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December 2009
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  1. Volume 2 Month 12 Day 23- Book Review




    Author: Brahm Norwich; Book: Dilemmas of Difference, Inclusion and Disability-International Perspectives and Future Directions; ISBN: 978-0-415-39847-3 (pbk); Published in 2008; Publisher: Routledge; Publication Place: USA and Canada; List Price: $44.95; Pages: 228


    The book Dilemmas of Difference, Inclusion and Disability’ is a well-intended attempt to examine the theoretical and empirical aspects about dilemmas of difference as they apply to education and specifically to the area of disability. The book is written by Brahm Norwich,who is a professor of Educational Psychology and Special Education Needs at the University of Exeter, UK.

    Based on his interest in policy and practice dilemmas in special and inclusive education, Norwich has considered wider policy dilemmas of an ideological nature in the book.

    Though there has been some work that deals with the concept of dilemmas of difference in making sense of the special and inclusive education policy and practice matters, this is a unique book that focuses specifically on dilemmas of difference in a particular aspect of education.

    What is novel about this book is that the author has examined the theoretical ideas relevant to dilemmas of difference from philosophical, political, sociological, historical, psychological, and educational perspectives.

    The book draws the readers’ attention towards the basic dilemmas and tensions particularly in inclusive education, disability and special educational needs that remain neglected and unattended. Author has pointed out that inclusion has become very influential internationally in the field of schooling. This has involved the introduction of policies that pursue more provisions for, and acceptance of children with special education needs or disabilities in ordinary school settings. However, these policies represent different and often conflicting values and approaches to education. The process of policy making for inclusion is suffering from several tensions and dilemmas involved in inclusive education where both the choices are unfavourable. The book revolves round the idea that both the general/inclusive as well as special education system has been suffering from many dilemmas and tensions that leads to confusion and continuous negligence of children with special educational needs.

    The purpose of writing this book is to bring forward for consideration, the existing dilemmas of differences in inclusive education and special education that remains unanswerable and unresolved, like whether to recognise and respond or not to recognize or respond to differences, as either way there are some negative implications or risks associated with stigma, devaluation, rejection or denial of relevant and quality opportunities.

    Author has critically pointed out that the term ‘dilemma’ in inclusive or special education is always used as an alternative way of referring to ‘problems’ or ‘issues’ and reminded that dilemma has its real meaning as something more specific, a situation when there is a choice between alternatives which are unfavourable. The book has highlighted to three basic dilemmas of difference in the area of inclusion and special education needs. These are identification dilemmawhether to identify students as having special educational needs/disabilities or not? , curriculum dilemmahow much of a common curriculum is relevant to these students? , placement dilemmacan appropriate learning of these children takes place in ordinary schools or classes or not?  The author has discussed how both the choices we are having in identification, curriculum and placement of children with disabilities or SEN can have negative implications.

    Author has reflected in his book that there has been a notable lack of interest in the analysis of educational matters from the perspective of dilemmas. There has been hardly any attempt to recognize the dilemma and towards resolving it. The book is critical in the sense that it focuses on the lack of interest and efforts of educationalists to develop and use dilemmatic framework for analyzing educational matters. These dilemmas and tensions in inclusive /special education have been neglected always may be because dilemmas do not have definitive solutions. The book throws light on the importance of attending dilemmas of differences while analyzing not only inclusive/special education but also the general education. The focus of the book is on the importance of using dilemmatic framework for analyzing education matters. By dilemmatic framework author means to say that some tragic choices should be made and there should be the acceptance of compromise and balancing situation in order to resolve these dilemmas. The neglect of the dilemmatic analysis in education has prompted author to write this book.

    The book also contain a detailed analysis of  a three country (USA, The Netherlands and England) international study of perspectives to dilemmas of difference in the field of disability and learning difficulties in education and its comparison with the earlier two country (USA and England) study done just over ten years ago.  These studies are based on an analysis that identifies dilemmas of difference relevant to children with disabilities in three related areas: identification dilemma; curriculum dilemma; and placement dilemma.

    Author has highlighted the findings of these studies. The findings of the identification recognition shows that a majority of participants in each country recognised the identification dilemma to some extent (marginal, significant or considerable ratings-68 per cent for the US, 72 per cent for the Netherlands and 56 per cent for the English participants). The findings of the curriculum recognition shows that a majority of participants in each country recognize the curriculum dilemma to some extent (marginal, significant or considerable ratings- 60 per cent for US, 72 per cent for Netherlands and 70 per cent for English participants). The findings of the placement dilemma shows that a majority of participants in each country recognize placement dilemma to some extent- US (74 per cent), Netherlands (85 per cent) and English participants (78 per cent). 

