Conflicting knowledge forms in the field of Special Education Policy in Hungary

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Some of the conflicts are epistemic controversies that occur both within and between disciplines.

In connection to the public action we notice the clash of three disciplinary approaches, special education on one side, social sciences on the other and psychology on the third side. Policy makers stand in-between these three disciplines and in the course of the events found themselves confronted with all sides (while they seem to have a preference for sociology). In the course of the policy however, more and more signs indicate that all these disciplines/scientific traditions form a coalition "led" by sociology which "borrows" both the idea of inclusion from special education and most of the leading special education scholars to triumph over the over representation (of SDS/Roma).

Special educators (remedial pedagogues) and pedagogic counselors (Medico-psycho-pedagogic centers) educated within the tradition of "remedial pedagogy" tend to believe that adequate support for students with any type of learning difficulties can only be provided by teachers trained in special education, even if they are not conducted in segregated schools or classes. Segregation with sufficient help offers higher quality education than "rigid integration". Nevertheless, the university faculty for special education started to promote mainstreaming of SEN students under certain circumstances.

While special educators always think in terms of educational success and failure of disabled student within the system, sociological approach focuses on the educational opportunities of Roma/ SDS students overrepresented among SEN children. There is a mild controversy between, on the one hand, traditional critical sociologists (and decision makers who adopt their line of reasoning) pointing to the ―systemic “interests”, and the "negative attitudes" of municipal and street level decision makers (teachers, advisors, Placement Authorities, local government officers) resulting in discriminative actions against Roma/ SDS families, and, on the other hand, those sociologists who rather concentrate on the social causes of "objective" learning difficulties among lower status students .

Alternative or modern pedagogical practices are promoted by inclusive education, which emphasizes the necessary restructuring of pedagogical practices (i.e. reform of teaching methods and of the curriculum) requires teachers to become familiar with special education curricula. This approach, which tends to make no difference between socially disadvantaged and SEN students, leaves no legitimate space for segregation (this paradigm is mostly advocated by educational specialists working in background institutions).

The role of psychology in special education was mostly reduced to overseeing psychological testing and assessment; therefore psychologists, especially those working at Placement Authorities were the first to be called responsible for the segregation of lower class/underclass/Roma SEN. Their initial role in the new SEN policies was that of denial and rejection. Recently however, as policy measures and the public action itself delved deeper into the debate of defining SEN – which serves as a legal category, but must defined through scientific consensus –, psychology increasingly became the scientific ground of pro and con arguments in SEN definition, thus the main knowledge producer for the public action. In the public action, as well as in the following policy decisions, psychology – along with neurosciences – became an authoritative source of scientific proof for measurements, not independent from the personal contribution of the scientifically and institutionally well-established neuroscientist psychologist, V. Csépe, who played an active role in shaping the legal regulations of SEN and in the Green Book on education. Psychology presents itself as a sort of ―natural science‖. The role of psychology as a discipline changed from being very laden with conflicts to co-dominant both in between disciplines and actors.

Controversies typically emerge around specific issues (e.g. form and intensity of integration, earmarked subsidies for specific groups of students, the organization of regular control of the established diagnosis, adaptation of new screening protocols and IQ tests, or developing all-embracing "signal/referral systems" for "ethnic discrimination". As for the Placement Authority, we would have liked to dissolve the interdependence between the institutions. The headmaster of the school sustained by the Local Government of the county asks the head of Placement Authority also supported by the Local Government of the county to send them 15 children, and no surprise they send them him or for "careless/negligent families", etc.) in every institutional setting from the local government to consultative bodies and government agencies.

Political conflicts also become manifest along with institutionally preformed antagonisms. Some of them occur due to the emergence of outsider policies. If new knowledge tools are put into the political system upon decision (e.g. new policy ideas invented by think tanks or by background institutions), which are to be executed through non-hierarchical government agencies, their conflicts with traditional departments of the ministry are not simply relative to their content, but rather to the fact that they question bureaucratic modes of policy execution. In such cases policy ideas receive support from experts who help to insert legal, statistical, economic or methodological knowledge i.e. bureaucracy-conform knowledge and "knowing how" into the public action.

Local institutional conflicts (e.g. county-level self-governments, Placement Authorities and schools are per definition interested, both financially and legally in different number and types of diagnosis attached to students), are formulated along with perceived institutional interests, which means on the one hand that discursive positions in such conflicts follow the interpretation of "hard" financial, legal and statistical facts, and on the other hand it is bolstered by some hypotheses mediated by the different disciplines (e.g. real causes for school failure, adequate organization of classes, sufficient human resource for remedial success, etc.).

It is worth noting that in the SEN-field there is no traceable conflict between civic, state and expert knowledges. Lay knowledge ("civic experience") and state knowledge ("who to be governed and how") are both transformed into different expert discourses, which are shaped by disciplinary traditions. The same can be said about "new public management": it is occasionally possessed by experts, but its application is dependent on disciplinary/paradigmatic commitments.

The From the Last Desk Program has mirrored all the competing formulations of short term policy goals and measures, as well as conceptions of educational ideals. "De-labelling" and desegregation of Roma students for example was operated through active symbolic (anti-racist) involvement in the field and through new legal measures pushed forward primarily by the Ministerial Commissioners. The ideal of integrated and/or inclusive education was promoted mostly by special education experts in the Sulinova/Educatio Public Company who concentrated on new knowledge development, dissemination and training programs (following an ideal of "self-regulation") involving teachers, pedagogic advisers and experts from screening agencies. The early interventionparadigm (early screening and prevention/ intervention), including programs, such as the Sure Start program, are based on a sociological understanding of inequalities, but a psychological, neuropsychological (or "brain sciences") "therapy".

ERÖSS Gábor & KENDE Anna (2009), All against misdiagnosis - Sociologists, neurologists, economists, psychologists and special educators for inclusion, KNOWandPOL report, 75-78.

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