Inclusive education in primary schools: Barriers and supports to successful inclusion

Year: 2012

Author: Yeo, Lay See

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper presents findings from a mixed-method study that was aimed at identifying barriers and supports to inclusive education in 41primary schools in Singapore. About 200 regular teachers, teachers in special needs and allied educators responded to a questionnaire on perceived barriers and supports associated with inclusion (Buysse, Wesley, & Keyes, 1998). Buysse et al. identified 4 major categories of barrier factors and 1 supports factor in the implementation of inclusion in early childhood settings. The 4 categories of barriers are: program quality; community resources; service coordination and integration; and attitudes and beliefs. The supports aspect of the questionnaire emerged as a single factor. We adapted the questionnaire for use in Singapore primary schools. From the quantitative analyses, there were no significant differences noted between the 3 groups of educators with respect to their perceptions about the 4 barrier factors. On the supports for inclusion, teachers in special needs perceived significantly more support factors than allied educators. Focus group interviews were conducted with the various teaching personnel in each school to explore the barriers and supports experienced in the respective schools and classes in depth. Guided by the factors identified by Buysee et a. (1998), we noted that the barriers associated with service quality provision, and service coordination and integration were most commonly highlighted by the educators. The availability of community resources and attitudes and beliefs did not feature strongly as obstacles. From the qualitative analyses, factors associated with specialist support in classroom, positive attitudes towards children with disabilities, and good working relationships among stakeholders were perceived to have contributed to the ease of introducing inclusive practices in regular classrooms. Further barriers and supports that appeared peculiar to the Singapore education setting have also been identified. In particular, the educators highlighted the role of parents and an inflexible assessment-based curriculum as the other major obstacles. These factors will be deliberated in the presentation.