The mainstreaming debate: a survey of parents' views in a special school for intellectually handicapped children in a disadvantaged context in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The main purpose of this study was to investigate the range of beliefs that a certain group of South African parents held about the appropriate educational placement of their children with mild to moderate intellectual handicaps. The sample consisted of 14 parents of children with mild to moderate intellectual handicaps attending at a special school for intellectually handicapped children in a disadvantaged context in the Western Cape. In line with the qualitative approach, semi-structured interviews with open elided questions were used to collect the data. Interviews were used rather than questionnaires because parents were illiterate and they felt more comfortable and confident with a personal interview and were able to use their own language. The data were analyzed according to Glaser and Strauss' Constant Comparative method as described by Maykut and Morehouse (1994). As has been found in other research studies, the parents in this study were not in principle against mainstreaming or inclusion of their children. Rather, they were at present not supportive of it as they perceive the conditions at the ordinary school to be unstable for their children. The qualitative analysis outcome revealed that parents were concerned about· teacher qualities, acceptance of their children by the ordinary school children and the ordinary school curriculum which they felt was only focusing on academic subjects. Parent involvement and inclusion are central concepts in the reconstruction of education in South Africa. Inclusion of intellectually handicapped learners is being considered by policy makers but it is not likely to be successful without parent support. This study is a small contribution to the debate.