In the Public Good? Preparing Teachers to Be Inclusive Educators: A New Zealand Research Project
There is a strong view in the international literature that an effective initial teacher education (ITE) is a necessary condition for high quality inclusive education. Some believe that far too little attention has been paid to preparing teachers for the inclusive school. Booth et al (2003) argue that there are some basic questions that need to be asked in developing teacher education courses that support inclusion: • To what extent does the curriculum of teacher education encourage the development of inclusive schools? • What preparation and support do teachers need to implement inclusion? • What are the policy and cultural contexts for the development of inclusion? • How are barriers to learning and participation overcome in teacher education? (Booth, Nes, & Stromstad, 2003). The current study provides a multi-faceted approach to answering these (and other) questions in the New Zealand context. The starting point of our work is the phenomenon of the production of exclusionary practices within inclusive programmes. In the US and some other countries, the separation of ‘general’ from ‘special’ teacher education formalises a two system approach (Blanton, Griffin, Winn, & Pugach, 1997b). In New Zealand, an inclusionary legislative framework, a generalist system of teacher education, and a school framework that specifically demands ‘diversity’ should generate the conditions for inclusion. That it does not uniformly do so is due to a range of factors, including the historical legacy of the homogenous and exclusionary classroom and the normative teacher education programmes that this model implies. There are also policy issues, especially the framework of school ‘choice’ that privileges the ‘academic’ classroom, not the ‘democratic’ one, which makes inclusion difficult to achieve. In essence, then, New Zealand’s schooling system demands inclusionary practices, but there are numerous barriers to achieving them.