Differentiation And Access To Higher Education
Education can be used to create a transition from one status to another, a way to create opportunities for citizens and societies. In this paper our focus is on groups that are created for one reason or another as a burden. There are people in society who are regarded as an expense and something that must be taken care of. A collection of individuals that despite large individual variations are lumped together under a common concept - the group with intellectual disabilities. This group has traditionally been prevented from attend to higher education for many reasons. The most obvious is the notion of an inability to assimilate and utilize higher education although it is generally accepted that there is a large span regarding intellectual capacity in this constructed homogenous group. If we instead choose to view human as beings where intellectuals variations is a rule rather than an exception the obvious question should be: how do we find the fundamental values and sufficient funds to make education a form of transition to best serve all people in a community? Instead the educational systems are created in accordance to current discourses and notions about human beings capacity and abilities that means that the system automatically includes and excludes. The educational system in that sense is a practice, an act in which discursive power is staged (Beronius, M. 1986, Olsson, U. 1997). In Sweden the current educational system does not give pupils diagnosed with intellectual disabilities access to higher education. In a previous paper Florin, K., Hedlund, E. and Akerblom, E. (2014), studied subjects' constructions in a project at the University of Gävle. The project was an experiment in which 14 individuals diagnosed as persons with intellectual disabilities were given the possibility of a three-year education at the University. The project is now depleted and a final report is published. The term “project” itself shows that the education was a test or a trial and not something that initially was assumed to be given in higher education. In this paper our aim is through a discourse analysis study if and how the construction of “the other” legitimize the existent of the project.
Methodologically the contribution is based on discourse analysis (Foucault, M. 2003; Foucault, M. 2006). We are interested in how the construction of “the other” legitimizes the existence of the above mentioned project. By using discourse analysis it is possible to visualize the power in words and language and how it is staged in practices (Foucault, M. 1993, 1971). The focus here is not on what the words mean, but what they do (Derrida, J. 1998; Foucault, M. 1993, 1971). Our starting point is that policy bills are an expression and a part of current discourse, that is, manifestations which are made possible in and through discourses, in this case by the construction and the notion of "the other". (Hajer, M.A., 1995; Arts, B. & Van Tatenhove, J., 2005)
One expected outcome is that the constructions of the student in the project both legitimize the start and closure of the project. These students are constructed as being beyond what already is portrayed as "the other" e.g. students with dyslexia, cerebral pares, visual impairment, etc. The discourse does not allow the idea that people with intellectual disabilities are a natural part of higher education. Changes in education policy are a dynamic process in a context of interaction between agents and ideas, and in this, a number of problems, solutions and efforts are suggested. A contribution could be to see how different agents create the conditions in the current context that allows or prevents transitions in higher education. Another contribution could be to initiate a discussion about fundamental values and sufficient funds to make education a form of transition to best serve all people in a community.
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ECER 2015 "Education and Transition. Contributions from Educational Research", Budapest, Hungary, September 7-11 2015