Original Research

The development of education for learners with diverse learning needs in the South African context: A bio-ecological systems analysis

Suegnet Smit, Lynn D. Preston, Johnnie Hay
African Journal of Disability | Vol 9 | a670 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v9i0.670 | © 2020 Suegnet Smit, Lynn D. Preston, Johnnie Hay | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2019 | Published: 10 February 2020

About the author(s)

Suegnet Smit, School of Psycho-Social Education, Faculty of Education Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Lynn D. Preston, School of Psycho-Social Education, Faculty of Education Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Johnnie Hay, School of Psycho-Social Education, Faculty of Education, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Prior to 1994, special education in South Africa was marginalised and fragmented; therefore, the new democratic government promoted inclusive education as a means to transform education in general and diverse education in particular. However, transformation in diverse education is seemingly moving forward at a snail’s pace – too slow to benefit all learners experiencing barriers to learning and development.

Objectives: This article serves a dual purpose: firstly, to apply a bio-ecological approach to highlight the historic development of diverse education and, secondly, to explore the interactive processes within the systemic levels in the South African education system, which affects the learner on the person dimension of the bio-ecological approach.

Method: A document analysis approach was utilised to collect information by exploring a large body of research literature, which included academic articles, reports, policies and policy reviews. Data were categorised within the systems of the bio-ecological model to determine successes and challenges at each level.

Results: Results from the bio-ecological systems analysis of related literature revealed not only many successes but also many challenges that inhibit change, growth and development in the South African education system, even more so for children experiencing barriers to learning.

Conclusion: The transformation process of change from what was to what should be, regarding diverse education, seems to be stuck at what is and not moving forward to what could be. It has not transformed significantly enough to fill the gap between reality and the envisaged aim or dream of quality education for all.


Keywords

special education; challenges; diversity; inclusive education; bio-ecological systems analysis

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