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Inclusive education: Developments and challenges in South Africa

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Abstract

The implementation of inclusive education in South Africa must be seen in the context of the country’s broader political, social, and cultural developments since 1994, particularly the systematic and progressive transformation of education in congruence with Constitutional values and ideals. As a result, the move towards inclusive education has been primarily justified on educational and social grounds. Using a three-step linear process, this paper systematically reviews relevant peer-reviewed research studies and research reports on inclusive education policy enactment in South Africa, to identify both challenges and successes in implementing inclusive education in South Africa. The research findings indicate that although South African teachers in principle support the justification of inclusive education on social grounds, the lack of adequate human, technical, and infrastructural resources to facilitate implementation is a major contributing factor to the negative perceptions (within some school communities) of its educational and economic viability. Despite these challenges, encouraging positive developments include continued support of an inclusive education agenda at the national level, the gradual transformation of teacher education for inclusion, and the identification of successful locally situated inclusive education approaches. It is therefore important to acknowledge that implementation of inclusive education in South Africa is a continuously evolving process, which needs to be contextually relevant and responsive to the social and economic realities within unique school contexts.

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Correspondence to Petra Engelbrecht.

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The author gratefully acknowledges her colleagues for their critical and thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

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Engelbrecht, P. Inclusive education: Developments and challenges in South Africa. Prospects 49, 219–232 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-020-09499-6

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