Inclusion Seen by Student Teachers in Special Education: Differences among Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Students

Jul. 10, 2012

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 35, No. 3, August 2012, 305–325
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper describes various views of special teacher students towards inclusion.
The specific aims were to see how these views can be seen as supportive or challenging for inclusion in schools.

The participants were 241 university and college students from Finland, Norway and Sweden.
All student teachers in special education in Helsinki, Lillehammer and Umeå in2009 and 2011 (Norway only in 2009) were involved.
The approach adopted was a phenomenological one, aimed at eliciting the lived experiences of participants.
A questionnaire with one closed question and two open-ended questions was used in all countries.


The results show that students in similar Nordic countries have different views about inclusion.
Norwegian students mostly supported inclusion while the special teachers in Finland and in Sweden have more reservations.
The findings also revealed that positive and negative aspects of inclusion were astonishingly similar in all the Nordic countries; positive issues were related to human rights globally and locally, to pupils, teachers and the whole system.
Negative views were also related to students, teachers, resources and to the whole system.

The arguments about inclusion by Norwegian students were the most pupil-focused; those by Finns were teacher-focused, with Swedes being in between.
Whereas the Norwegians saw inclusion as a means to promote positive attitudes towards diverse pupils, the Finns were worried about the knowledge base of the teachers.
The results reflect the educational policies in these countries.

When compressing the data in order to find common discourses which overlap positive and negative implications, four main ones could be found.
It must be emphasized that all discourses appeared in all counties, but the extent to which they were addressed varied according to the quantitative frequency study.
The professional competence discourse was most common in Finland; the participation discourse was most dominant in Norway and the similarity-difference discourse was most present in Sweden.
The last discourse, the model learning discourse, was represented in all countries.

The authors conclude that the inclusion policy has been most successfully implemented in Norway, where there are the fewest pupils in special education.
To sum up, Scandinavian countries are similar yet different.
Teacher education needs to be a place to explore inclusion critically as well as a place to prepare for it.
It is obvious that discussion about the meaning and our understanding of inclusion as well as information of good inclusive models are needed.

Updated: Jul. 07, 2015