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