Early childhood inclusive education in Thailand: a critical analysis of beliefs, knowledge, skills and practices

2017-02-17T00:06:46Z (GMT) by Klibthong, Sunanta
Recognising that inclusive education is critical to advancing All children’s development, social inclusion and future productivity, this doctoral thesis seeks to engage the field of Thailand’s early childhood inclusive education in a theoretical and practical conversation. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptual tools (Capital, Field and Habitus), the study explores and critically analyses the facilitators and barriers to early childhood inclusive education in terms of teachers and education policy maker’s inclusive knowledge, beliefs, skills and practices in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. The conceptualisation from which this thesis is based, suggests that early childhood inclusive practice “exists in a social space given life through constant power struggles” (Eacott, 2010, p. 221). It is this contested space that defines the philosophy and practice of inclusive education, and arguably, teachers and policy makers’ everyday practices. Using a mixed method design underpinned by Bourdieuian eclectic methodology and analysis, the study found that the early childhood teachers have limited knowledge and understanding of inclusive education and practice which they have attributed to: (1) a lack of effective training in inclusive education (2) inclusive education for young children is a new educational concept and agenda in Thailand. The study further identified that although the policy makers agreed that legislation and policy on inclusive education is adequate, this is not backed by effective implementation in real practice. Teachers reported that they felt significant stress and helplessness in their classrooms when planning teaching to meet the learning and developmental needs of children with disability and those with additional education needs. The teachers attributed these stressors to not knowing what to do with children with disability in their classes in addition to supports that were not forthcoming in their teaching of children with disability. Furthermore, the study uncovered that relational and cultural-religious beliefs of reincarnation and hierarchical relationships posed barriers to inclusive education in the early years classrooms in Thailand. This means, a number of children in the early childhood settings that claimed to be inclusive, are actually in search of inclusion. The major implications glean from this study highlight the need for quality professional education, training and retraining of stakeholders (teachers, policy makers, support personnel etc) in leveraging knowledge and practice in educating children with disability/additional education needs. The study underscores the need for policy monitoring, flexibility in curricula, funding and novel ways of theorising issues of exclusion and inclusion. To accomplish these, the study provides a model to inform the development of a culturally relevant inclusive education for all young children in Thailand.