Understanding teachers’ concerns about inclusive education
This study examined the concerns of regular elementary school teachers in Gurgaon, India, in order to work with students with disabilities in inclusive education settings. A total of 175 teachers responded to a two-part questionnaire. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The data indicated that the teachers in Gurgaon, overall, were a little concerned about implementing inclusive education in their schools. Significant difference existed in teacher concerns whether they taught in government versus privately managed schools. Implications are discussed to address teacher concerns for inclusive education in India.
KeywordsConcerns Inclusion Teachers Disabilities India
Educational systems across the world have been experiencing major changes in the last four decades. One of them is related to the increase in the diversity of school populations (Hettiarachchi and Das 2014). Classrooms are becoming more heterogeneous as a result of a worldwide movement toward the inclusion of students with special educational needs within ordinary or general education settings. It should be noted that although the inclusion movement exists in both developed and developing countries, the implementation of this school change varies not only among nations, but also within nations (i.e., states and districts). This is especially the case in India where there are vast differences in urban and rural areas, states that have per capita incomes significantly higher than those where a vast majority of the population lives below poverty line and the states in north-eastern part of India that have not benefitted as much with the recent economic boom.
While inclusion as a theory has been largely welcomed, there is a school of thought which expresses reservations as to whether the ordinary classroom can provide optimal quality education for children with disabilities. A decisive issue is how students can be ensured optimal education in accordance with her/his capabilities and needs. But it is widely recognized that segregated education that was being largely followed the world over during the eighties and early nineties has not brought about the desired results (Ince 2012). Although an earlier common misconception was that inclusion is just about placement of students with diverse learning needs in general education classrooms, more recently, researchers argue that it is much more than placement (e.g., Winter 2006). It is about the quality of the school experience and about how far they are helped to learn, achieve and participate fully in the life of the school (Pachigar et al. 2011). The success of the inclusion movement depends on many factors, including needed revisions and changes in policies, regulatory systems and administrative structures, and the availability of materials and resources. In particular, it depends on the foot soldiers, namely skilled classroom teachers.
The hallmark of inclusive education is the teachers’ willingness to accept students with special needs. Implementing inclusive education is not an easy task and requires significant changes to facilitate improvements in the way teachers work in the classrooms. Literature indicates that success in implementing effective inclusive teaching practices is contingent on teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs. In addition, their concerns need to be systematically addressed before the foundation of a successful inclusion program can be laid (Bradshaw and Mundia 2006; Oswald and Swart 2011).
Inclusive education movement in India
The origin of inclusive education in India can be traced back to 1974 when for the first time the scheme of Integrated Education of Disabled Children (IEDC) was implemented by the central Government of India (GOI) in selected blocks of the country. A decade later, the National Policy on Education (NPE) in 1986 stressed the removal of disparities in education, while attending to the specific needs of those who had been denied equality so far (Ministry of Human Resource Development 1986). The objective was to integrate individuals with the physical and cognitive impairment with the general community as equal partners and to prepare them to reach their full potential.
To fulfill the provisions for children with disabilities in the NPE, the government launched the Project for Integrated Education Development (PIED) with assistance from UNICEF in 1986. The implementation of PIED in 10 demonstration sites in rural and urban contexts encouraged policy-makers to include children with disabilities in 1992. In practice, children with multiple and severe disabilities were also integrated in project areas as a consequence of the lack of special schools, and through the commitment to providing education for all. Evaluation of PIED showed higher retention rates of children with disabilities, and a positive change in teacher practices.
The GOI enacted the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act in 1995 which called for the education of children with disabilities up to the age of 18 years in an appropriate environment. The Act granted ‘equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation’ to people with disabilities. It included a number of provisions to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities into regular schools. Although there was no specific mention of inclusive education in the PWD Act, it was referred to be a breakthrough legislation relating to education and economic rehabilitation of people with disabilities in India (Das et al. 2013; Bhatnagar and Das 2014; Shah 2005). The economic rehabilitation section under this act stipulated that certain positions in various government departments and in the public sector was to be identified, and 3 % seats were to be reserved for people with disabilities. In 1999, the Government passed the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act especially for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities.
