Macquarie University
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Discourses, decisions, designs: an international comparative analysis of "special" educational policy making in New South Wales, Scotland, Finland and Malaysia

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posted on 2022-03-28, 15:22 authored by Pei Wen Chong
This research draws on a nested case-study approach to investigate the influence of neo-liberal and inclusive discourses in education policy decision-making and the design of student support structures in New South Wales (Australia), Scotland, Finland and Malaysia. Findings reveal that policies inspired by neo-liberal market theory work in opposition to the goals of inclusive education but both forces are present in varying degrees in the four jurisdictions. Largely as a result of federal direction, the New South Wales education system is the most marketised with increasing school choice, assessment benchmarking and “like-school” comparison of academic performance. Malaysia is following a similar path with a highly selective centralised education system, limited resources for inclusion and an increase in the adoption of neo-liberal steering mechanisms. More inclusive discourses can be identified from Scottish and Finnish data through active endorsement of the mainstreaming policy, equal social and academic participation for students with a disability and prompt individualised support. Telltale signs of neo-liberal policy borrowing are beginning to emerge but with little material effect to date. It is argued that an inclusive approach is conducive to the achievement of both excellence and equity in students’ learning outcomes, whereas countries that have pursued market-driven models involving competition for places in selective institutions tend to have poorer educational outcomes and wider levels of inequality.


Table of Contents

1. Computing goals, competing discourses: the influence on student support services -- 2. Literature review -- 3. Methodology -- 4. New South Wales case study -- 5. Scottish case study -- 6. Finnish case study -- 7. Malaysian case study -- 8. Comparative analysis and discussion -- References -- Appendix.


A thesis submitted to Macquarie University and University of Edinburgh in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" Includes bibliographical references "16 January 2013

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, School of Education

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Linda Graham

Additional Supervisor 1

Sheila Riddell


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Pei Wen Chong 2013.




1 online resources (xiv, 311 pages) illustrations, graphs, charts

Former Identifiers

mq:33288 2180964