Pedagogies for inclusion of students with disabilities in a national curriculum: a capabilities approach

Year: 2013

Author: Price, Deborah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A national curriculum for all students suggests curriculum design that can make a difference in academic opportunity for the 15-20% of the Australian school population verified with a disability (DEEWR, 2013).  The Australian Curriculum from its inception has been challenged for how it caters for the needs of students with disabilities. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority claim responsibility for designing the intended curriculum; however responsibility for the enacted curriculum has been delegated to states and territories. It has been argued that how one teaches cannot be separated from what is being taught and learnt (Lusted, 1989) and that curriculum is what teachers enact in the classroom (Boomer 1991/1999). It is timely to explore specification issues of the Australian curricula and pedagogical justice, particularly for students with disabilities. In thinking about these issues, this paper argues that the capabilities approach of Amartya Sen (1985) and Martha Nussbaum (2003) provides a powerful theoretical framework for advancing curricula and pedagogical justice for students with disabilities. Nussbaum's 10 Central Human Capabilities are used as a lens to assess how the learning needs of students with disabilities are being met in the national curriculum. The Australian Curriculum literacy capability is used as a case study to assist the analysis. This study analyses four teacher perspectives of their interpretation and understanding of the literacy capability across both special education and mainstream school settings located in Adelaide, South Australia. The paper concludes by proposing ways in which the Australian Curriculum can better ensure that education contributes to developing some or all of Nussbaum's 10 central human capabilities, at least up to a threshold level for students with disabilities. Ultimately, advancing pedagogies for inclusion in a national curriculum.