A massive nationwide program Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was launched in 2002–2003, which aimed to achieve universal elementary education for all. Efforts within SSA were underscored by effective decentralization, sustainable financing, cost-effective strategies for universalization, community-owned planning and implementation, and focus on girls, marginalized caste groups and ethnic minorities. Inclusive education was an integral component of SSA. SSA program was upgraded to Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) in 2009 with the objective to enhance access to secondary education and to improve its quality. It was envisaged to achieve an enrollment rate of 75 % at secondary stage within 5 years of implementation of the scheme by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation. The other objectives include improving quality of education imparted at secondary level through making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms, removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers, providing universal access to secondary level education by 2017 and achieving universal retention by 2020 (Das and Shah 2014).
Another significant legislation, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act was passed in 2009. It offered every child between 6 and 14 years of age a right to an appropriate full-time education. The RTE Act proposed free and compulsory education, making it binding on all public and private schools to reserve 25 % of their seats for children from “disadvantaged sections”. Section 3 of the Act stated that “disadvantaged sections” include children with disabilities. A bill was passed by the parliament of India in 2012 amending the RTE Act. This bill allowed children with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities the benefit of choosing to study from home. The bill also emphasized that the “home schooling option” should not become an instrument for schools to not accept children with disabilities.
This study was guided by Ajzen’s theory of reasoned action (Azjen 1991). This is a widely used theoretical model to determine behavior arising from attitudes and has been used in research involving attitudes or perceptions toward individuals with disabilities (Hodge and Jansma 2000). The theory of reasoned action suggests that an individual’s behavior is determined by his or her intention to engage in the behavior. In the case of classroom teachers in Gurgaon including students with disabilities in their classrooms, it will be the result of the individual’s: (1) attitudes: an individual’s beliefs about the attributes and outcomes of including students with disabilities in their classrooms weighted by their evaluations of these attributes or outcomes. (2) Subjective norms: an individual’s beliefs regarding important others’ approval or disapproval of inclusive education, weighted by their motivation to comply with these important others’ beliefs. (3) Perceived behavioral control: an individual’s perceived control over the implementation of inclusive education (knowledge of strategies). It can therefore be said that the more favorable the attitude and subjective norm, and the greater the perceived control, the stronger should be the person’s intention to perform the behavior (inclusive education in this case). Teacher concerns can be understood as primarily a product of the first and the third factor and will impact the implementation of inclusive education programs.
Teacher concerns about inclusive education
There have been several attempts to identify teacher concerns about inclusive education in India. Our literature review yielded four research articles that attempted to identify teacher concerns about inclusion in India. In the earliest study, Sharma (2001) examined the concerns of 310 primary school principals and 484 teachers working in government schools in Delhi. He found that both principals and teachers were concerned about the lack of resources, the lack of funding and the lack of training to implement inclusive education. Shah (2005) conducted a survey of 560 school teachers working in government schools in Ahmedabad and reported a moderate level of concerns among these teachers. The teachers were most concerned about lack of infrastructural resources and least concerned about lack of social acceptance of students with disabilities in inclusive education classrooms. Significant differences existed in teacher concerns based on the following background variables: gender, qualifications in special education, teaching experience and number of students with disabilities in class. Another research was conducted by Bhatnagar (2006) with a sample of 470 regular school teachers drawn from schools run by a private management in Delhi. The researcher reported a ‘moderate levels of concerns’ among the teachers for the implementation of inclusive education. The teachers reported a number of concerns including poor infrastructure, financial limitations, large class sizes, lack of trained teachers and negative attitudes of teachers among others. The fourth study was conducted by Sharma et al. (2009) with 478 pre-service teachers enrolled at Pune University in the state of Maharashtra. Respondents in this study also indicated a moderate level of concerns about including students with special needs in their classrooms. The authors further reported that ‘participants were most concerned about lack of resources (e.g., lack of funds, lack of para-professional staff and inappropriate infrastructure)’ (p. 326).
In addition to the review of literature conducted in this area in India, an extensive review of literature was conducted to locate similar research on teacher concerns in overseas countries. The search yielded a number of research studies that have been done using CIES or a modified version of it. For example, Sharma et al. (2006) identified the concerns of the pre-service teachers in four countries. The researchers reported concern mean scores of 2.21, 2.25, 2.62 and 2.68 for the teachers from Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong respectively. In another study, Bradshaw and Mundia (2006) found the concern mean score of 2.70 among 166 pre-service teachers in Brunei. Ahsan et al. (2012) reported a concern mean score of 2.67 among pre-service teachers in Bangladesh. Forlin and Chambers (2011) reported that pre-service teachers in Hong Kong indicated least level of concerns about non-acceptance of students with disabilities by their peers without disabilities in general education classrooms followed by their lack of knowledge of instructional techniques in meeting the needs these students. The teachers were most concerned about inadequate resources and a lack of staff to support inclusion. After conducting a survey of 126 physical education pre-service teachers regarding inclusive education in Botswana, Mangope et al. (2013) reported that the teachers were concerned about the lack of knowledge and skills required for inclusion, lack of time, lack of resources and the negative impact on students without disabilities. Fayez et al. (2011) conducted interviews of 20 preservice early childhood teachers in Jordan and reported that the teachers “were concerned about the poor building facilities and the lack of resources, support, and adequate services for inclusion.” (p. 334).
