M. Rahaman1, D. Sutherland2

1University of Dhaka, Institute of Education and Research (IER) (BANGLADESH)
2University of Canterbury, Health Sciences Centre (NEW ZEALAND)
The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand and describe the inclusive education practices for students with disabilities in secondary schools in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, ensuring all children with disabilities attend schools especially mainstream classrooms is a priority, rather than ensuring the quality of instruction. An underlying belief in Bangladesh is that if quantity can be achieved, then quality will increase. This is why I decided to examine teachers’ perspectives (central phenomenon) of inclusive education. There is no research that describes or supports Bangladesh teachers’ perspectives.
Many theorists have taken different angles on the conceptualisation surrounding disability and education. This project is underpinned by the social constructivist view of disability that has developed from the works of Vygotsky (1896 –1934). On the basis of socio-cultural theory, a conceptual framework has been developed to understand inclusive practices which are viewed from two levels: the Macro and Micro levels. The research is located within the two components of micro level practice. This study intends to answer the main research question: How do teachers in secondary schools in Bangladesh understand inclusion? In this connection, understanding is seen as an inseparable and interconnected outcome of practices, attitudes and beliefs, and knowledge of teachers. The current study utilised elements of a mixed method approach within a phenomenological research framework. This ‘within-stage-mixed model design’ consists of interviews and participant observations. An additional questionnaire was used to measure teacher attitudes and understanding of teaching strategies.
Respondents stated the need for and potential benefits of inclusive education practice, because inclusive education was supporting collaboration among students with and without disabilities and fostering academic achievements. Teachers encountered enormous challenges in practicing inclusive education due to their inadequate knowledge and limited professional development scopes. The barriers for teachers within inclusive education practice are likely the result of their beliefs and experiences in relation to students with disabilities and professional support. Positive attitudes toward appropriate teaching and learning for students with disabilities could improve the situation. Unfamiliarity with local disability legalisation of teachers is likely to limit the opportunity for students with disabilities to gain access to what is rightfully theirs. Teachers identified that success within their practice is largely depending on their strategies for managing large class sizes and coping with excessive class load. Modification of existing assessment and evaluation system was also revealed as an option to better embrace inclusive education. Teachers’ discomfort in dealing with students with hidden disabilities in terms of learning and behavioural difficulties portrayed negative aspects of inclusive education practice in Bangladesh.
Finally, the findings of the research will support policy makers and other researchers learn about the constraints, opportunities and choices for possible future changes in inclusive education policy and practice in developing countries such as Bangladesh. Moreover, the research will contribute to wider national and international debates around inclusive education.