The complexities of educational policy dissemination in the South African context : a case study of teachers' experiences of inclusive education policy in selected schools in greater Durban.
Ntombela, Sithabile Surprise.
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The study reported in this thesis is a qualitative case study of teachers' experiences of the dissemination of Education White Paper 6 on Special Needs Education – Building an Inclusive Education and Training System in two districts in the Greater Durban area, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Located in three primary schools, the study aimed to examine the process adopted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education to disseminate the policy and prepare schools (mostly teachers and other stakeholders) for its implementation, by 1) investigating teachers' understandings and experiences of the policy and the concept of inclusive education in three primary schools, 2) examining the factors that impact on the teachers' understandings of the innovation; and 3) investigating the teachers' views regarding the nature of support provided by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education and its sub-systems: the Greyville and Shelley Beach districts and the schools themselves to prepare for the implementation of inclusive education in schools. Data analysis in the study is informed by social constructionism as the overarching framework, as well as the systems theory and the theory of innovation diffusion. In addition, two conceptual frameworks are also used , the philosophy of inclusion and re-culturing. These are used as lenses to understand the nature of teachers' understandings of the policy and concept of inclusive education, and the ways in which the province is diffusing the innovation , and preparing and supporting teachers for the implementation of inclusive education in their schools and classrooms. Findings from the study suggest that the teachers had very limited, varied and often distorted understandings of the policy and the innovation. Their understandings suggested that instead of the paradigm shift warranted by the new policy, most of them still relied heavily on the old deficit, medical model of educating learners with special educational needs. The findings suggest that this might be because of the inadequate and inappropriate strategies that were utilised to disseminate information about the new policy among stakeholders, as well as the inadequate communication between and among the different sectors of the education system. The study concludes that the policy initiation process needs to become more inclusive to enable stakeholders to embrace the agenda and to understand its purpose; that a new policy is not able to challenge and change the culture of practice unless people are assisted to evaluate and question their practice, to unlearn the old and learn new ways of doing ; and that the system needs to break down walls that separate levels and directorates in order to make communication between and within sub-systems more effective.