Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Principals Facing Inclusive Schooling or Integration

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Principals Facing Inclusive Schooling or Integration

Article excerpt

Introduction

A strong movement in North America and in other countries concerned with philosophical reflections on rights to education and equal opportunities for everyone advocates inclusive education to better meet the needs of all students (Maertens, 2004; Vienneau, 2004). Conceptually, the expression 'academic inclusion' refers to full-time integration of all students--no matter what their difficulties are--in a regular class corresponding to their age and located in a school in their district (Belanger, 2004). In this way, according to this inclusive principle, students make academic progress with students their age and pass each school year normally (Parent, 2004). A successful inclusion implies a planned intervention that will provide the teacher and all students in the class with accommodations and support necessary for everyone's success, and success in the best possible environment (Belanger, 2004; Maertens, 2004). In scientific as well as in philosophical literature, the concept of inclusion tends more and more to replace integration (Aucoin & Goguen, 2004; Beaupre, Bedard, Courchesne, Pomerleau, & Tetreault, 2004; Maertens, 2004; Vienneau, 2004), which implies including a disabled student in a regular class insofar as it does not impose an excessive constraint on the school or does not greatly undermine students' rights (Ministere de l'Education du Quebec, 1999). Thus, according to the philosophy behind this concept, some students are either difficult to integrate or cannot be integrated so that traditional placement procedures with associated services are retained (assistance in regular classes, assistance outside of class, special class within a regular school or a special school), ultimately contributing to upholding segregated services (Vienneau, 2004).

In school environments, inclusive schooling and even integration still face several obstacles and are not accepted unanimously. In this respect, several scholars question the principal's role and how key this role can be in terms of their staffs support for the philosophical principles and the success of inclusion (Beaupre, Bedard, Courchesne, Pomerleau, & Tetreault, 2004; Belanger, 2004; Doyle, 2002). This question received particular attention in a large study focusing on favorable conditions regarding the academic development and the success of disabled students in regular classes in Grades 5 and 6. (1) It is to be noted that this study took place in schools in Quebec where the adopted ministerial policy is that of integration, not inclusion. Individual interviews were held with the principals of these schools (a woman and two men) to establish their subjective views of school integration and to comprehend how these views connect to actions undertaken and obstacles encountered within their respective schools. First, we will give a description of the relevant literature, frame of reference, and methodological framework in this study, all of which were used to analyze principals' discourses and second, results of this study will be presented and discussed.

Theoretical background

According to Bronfenbrenner's ecological model (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998), a child's development results from multiple interactions with his immediate environment, i.e. different microsystems (e.g., family, school) during a given period. One could be tempted to attribute the success or failure of school inclusion or integration to people with whom the child interacts directly, which is mostly the teacher in terms of school environment. However, the model also postulates that the child is also influenced by 1) the relationships existing between two or more of his immediate environments or mesosystem, "in short, ... a system of two or more microsystems" (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998, p. 1016) such as the relation between his family and his school; 2) the relationships existing between one of his microsystems and another system to which he does not belong or exosystem (e. …

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