3. Perspectives of Mainstream Students with Special Educational Needs on Inclusion

Siti Mariam Binte Daud1*

1. Dyslexia Association of Singapore

Abstract

The increase in the number of students with special educational needs (SEN) studying in mainstream schools in Singapore has largely been influenced by international developments in inclusive education practices. This has led to strong advocacy towards the inclusion of these students in local mainstream schools. Despite increased support and resources to implement inclusion and inclusive education practices, there has not been a substantial investigation into how these practices are perceived by local students with SEN. This research project seeks to examine the perspectives of students with SEN on the inclusion and inclusive education practices in their regular mainstream schools and classes. An in-depth qualitative approach was used to generate data through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with three students with SEN who were attending literacy intervention lessons in a local SEN organisation. A thematic analysis coding system was employed in analysing the transcribed data. Students' perspectives were organized in the results according to a framework based on three guiding questions: (1) To what extent do students with SEN feel included (or excluded) in their schools and classrooms, i.e. during both academic and social situations?; and (2) What academic or social-emotional barriers do they face that may affect their perspectives of the inclusion or inclusive education practices in their mainstream schools and classrooms; and (3) How can these barriers be overcome? The findings indicate that students had both positive and negative perspectives on the following themes that emerged: Teachers' attitudes, the school system, academic support, and peer support. Barriers related to the themes were also identified with recommendations as to how these can be overcome. These recommendations include a need to develop teachers' attitudes further, to explore later school start times, to regulate homework assignment and to promote a culture of respect in the classroom. Future research could look at expanding the criteria and numbers of the sample group and supplementing questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with field observations.

Keywords:           Inclusion; Inclusive practice; SEN

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