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2014 Disability Studies in Education Conference at Victoria University Melbourne

Date: 05.08.2014 15:05 Age: 4 yrs

2014 Disability Studies in Education Conference at Victoria University Melbourne, Australia from 25 – 27 July 2014.

University of South Pacific School of Education academic Mr. John Rombo presented his paper entitled; “School Culture and Influences for Inclusive Education in Papua New Guinea (PNG)”  at the 2014 Disability Studies in Education Conference at Victoria University Melbourne, Australia from 25 – 27 July 2014.  The conference was well attended by academics who work in the area of disabilities and inclusive education around the globe as far as USA, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Japan and the Pacific region including Australia and New Zealand.  The conference was convened by Dr. Tim Corcoran and Professor Roger Slee who is an authority in Special/Inclusive Education in the world and based at Victoria University Melbourne.  One of the important highlights of the conference was the award of Senior Scholar Award to Professor Athina Zoniou Sideri who is the Director for Postgraduate Programmes for Special Education at the Department of Early Childhood Education at the University of Athens.  Professor Sideri spoke in Greek and was translated into English, which was exciting.  Most of her research was also done in Greek and translated into English.  Another interesting recipient was for the Junior Scholar Award, which was given to Ben Whitburn who lives with total loss of vision and just completed his PhD at Deakin University in Melbourne in 2014.   Whilst other academics talked about their research findings from the western worldview, Mr Rombo’s study focussed on a contextualised form of inclusion from the Melanesian perspectives.  Hence, he argued that Inclusive Education (IE) is a recent phenomenon in the education system in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) in general. It is about giving equal educational opportunities to all children, whether with disabilities or not in the regular schools.  The main aim of this study was to identify the school cultural features and practices that influenced or did not influence inclusive education, and the impact on inclusion.  It was based on an interpretive/naturalistic research paradigm and the case study methodology. Teachers and school administrators were chosen as the main research participants. The primary source of data collection was semi-structured interviews supported by observational data.  The results suggested the existence of four broad school cultural features and practices. These included staff understanding of special and inclusive education concepts, leadership and organisation, school cultural features/practices and implications for staff, and policies.  Teachers and school administrators appeared to have limited knowledge and understanding about what constitutes special and inclusive education practices. However, the school leadership, collaboration and inspection practices minimally influenced inclusive practices. At the same time other school cultural features such as the outcomes-based education curriculum and ecological assessment seemed to have the potential to influence the outcomes of the process of inclusion.  It was found that children with disabilities were already part of the education system in PNG. Though the staff members claimed this to be inclusive education, according to the literature from western countries, this was evidence of  ‘functional mainstreaming’ where children with disabilities were merely placed in the regular classrooms with no additional support provisions to assist them achieve equity.  Whilst this inclusive practice could be argued along the lines of definitions of inclusion used in ‘western countries’, there was an evidence of a ‘contextualised Melanesian cultural based form of inclusion’ found in this study.  Arguably, the kind of inclusion in existence in the four schools was a culturally relevant form of inclusion based on the Melanesian values of ‘personal love, sympathy, care, tolerance, compassion, and empathy’.  However, considering these as the universal human virtues, one would view this form of inclusion from the ‘western worldview’ and argue this to be the manifestation of the ‘charity discourse’.  It is however argued that the ‘charity discourse’ puts a negative spin or connotation on how the child with disabilities is viewed and tolerated, which could ultimately devalue the child and the associated service provisions.  However, the data derived from the Melanesian cultural context suggests that the kind of inclusion in existence originated from the unique values of same blood relations and therefore the children with disabilities deserve an unconditional love, care, sympathy, tolerance, compassion and empathy.  This is evident by virtue of belonging to a given family, group, tribe, clan and community as collectively sharing same blood relations. Therefore, this study has added ‘a culturally meaningful form of inclusion’ by understanding the inter-and-intra relationships that exist among the people in the research cultural context.

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Author: John Longo Rombo, Assistant Lecturer, School of Education, Faculty of Arts, Law & Education, University of South Pacific, Private Mail Bag, SUVA, Fiji Islands
Phone:  (679) 323 2471
Fax:  (679) 323 1571
E-mail:  rombo_j(at) or johnrombo2004(at)



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