    This ground-breaking book examines the perspectives of professional educators and administrators at national and local authority level across three countries and questions how they recognize dilemmas and tensions in responding to student differences. Author has convinced the readers by quoting the perspectives of the educators, administrators and professionals regarding dilemmas in inclusive/special education. Some of these quotations are:

    ‘Problem in implementing differentiated programmes/teaching’

    ‘Problem in using the same general standards and tests’

    ‘Expectations too low’

    ‘Over identification problem’

    ‘Some are hard to support in regular classes’

    ‘Students experience stigma in peer relationships’

    ‘Regular teachers not used nor trained for severe disabilities’

    ‘Tensions because of resource gap’

    Author has also quoted the solutions suggested by the respondents in the studies to resolve dilemmas as follows:

    Use alternative curriculum to meet needs’

    ‘Modify general curriculum for all students’

    ‘Disability positive image’

    ‘Develop positive school ethos/practices’

    ‘Plan and resource holistically’

    ‘Focus on provision needed not labels’

    ‘Use the language of need’

    These quotations reflect on the existing tensions and dilemmas of inclusive/special education among the educators, administrators, professionals and practitioners.

    Author has summarized his work by discussing the participants’ suggested solutions to dilemmas and tensions in the three-country study. He has concluded the book by referring to the need of bringing balance between dilemmatic situations in order to resolve them. Author has well achieved the objective of the book by suggesting that balance and compromise can be the ultimate solution to the identification, curriculum and placement dilemmas of differences, inclusion and disability.

    I am well convinced with the author’s view of resolving dilemmas of differences through balancing the situation of identification, curriculum and placement. For identification author suggested that identification is important for meeting the requirements of children and for positive outcomes but it should not be based on labels. For curriculum, he suggested that individual needs must be fulfilled but at the same time, they should also experience general curriculum. For placement, he suggested that there should be better collaboration between special and regular school. In this way, at the end of the book author has stressed on applying the balanced situation for resolving the whole issue of differences, inclusion and disability.

    Though the author has successfully included in the book the three basic dilemmas of inclusion i.e. identification dilemma, curriculum dilemma and placement dilemma, I think that he could have also talked of pedagogical dilemma that teachers face in inclusive settings like how we can support teachers in complex inclusive settings to help them cope with this kind of dilemma, how can we analyze situations of dilemma and how we can gain experience and suggest appropriate pedagogical strategies that will bring dilemmas constructively into play. The book could have included the dilemmas faced by teachers in an inclusive classroom. For example, whether to consider an individual or the whole classroom community? Or valuing diversity or striving towards a standards-based curriculum?

    The book is stimulation to the policy decisions and practice in the field of inclusion, particularly in disability as it holds policy imperatives in form of suggestions to resolve the dilemmas of difference. The policies on inclusion are suffering from conflicting values. Therefore, the book would be proved as a rich source of ideas that aim at recognizing and resolving policy dilemmas of difference and inclusion. The dilemmatic assumptions given in the book (such as difference is intrinsic, not a comparison; the norm need not to be stated; the observer can see without a perspective, etc) provide a rich source of ideas for policy directions. It can enhance the policy and practices that can aim at resolving dilemmas in inclusive education.

    The author’s style of writing has the characteristics of coherence, originality, and fluidity. However, at some places language has become esoteric and stilted. The accuracy of the title needs no defence as it perfectly matches with the text. Book well explains all the key terms and contains index, tables, appendices, and references for the convenience of readers.

    The importance of this book to its intended audience lies in the fact that it provides a dilemmatic framework to recognize and resolve the dilemmas of differences in inclusive education particularly for disability. Using this dilemmatic framework, it would be possible to recognize and respond to dilemmas and to deal with the complexity of differences and inclusion. I would like to suggest this important volume for must reading to all those who are working for inclusive education, special education or disability. The book will be of special interest to researchers, academics, administrators, educationists, professionals and practitioners.

    Being a research scholar in education and with inclusive education as proposed area of my research, I am personally benefited from the book as it has enhanced my understanding of the existing tensions, confusions and dilemmas in inclusive education. The book draws the readers’ attention not only by focusing on the dilemmas of inclusion, but it is intriguing in the sense that it also provides readers with the possible ways of resolving these dilemmas. The book provides a powerful contribution to the inclusion debate and provides a lens to focus on dilemmas of differences in inclusion that have remained neglected since long.


    -Reviewed by Deepshikha Singh



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