Factors affecting the implementation of inclusive education policy: A case study in one province in South Africa
Stofile, Sindiswa Yvonne
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After the democratic elections of 1994, the South African government embarked on radical reforms to the apartheid education system, which included the development of a policy that is committed to human rights and social justice. The inclusive education policy, entitled: Education White Paper 6: Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System (Department of Education, 2001) was released in July 2001. This inclusive education policy brought with it the prospect of changing the structures that promoted exclusionary and discriminatory practices in the education system. While the inclusive education framework is characterised by explicit policy directives, well-defined outcomes and a firm commitment to human rights and social justice, there is a growing realisation that a considerable gap exists between this framework and its effective implementation. The main aim of this study was to understand the factors that facilitate or constrain the implementation of inclusive education in the South African context. These factors were explored through a qualitative case study. A documentary analysis, as well as unstructured and semi-structured interviews was used to collect the data within the context of the research aims, questions, and a framework of categories, drawn from relevant literature, was used to analyse the data. The first major finding of this study was that the implementation of inclusive education policy in South Africa has been facilitated by the school communities' beliefs, values and norms relating to the inclusion of learners with disabilities. The second major fmding of this study is that the designers of the inclusive education policy underestimated the deep-seated socio-economic factors that inhibit effective learning in certain contexts. Poverty was identified as a major constraining factor in the study, followed by the complexities of the National Curriculum Statement, a lack of capacity to implement the policy, lack of support for policy implementation, and the limitations of the Education White Paper 6 itself. Given the facilitating and constraining factors emerging from this study, the recommendations made have been based on the assumption that the implementation of inclusive education policy is a worthwhile endeavour. These recommendations are proposed within three broad areas, namely policy implementation, inclusive education policy, and inclusive education practice. Of these recommendations the following are critical: • The Department of Education should develop differentiated inclusive education guidelines that address inclusion of learners in poverty stricken contexts. • The Department of Education, in conjunction with schools, should create formal and informal communication channels through which stakeholders can raise their views and concerns about the policy of inclusive education and how it should be implemented. • The Department of Education should take full responsibility for the advocacy, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of inclusive education policy, rather than relying on the services of independent providers. • The Department of Education should address the complexities that prevent districts and schools from establishing support structures.