The role of inclusive education in the teaching of mathematics in high schools : an investigation.
Currently South Africa has been experiencing a decline in terms of Mathematics performance in high schools, especially at the end of the grade 12 year. This has been my experience as well; I have observed the school that I worked in failing to keep the Mathematics results over the years at 100%. Teaching and learning recently has not helped to achieve the desired results (which is a good mathematics understanding and a good, quality pass rate). This has resulted in a blame game circulating between parents, teachers, learners and the Department of Education. The response was to provide another option to assist teachers to work with at schools and in their classrooms as well so as to improve this problem hence the introduction of inclusive education. Inclusive education has been introduced through Education White Paper 6 (DoE, 2001); it clearly states that classroom educators are the primary resource for achieving the goal of inclusive education. This implies that teachers need to be empowered to change their attitudes, refine their teaching practice and where necessary, develop new attitudes and teaching practices (Naidoo, 2005). This study sought to explore teachers’ understanding of inclusive education and also how their understanding influenced their teaching. A qualitative case study method of data production was used. The data was collected through individual interviews and structured observations in the classroom. The study was conducted in one district in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The participants were four high school Mathematics teachers from one selected school. The study was informed by social constructivism and Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. The findings revealed that one teacher has a clear understanding of what inclusive education is, two teachers misunderstood inclusive education and the last one had no understanding at all. It also revealed that in the classroom all three teachers that were observed did implement a learner-centred approach, though there were still learners who were not catered for. The study concludes that the Department of Education should look at how teacher’s knowledge and understanding about inclusive education and mathematics can be developed. It is also recommended that the Department of Education looks at providing teachers with adequate support in inclusive classrooms in dealing with large classes.