Children at risk Securitization theory and special education reforms

Abstract: Special education is to a significant extent based on special education programmes and support to children who are identified as children at risk. These programmes and support are often framed in educational reforms that aim to reduce risk and barriers to equal opportunities for learning and wellbeing. This thesis sets out to explore processes of special education reforms, with a special focus on the implementation of certain reforms. Here, a theoretical framework almost unknown in special education – securitization theory – is introduced, drawing on a tradition of securitization studies within the fields of Political Science and International Relations. The Copenhagen School’s theory of securitization referred to in the thesis describes the handling of vulnerabilities, insecurities and perceived threats through the initiation and implementation of securitization processes, such as, for example, education reforms. In short, securitization theory helps us understand processes of educational reforms in terms of identified threats, such as, for example, those against equal education for a specific group of pupils. Firstly, the reforms themselves are understood as securitization projects aimed at reducing threats to the young generation and as a consequence for society.  Policies that concern children who are at risk by not receiving equal education, are handled differently among various securitization actors depending on how they perceive threats and education reform as a way to handle the perceived threat.  Secondly, I introduce a new term into the examination of securitization processes – extended securitization actor. This assists the comprehension of additional implementation procedures and turns of securitization processes in the analytical procedure. Thirdly – and here I also add to the existing securitization theory – I show how a specific reform might itself be experienced as a threat to the goals and interests of actors at the lower levels of the implementation chain, which as a consequence, produces counter securitization processes that seem to influence the implementation of the education reform. The empirical parts of the thesis consist of empirical studies from South Africa and Sweden. Discussed are those education reform policies between the mid 1940s and 1970s in South Africa and Sweden that were directed towards the indigenous populations.  Children “at risk” here concern educational issues linked to identity- and ethnic belonging and access to equal education for all children.  Another study brings up the perception of environmental threats and international claims of incorporating Education for sustainable development (ESD) into national education. Children at risk can here be understood as those exposed to environmental hazards and in exposed land areas. Still another study deals with threats concerning political and societal exclusion of ethnic and vulnerable groups. Education reform should here be seen against the historic background of former Apartheid policies and the need for democratic development with a special emphasis on teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion and perceived threats by teachers in connection with implementing inclusive education. 

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