Actors and forms of knowledge in the special education policy field of Hungary

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There are two competing hypotheses about the actors of the public action integrating SEN students.

The first one granted sociology a dominant position as an expertise informing the public action, putting equity and desegregation on the agenda, initiating research on local practices and policy implementation, gaining the top advisory positions, etc. The second hypothesis gave psychology the leading role: since the renewal of the psychodiagnostical methods was a crucial point of FLDP, plus early child development have gained more and more credit. We could quite safely say that the two disciplines were in competition throughout the PA. The picture is much more complicated though.

First, sociologists as experts, partisans of desegregation of the SEN, gained wide attention among decision-makers who had themselves strong ties with sociology. Second, after a period of conflicts, sociology concluded a deal with special education under the auspices of the ministerial commissioner, in the name of inclusion. Third, they agreed with developmental psychology in the name of early child development support and early kindergarten programs. Fourth, they made economy an ally in the name of "desegregation is worth", and "accountability and evaluation protects the weak". Sociologists became "hyper-experts": in a privileged position, they are to choose other experts and the content of expertise. Indeed, sociologists seem to emerge as central actors of the knowledge & policy relationship in this part of Europe (Eröss, 2006; Bajomi, Berényi & Neumann 2006, 38-39).

As a matter of fact, sociologists have denounced the misdiagnosis and segregation of "disabled" children for a long time. A window of opportunity opened for them in 2002. As advisors, they were in the position to select what they favoured in psychology (e.g. developmental psychology) and what they rejected (e.g. the IQ-tests in use). They imposed their reform: the renewal of diagnosis in general (standards and protocols constituted a consensual objective: the Placement authorities and Medico-psycho-pedagogic Centres agreed with the necessity to develop them) and the introduction of a supposedly culture-independent intelligence test (not disadvantaging the Roma/the poor). All would have been impossible if it weren‘t for the special education scholars joining them (first as individuals, later the whole discipline as such); apportion their specific expertise and the idea of inclusion.

Medical doctors (paediatricians and child neurologists) were also planned to be mobilised in the framework of the policy in order to reduce the number of SEN; but these attempts mostly failed. Most importantly, experts of all disciplines "discovered" the local level as a new dimension of politics and agreed on the importance of implementation/impact studies, as well as of (local) evaluation and quality control. Accountability appeared all the more consensual for it has been held by economists who validated the sociological agenda. Another mutual/consensual point was the early child development, monitoring and intervention, as a —social, psychological— mean of preventing SEN. One way or another, social scientists, special educators, psychologists, economists and to a lesser extent, physicians, transformed into experts formed a coalition to put their agenda forward. All in all, no coalition is possible without coalition partners, but sociologists were the firsts among equals.

ERÖSS Gábor & KENDE Anna (2009), All against misdiagnosis - Sociologists, neurologists, economists, psychologists and special educators for inclusion, KNOWandPOL report, 3-4,

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  • ERÖSS Gábor (2006), De l‘illégal à l‘inégal. Ou l‘inverse ? Brève sociologie de l‘école hongroise, La Nouvelle alternative, Politique et société à l’Est, 21, 69-70 (juin-septembre), 147-154.
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