In addition to the research studies that specifically explored teacher concerns, a number of researchers in India have explored teacher preparedness for inclusive education. For example, Jangira et al. (1995) conducted a survey of teachers in seven states and reported that the teachers lacked specific skills in meeting the unique needs of students with disabilities. Das (2001), after conducting a survey of 223 primary and 130 secondary regular school teachers in Delhi, reported that a vast majority of the teachers had limited or low level of competence in working with students with disabilities. Further, nearly 70 % of the teachers indicated not receiving training in special education. Singal (2008) explored variables associated with inclusion and reported their impact on the implementation of inclusive education in India. The researcher conducted a qualitative study utilizing teacher interviews in schools located in Delhi. Participants in this study reported large class size as a major barrier in the implementation of inclusion programs in their schools.
To identify the concerns of elementary regular school teachers in Gurgaon regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities into their classrooms;
To determine whether significant relationships exist between the teachers’ concerns and selected factors in their personal and professional backgrounds.
A survey design was utilized in this study. A two-part questionnaire was used for data collection. Part-one of the questionnaire gathered information about background variables of the respondents. Part-two employed a modified version of the Concerns about Inclusive Education Scale (CIES) developed by Sharma and Desai (2002). CIES is a 21 item Likert scale. The CIES is designed to measure the concerns of school principals and teachers regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities. The scale consists of a four point Likert-type classification with responses labeled extremely concerned (4), very concerned (3), a little concerned (2) not concerned at all (1) to measure the level of educators’ concerns. The validity of the CIES was addressed by Sharma and Desai (2002) through a panel of experts. The reliability coefficient for the scale was found to be 0.91.
Teachers’ concerns for resources (Factor I),
Teachers’ concerns for acceptance of special students (Factor II),
Teachers’ concerns for academic standard of the classrooms (Factor III), and
Teachers’ concerns for the workload in inclusive settings (Factor IV).
Adaptation of the survey instrument
The CIES was adapted for the use in this study. Initially, 20 items were added to the scale aligning it to the recent literature and socio-politico-educational situations in India. The majority of the items that were generated focused on concerns of educators to include all learners by using inclusive strategies rather than a narrow focus on one or more disabilities.
Classroom-related concerns (9 items)
School-related concerns (4 items)
Self-related concerns (4 items)
Academic achievement related concerns (3 items)
Management-related concerns (3 items)
Participants and settings
Participants in this study were general education teachers working in elementary schools (government and private) in Gurgaon district of Haryana state in India. Twenty-one government schools and 14 private schools were randomly selected to be included in this study. Five teachers from each school were invited to participate in the study. Permission from central administration (e.g., government schools) was sought to conduct the study in their schools. In case of private schools, permission was obtained from school administration to conduct a survey of the teachers in their schools. The assistance of school administrators was then sought in the selection of the teachers. Informed consent was obtained from the teachers prior to them completing the questionnaires. Teachers completed the questionnaire at a place convenient to them; usually in teacher work rooms. The questionnaires were made available to the teachers in either Hindi or English. In some instances, the survey questionnaires were given to the principal or to the principal’s designee and collected by the first author at a later mutually agreed upon date. Data collection was completed within a 4 weeks period. The teachers were assured of the anonymity of their response. A total of 175 completed questionnaires was obtained yielding a return rate of 100 %. Such high rate of return was possible since the first author spent a great deal of time at each school site ensuring all teachers completed their survey.
Concern factor scores of CIES-R
Academic achievement related concerns
Mean factor scores of CIES-R
Mean factor score
Academic achievement related concerns
Teachers’ concerns according to background variables
A concern mean score was obtained for each of the sub-categories of the background variable. A t test or analysis of variance (ANOVA) was computed to determine whether a significant difference existed in teachers’ concerns according to the background variables.
