To what extent is Universal Design for Learning “universal”? A case study in township special needs schools in South Africa

SONG, Yosung

Publication Date 

2016
20 pp

This paper reports on a study examining the current challenges of developinginclusive education as well as the potential applicability of implementing principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in two township special needs schools in South Africa. The philosophy of UDL has been advocated by many educators as a means of developing inclusive classroom environments in the Western world. Despite the growing popularity of UDL, its universal application, especially in places with limited resources, has remained somewhat unquestioned. Using a theoretical framework that is critical of Western-centered understandings of inclusive education and pedagogy, this paper examines how understanding the educational circumstances and teacher knowledge of a local context can inform the applicability of UDL principles. The findings of this study reveal that despite teachers’ recognition of the benefits of implementing UDL principles in their practice, the unique socioeconomic conditions in South African township schools make teachers doubt the feasibility of implementing this Western concept in their classrooms. Yet, at the same time, the findings illustrate how teachers are already employing practices that are consistent with UDL principles in an attempt to cater for the needs of diverse learners. The paper concludes by asserting the need to consider the unique economic and political contexts of the global South when determining the applicability of inclusive education strategies beyond Western contexts.

 

Disability & the Global South (DGS), 2016, Vol. 3 No. 1

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