Challenges to teacher education for inclusive education: The status quo of the teacher educators at tertiary level in China

Year: 2012

Author: Feng, Yan, Deng, Meng, Rose, Richard, Forlin, Chris, Cooper, Paul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Teacher education for inclusive education is high on the governments' agenda internationally (World Report on Disability, 2011; Teacher Education for Inclusion across Europe, 2012).  However, in the process of reforming and restructuring of teacher education, there is incongruence in some countries between the governments' rhetoric calling for further promotion of inclusive teacher education and the structures and practices of teacher education programmes (Florian, 2009; Rose, 2010; Forlin, 2010).

In China, the issue of the Outline of the National Plan for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020) (2010) has provided guidelines in mapping the implementation of policy initiatives in teacher education for inclusion. Subsequently higher education institutions have been urged to prepare teachers for inclusive classrooms. This presents challenges in the restructuring of teacher education programmes(Deng, 2009). The challenges lie in the shortage in quantity and quality of the teacher educators for inclusive teacher education at tertiary level. This is evidenced in that, at present, inclusive education is not a compulsory element in the curriculum of teacher education programmes(Hua and Hua, 2009), partly because teacher educators have not been well-prepared to share their core values, knowledge and expertise of inclusive education with the trainees (Feng, 2010).

This paper presents the preliminary data from an ongoing 'International comparative study on the status quo and coping strategies of the teaching force for inclusive teacher education at tertiary level', a project funded by the Ministry of Education of China (2011-2014; Ref.: 11YJA880022). The data to be presented are from China, collected from a questionnaire survey as part of the research instruments of the mixed-method approach for this study. The questionnaire is designed to investigate the status quo of the teaching force for inclusive teacher education at tertiary level with a specific focus on the teacher educators' professional qualifications and continuing professional development in special and inclusive education. A purposive and selective sample is identified from the higher education institutions of two provinces in China.

By demonstrating the challenges in teacher education for inclusive education at tertiary level, this paper aims to provide implications that, although teachers at different levels in China need training for inclusive education, there is a shortage in quantity and quality of teacher educators. Factors causing the shortage are identified as national specific and culture-driven. The paper calls for high awareness and further support from the stakeholders in continuing professional development of the teacher educators at tertiary level.