Feng, Y. (2008) 'Making special education inclusive': Chinese mainstream teachers’ perspective. Paper presented to: European Educational Research Association (EEER) New Researchers/Student Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, 8 - 12 September 2008.
Given that ‘making special education inclusive’ (Chen, 1992; Farrell and Ainscow, 2002) has been advocated and promoted internationally for more than two decades and significant advancement has been witnessed from theories, policies, research to practices across the world (Ainscow, 2005), international perspectives demonstrate that experiences of children with special educational needs with inclusive education vary in diverse contexts (Pijl, 2007, Mitchell, 2005). The attitudes of teachers as main stakeholders in the inclusive education process remain to be a burning issue which has received unprecedented interests in different countries. Limits to and possibilities for this educational reform are much debated (Slee, 2006). The international perspectives on inclusive education have been constantly modified with the improved awareness and understanding. However, generalisations in this respect are yet to be drawn due to the incomparable nature of education systems coupled with the impact of historical, philosophical, political, socio-economic and cultural variations on teachers’ perceptions and beliefs (Avramidis and Norwich, 2002). In China, as special education has been a low priority in its education system regardless of the fact that there are about 83 million people with disabilities alone in this country, there are still challenges for teachers to accept it either as a concept or in practice. By empowering Chinese teachers to articulate their perspectives on inclusive education to join the world forum, this paper discusses some research findings in terms of teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education from a PhD study on ‘Teacher career motivation and professional development in special and inclusive education in China’. The research was conducted within the social constructivist framework aiming to seek Chinese teachers’ perspectives and attitudes towards inclusive education in the Chinese context. Qualitative data from questionnaire survey and semi-structured in-depth interviews were collected from the purposive and selective sample of teachers in 7 mainstream schools and two special schools in a city in the Eastern part of China