Exploring inclusive practice
: the beliefs and practices of classroom teachers in two mainstream primary schools in Karachi, Pakistan, in relation to children with special needs

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is an exploratory empirical study of the development of inclusive practices in two mainstream private primary schools in Karachi, Pakistan. While inclusion in education is generally conceived of as a wide-ranging attempt to ensure that all children’s rights to an education are met, in Pakistan, this term is most frequently applied in the context of educating those who are deemed to have some learning difficulties or who have some form of disability. In Pakistan, there is a rhetorical commitment about the importance of inclusion evident at the national level, specifically with reference to children with special needs (CWSN). The Government of Pakistan has been a signatory to many of the international documents that argue for inclusion as well as to the Salamanca Statement from UNESCO (1994) that clearly outlines the imperatives of inclusive education and how these should be implemented. However, in practice, the turbulent social context in Pakistan means that while the nation may well sign up to international agreements in the area of inclusion, the socioeconomic position of the country as well as its complex geo-political and cultural make up, including the widespread marginalisation that occurs based on factors like caste, race and disability, have hindered the implementation of inclusive education. This study draws on the beliefs and practices of classroom teachers in two schools in Karachi where attempts are being made to include children with special educational needs. Through analysis of 30 semi-structured interviews, teachers’ views on their school’s ethos and their beliefs about special needs and inclusion are explored as well as how these perspectives influence their pedagogical practices in addressing the inclusion of CWSN in their mainstream classrooms. Two theoretical dimensions frame this study. First, the study draws on inclusion based on a human rights perspective, where education is positioned as a fundamental right of 'all children' including those who are deemed as having special needs/disability (UNESCO, 1994, 2000, 2012). Second, the study is underpinned by the stance that inclusion can only be promoted where a whole school positive perspective is adopted.
The findings of the study are organised under three main themes. The first set relates to teachers’ views about their school's whole school approaches in creating and promoting an ethos of inclusion. Both schools were working to include CSWN based on a human rights perspective, but there were some points of tension as the two schools were simultaneously pursuing academic excellence, as illustrated in their mission statements. There was a trade off between the extent to which they could provide sufficient support for CWSN so as to give them meaningful learning experiences, whilst maintaining high standards for all. The second set of findings concerns teachers’ beliefs about special needs and inclusion. Teachers held a range of different perspectives; while the majority were positive about advocating for inclusion in the mainstream setting, a minority questioned this approach citing the limitations posed by contextual factors of lack of time, limited support, poor resources and inadequate training. Teachers reflected on how their beliefs had undergone changes, positive and negative, through their experiences of working with CWSN. From what the teachers reported, they used various forms of differentiation in order to meet the needs of the children in their classrooms although many of the teachers were concerned about their own lack of professional preparation in this area of pedagogy. One key finding was the collaborative practice evident in both schools, between the leaders and teachers, teachers and teachers as well as teachers and parents, to ensure that CWSN were being included in both schools.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJill Hohenstein (Supervisor) & Meg Maguire (Supervisor)

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