Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Developing the Understanding and Practice of Inclusion in Higher Education for International Students with Disabilities/additional Needs: A Whole Schooling Approach

Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Developing the Understanding and Practice of Inclusion in Higher Education for International Students with Disabilities/additional Needs: A Whole Schooling Approach

Article excerpt

Introduction

International and Australian inclusive policy contexts are promoting access to university level education for local and international students with disabilities in Australia, yet often in these arenas the voice of the student is not heard. This study hopes to make those voices 'audible' by attempting an in-depth exploration of the experience of international students with a disability. This will be achieved by researching students' experience of policy effectiveness, resource deployment, support systems, and staff skill sets. In doing so, this research also hopes to give a new perspective to policy, attitudes, and good practice in inclusive education.

Conceptualising inclusion, disability and additional needs

In this paper we conceptualised inclusion as a systems approach that supports full participation of all students in education (Loreman, Deppeler, & Harvey, 2010). This conceptualisation implies that, at its most fundamental, all students have the chance to learn when organisational and teaching approaches reflect "individual strengths and learning needs" (Lindsay, 2003, in Agbenyega, 2007, p. 41), and promotes full student participation. For the purposes of this paper, we use the term 'disability/additional needs' as a guiding construct which has helped inform our selection of participants.

We see educational inclusion from a 'Whole Schooling Approach' (Figure 1 below) that considers policy, infrastructure, staff attitudes and practices, and their relationship to how these impact on international students who have identified themselves as needing additional support at one university in Melbourne. Considering a Whole School approach provides insight into how inclusion has the capacity to challenge: "political, epistemological, pedagogical and institutional" (Acedo, 2009, p. 8) boundaries, and prompt "a critique of social values, priorities and the structures and institutions which they support" (Barton, 2003, in Carrington & Saggers, 2008, p. 796).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The diagram above shows the reciprocal relationship between "The Eight Principles" (support, partnership, authentic multi-level instruction and so on) in building effective practices in inclusion. Indeed, the main principles of Whole Schooling can be found within recent university initiatives in involving stronger links with the community and engaging in partnerships outside universities with the aim of creating graduates with a stronger and deeper knowledge economy--an example of which can be seen in the value statement from Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia:

We value: knowledge and skills, and critical and imaginative inquiry for their capacity to transform individuals and the community; equality of opportunity for students and staff; diversity for its contribution to creativity and the enrichment of our lives; cooperation as the basis of engagement with local and international communities; integrity, respect and transparency in personal, collaborative and institutional action; sound environmental stewardship for future generations; and the pursuit of excellence in everything that we do (Victoria University, 2008).

The importance of inclusion in higher education

Policy-makers in both developed and developing countries are aware of the links between inclusive education and economic development and how education empowers populations to make contributions on both social and economic levels (Artiles & Dyson, 2005; Mittler, 2005).

In today's economic climate, there are many reasons which 'push' students away from their own country and to a foreign country in order to study. Some of these reasons are related to a lack of educational opportunities in home countries caused by over-crowding or competition, a lack of specialist courses in the home country, the desire to become more competitive through gaining qualifications overseas, political, racial, and religious or economic factors (Altbach, 2004). …

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