educational Research, 43(3), 235-245. doi: 10.1080/0013188011008101 7<br />Graham, L.J., & Jahnukainen, M. (2011). Wherefore art thou, inclusion? Analysing the development of inclusive education in New South Wales, Alberta and Finland. Journal of Education Policy, 26(2), 263-288. doi:10.1080/02680939.2010. 493230<br />Graham, L., & Spandagou, I. (2011). From vision to reality: views of primary school principals on inclusive education in New South Wales, Australia. Disability & Society, 26(2), 223-237. doi:10.1080/09687599.2011. 544062<br />Taking the Next Step in Overcoming the Obstacles of Effective Inclusive Education in Australia<br />
    13. 13. References<br />Halinen, I., & Järvinen, R. (2008). Towards inclusive education: the case of Finland. Prospects, (Preprints), 1-21. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.<br />Kennedy, K. (2008). A national curriculum for the “twenty first century: What do Susan Ryan, John Dawkins and Julia Gillard have in common. [National Curriculum Symposium]. Retrieved 10 September, 2011 from http://www. mean<br />Lindsay, K. (2004). ‘Asking for the moon?’ A critical assessment of Australian disability discrimination laws in promoting inclusion for students with disabilities. Inclusive Education, 8(4), 373-390. doi: 10.1080/13603 110410001678125<br />Odd One Out [Image]. Retrieved from gallery/bold_wallpapers/odd_one_out.jpg<br />Savolainen, H. (2009). Responding to diversity and striving for excellence: The case of Finland. Prospects (00331538), 39(3), 281-292. doi:10.1007/s11125-009-9125-y<br />Success [Image]. Retrieved from TFPx_zFIjII/AAAAAAAAAJ4/FW71cGio1bg/s1600/Dare+to+be+different.jpg<br />Westwood, P., & Graham, L. (2003). Inclusion of students with special needs: Benefits and obstacles perceived by teachers in New South Wales and South Australia. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 8(1), 3-15. doi: 10.1080/19404150309546718<br />Taking the Next Step in Overcoming the Obstacles of Effective Inclusive Education in Australia<br />
    14. 14. Inclusive Education<br />
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