Inclusive basic education in south africa: issues in its conceptualisation and implementation

Inclusive basic education in South Africa: White Paper 6

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3.2 Inclusive basic education in South Africa: White Paper 6

As mentioned above, the shift to inclusive education in South African policy was part of the general move from the segregated education system of the apartheid period towards a diverse, economically and socially empowered society.66 SA's approach to inclusive education is set out in WP 6 which seeks to elaborate on a "South African" model of inclusion that takes into account the severe resource constraints within which primary education is provided in the country.67 The model envisaged in WP 6 is geared towards the inclusion of children with a range of special needs in education, but is evidently biased towards children with disabilities. It also prioritises the education of children with disabilities in mainstream settings. In the view of WP 6, inclusive education entails accepting that all children have learning needs, respecting diversity in learning capacities and needs, and acknowledging that all children can learn if given support.68 WP 6 also acknowledges the long-term economic value of inclusive education; that is, that the education of persons with disabilities has the potential to reduce the government's fiscal burden by reducing the number of dependant citizens relative to productive members of society.69

According to WP 6, the components of inclusive education include an acknowledgement that all children and youth can learn, and recognition of the fact that different people have different learning needs that are equally valued for the full human experience. Inclusive education also acknowledges that learners are different, and recognises that learning is not confined to formal schooling. WP 6 considers inclusive education and training as necessary to maximise the participation of all learners, and to develop their individual strengths so as to enable them to participate critically in the process of learning.70 Inclusive education according to WP6 further embraces the ambition of redressing past inequalities by increasing access to previously marginalised groups and the poor.71 In accordance with this goal, the financing of education has been redirected specifically towards considerations of equity, redress, accessibility and affordability.72

The model of inclusion advocated in WP 6 seems to advance an approach that seeks the integration of learners into the mainstream education system. For instance, WP 6 argues that the inclusion of learners with intellectual disabilities is much easier to implement because all that is needed is curriculum adaptation, as opposed to intensive medical support or structural adjustments to the built environment.73 This reasoning not only discounts the levels of support that must nevertheless be provided to enable the education of all children in a mainstream class, but also underscores an underlying assumption that inclusion equals the integration of learners into the mainstream classroom.

The integration undertone in WP 6 echoes the provisions of the South African Schools Act.74 The Act states that education for learners with disabilities ought to be provided in ordinary public schools, and that support is to be provided to the learners within the regular schools.75 The SIAS amplifies this approach by primarily pursuing the support of students in regular schools where possible and in special schools in cases where more support is necessary. In terms of the SIAS, once it is determined that a learner falls within a defined range of support needs, he or she is automatically placed in the predetermined school, that is, an ordinary public school, a full service school or a special school.76

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