Discourses on Inclusion, Citizenship and Categorizations of ‘Special’ in Education Policy: The Case of Negotiating Change in the Governing of Vocational Special Needs Education in Finland

May. 21, 2010

Source: European Educational Research Journal, Volume 9 Number 2, (2010). p. 269-283.

This paper deals with the negotiation process deciding the institutional organization of vocational special needs education and training in Finland.
Traditionally, the state has been a strong actor in organizing vocational special needs education in Finland. At the beginning of 2009, however, all five state-maintained vocational special schools were administratively merged with vocational special schools of non-governmental not-for-profit organizations.

Three of these former state schools are institutions that have long traditions in organizing care, education and training for people with intellectual disabilities, which is the starting point for the study that this article is based on. The article focuses on research that has documented the change process in these three schools by visiting the schools, gathering ethnographic data and interviewing the head teachers about the process.
The article analyzes discursive meanings of the concept of inclusion and different categorizations of ‘special’ constructed in the data.

The results of the analysis show that there is ambivalence in the formulation of ideas of inclusion and exclusion in the educational policy of vocational special needs education and training, as the policy on the one hand supports full inclusion and, on the other, legitimates the separated vocational special schools.

Updated: Oct. 29, 2010