Access to quality education for students with disabilities

Luke Macaulay, Joanne Deppeler, Joseph Agbenyega

Abstract


Conceptualising educational equity and academic achievement is a key task for inclusive education and the politics of inclusion. Recent Australian Government reports (2013-2016) on educational access and inclusion report low levels of educational access and attainment for students with disability. This paper considers the place that Pierre Bourdieu’s critical social theory has in helping us to conceptualise access, equity, and inclusion, and argue that the concepts of habitus, capital, and field (Bourdieu, 1977) have a key role to play in this process. Utilising these concepts to draw closely on three recent Australian Government reports (2013-2016) on educational equity and inclusion, our analysis has identified three consistent themes across these reports which disadvantage students with disability. These include cultural issues, economic capital, and the utility of education. These themes compound and culminate to highlight an issue of a lack of continuity across the field of education within Australia. As a consequence, the value of capital and operation of habitus function inconsistently across the field, rendering the process of the acquisition of success as being inequitable. Consideration is given to the need for a careful rethinking of how the inclusive education concept, connected to politics, can be transformed to eradicate inequities and inconsistencies to the benefit of all.


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