Comparison of teachers’ concerns based on their gender
Type of school taught
Comparison of teacher concerns based on their employment setting
Type of school
Length of teaching experience
Teachers’ concerns based on their teaching experience
Experience in years
Above 21 years
Comparison of teachers’ concerns based on teaching experience
Sum of squares
Teachers’ concerns based on their educational qualifications
Above post graduate
Comparison of teachers’ concerns based on their educational qualifications
Sum of squares
The positive attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of teachers regarding implementation of inclusive education programs in their classrooms, therefore, become a potent force if schools are to reduce the disparities between the statutory mandate to provide for the education of all children and their actual level of current service delivery. (p. 9)
The purpose of this study was to determine regular elementary school teachers’ perceived concerns about including students with disabilities in their classrooms. Using CIES-R, it was found that the participants in this study were a little concerned (mean = 1.51) about including students with disabilities in their classrooms. The results of this study were in line with the findings of earlier research conducted on this topic (Ahsan et al. 2012; Forlin and Chambers 2011).
It should be noted here that CIES-R consists of a four-point rating scale ranging from 0-3, where 0 = not at all concerned, 1 = a little concerned, 2 = moderately concerned, and 3 = extremely concerned. Other researchers that have used either CIES or a modified version of it in India namely Sharma (2001), Shah (2005), Bhatnagar (2006) and Sharma et al. (2009) also consist of a four-point rating scale. However, the survey instruments ranged on a scale of 1–4, where 1 = not concerned at all, 2 = little concerned, 3 = very concerned, and 4 = extremely concerned. The following total-scale mean concern scores were obtained by the researchers listed in the previous sentence, respectively: 2.20, 2.31, 2.37 and 2.25. Therefore, although a lower numerical score was obtained in this study, realistically it was a little higher than the previous findings. Causes for these increased levels of concerns among teachers in Gurgaon, therefore, need to be explored.
In addition, Shah (2005) used a modified version of CIES namely Concerns about Inclusive Scale—Gujarati (CIES-G) and reported that the teachers in Ahmedabad had a moderate level of concerns. She obtained a concern mean score of 2.31. She also obtained the following mean scores for each of the factors of CIES-G: concerns about infrastructural resources (2.56), concerns about self-efficacy (2.38), concerns about motivation (2.34), concerns about academic achievement and standards (2.15) and concerns about social acceptance (2.13). As it can be seen from these findings that the teachers in Shah (2005) study, indicated a lower level of concern about academic achievement, whereas in the present study that was ranked as number one concern among teachers in Gurgaon.
Bhatnagar (2006) used CIES and reported that the teachers working in schools run by a private management in Delhi had a moderate level of concerns as well. The researcher surveyed a total of 470 teachers working in 12 schools in Delhi and obtained a concern mean score of 2.37. Upon further analysis, the researcher found that the teachers in Delhi were most concerned about the lack of resources (2.76) followed by decline in academic standard of the classrooms (2.33), lack of acceptance of students with special needs (2.32). Factor 4 (concerns about increased workload in inclusive settings, mean = 1.99) failed to meet the minimum requirement for it to be considered as a concern.
Ahsan et al. (2012) reported that preservice teachers in Bangladesh were less concerned about peer acceptance toward children with disabilities and about their stress levels. The teachers were more concerned about their increased workload and most concerned about providing appropriate attention to diverse group of children in general education classrooms.
The teachers in this study seemed to be most concerned about “Academic achievement related concerns” (mean = 1.62). This shows that the teachers are most concerned about falling achievement levels of their students in class. This finding was consistent with findings of other researchers (e.g., Bhatnagar 2006; Shah 2005). It should be noted here that teachers in private schools in India are under increased pressure and scrutiny to prepare students for rigorous competitive examinations leading to careers in engineering or science related fields. In this regard Sharma and Das (2015) argue that many teachers and administrators in India especially “those at privately managed schools, succumb to academic and test-score pressures and neglect the education of disadvantaged groups, including those with disabilities (p. 65).” It almost warrants a change of culture in schools if the needs of students with disabilities are to be truly met in inclusive classrooms. Teachers need to be supported in their endeavor in meeting the needs of all students, not just in meeting the needs of a few high achieving students. On the other hand, it is pleasing to see teachers expressing their lowest level of concerns for “management-related concerns” (mean = 1.33). This shows that the teachers have confidence in their school administration in supporting them with necessary services or resources when they have a child with a disability in their classroom. This finding was in sharp contrast with findings of other researchers such as Mangope et al. (2013) and Fayez et al. (2011) who reported physical and personnel resources as major source of concern for the teachers.
the reason for female teachers being more concerned than their male counterparts because in Indian society females mostly bear responsibility for rearing the children. The males in Indian society do not usually spend as much time with child rearing and household activities. They are mostly bread winners for the family and focus their time and energy on activities outside the day-to-day management of the household. These aspects can have impact on male teachers being less concerned about including students with special needs in their classrooms (p. 110).
