This comparative analysis investigates the influence of neo-liberal and inclusive discourses in ‘special’ education policy-making in New South Wales, Scotland, Finland and Malaysia. The centrality of competition, selectivity and accountability in the discourses used in New South Wales and Malaysia suggests a system preference for neo-liberal solutions to education policy problems. The focus on excellence with equity, together with proactive approaches to student support in Scotland and Finland, however, is representative of a more interventionist government approach grounded in social democracy. It is argued that an inclusive approach is conducive to the achievement of both excellence and equity in students’ learning outcomes, whereas countries that have pursued market-driven models involving competition for places in selective institutions tend to have poorer educational outcomes and wider levels of inequality.
- special education