It was also found in this study that those teachers who worked in schools run by a private management (mean = 38.09) had a significantly higher level of concerns than those who worked in government run schools (mean = 32.76). It should be noted that administrators in privately managed schools in India have more autonomy in personnel decisions. Also, parents in India tend to exert more pressure toward private school administrators or teachers to prepare their children for science, technology or management-related careers (Tiwari et al. 2015). This in turn translates into teachers teaching students to successfully pass rigorous entrance examinations while compromising the needs of struggling learners. Shah et al. (2014) explain this by stating “An elevated level of concerns by these teachers may be explained by the administration’s expectations and contextual variables of the private organization (p. 8).”
The teachers who had qualifications of above postgraduate degree expressed the highest levels of concerns among other sub-groups in this category (mean = 40.40). This finding was different from previous research conducted by Bhatnagar (2006) and Shah (2005). In both of these studies, teachers with qualifications of “below post graduate degree” indicated higher levels of concerns. There is a need for further exploration to understand why this happened. Perhaps, a qualitative research involving semi-structured or focus group interviews may inform us what is causing these elevated levels of concerns among teachers with higher levels of academic qualifications.
It was also found that the teachers who had less than 10 years of teaching experience expressed highest levels of concerns among other sub-groups in this category (mean = 36.06). It may be that these teachers consider themselves under increased pressure to implement inclusive education due to recent emphasis of GOI.
The study has some limitations that should be noted while interpreting the results. First, the study is limited to the concerns of elementary school teachers teaching in 21 government and 14 private schools in Gurgaon. Therefore, caution should be exercised in generalizing the results of this study to other populations. Second, there are limitations of self-report surveys and there will always remain some doubt as to what degree the participants’ responses reflect their true concerns. Third, variables other than those investigated in this study might have had a significant influence on teacher concerns regarding inclusive education in Gurgaon. Fourth, the term ‘concern’ is generally considered to have inherent negative connotation attached with it. Additionally, survey items can be positively worded in future research, e.g., I am able to maintain discipline in the classroom, I have the knowledge and skills required to teach students with disabilities, my school has enough resources for implementing inclusion successfully and so on. Nonetheless, the study does offer some important pointers to understand difficulties faced by primary stakeholders such as classroom teachers. It may also assist policy makers and program planners who are charged with the responsibility of planning and realizing the goals of inclusive education in the state of Haryana.
This was the first known systematic investigation of regular school teachers’ concerns about inclusive education in the state of Haryana in India. Although the respondents in this study were a little concerned about the implementation of inclusive education; it should be noted that the sample was drawn from predominantly an urban area which has a proximity to New Delhi. Implementation of key initiatives by the central GOI initially tends to focus largely on major urban centers such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. It is assumed that these teachers received some training in special education or might be familiar with the implementation of inclusive education. Another important point is that the respondents in this study were elementary school teachers. Literature indicates that secondary classrooms present greater challenges to general education teachers for the implementation of inclusive education. The results of this study, nonetheless, provide a starting point in the direction of meeting the needs of classroom teachers that are charged with the implementation of inclusive education. Further research is warranted to fully understand the extent of their concerns and what can be done to alleviate those concerns.
The results of this study have implications for the educational administrators and policy makers in India. The inclusive education programs in India could be successfully implemented if appropriate measures are taken in order to reduce teachers’ concerns. Therefore, first of all, professional development opportunities need to be made available especially for those general education teachers that lack training in special education. To ensure long-term support for teachers, it would require the full commitment of educational systems to mentoring new teachers and in providing continual and appropriate professional learning. In addition, appropriate measures would need to be taken especially in privately managed schools so that the administrators and teachers do not succumb to parental pressure leading toward “teaching to test” mentality. The classroom teachers should be afforded with both material and human resources necessary to adequately meet the needs of students with disabilities. A collaborative and systematic effort between universities and local educational systems is also warranted to ensure a cohesive transition from undergraduate teacher preparation to becoming a competent and effectively trained inclusive teacher. These efforts could help to reinforce a cooperative spirit in implementing inclusive education in India.
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