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The introduction and implementation of education policy is a complex, evolving process that involves many stakeholders and can result in failure if not well targeted (OECD, 2017). In fact, the history of policy implementation research shows that attempts at a planned change rarely succeed as intended (Fullan, 2001). Moreover, there is little knowledge about the actual processes that produce (or are supposed to produce) the desired outcomes of change. From the activity theory point of view, when an activity system adopts a new element from the outside, such as new educational policy, it often leads to an aggravated contradiction where some old element collides with the new one. Despite the potential of contradictions to result in positive change and innovation (Engeström & Miettinen, 1999), this transformation does not always occur. In fact, contradictions can actually “disable” transformation (Nelson, 2002).
The paper presents the results of an initial exploration (study) into this question, specifically into risks to integrity in education that may emerge in connection with changes in education environments that are triggered by the transition of countries to inclusive education, and the impact which integrity risks may have on the effectiveness of that transition. So far, there is no research into whether some of the disruptions emerging in the process of developing inclusive education may be influencing education environments in ways which put the integrity of education systems at risk (Milovanovitch, 2018).
The scoping study was carried out in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Serbia and Ukraine. The study had a twofold goal. First, it explored what inclusive education looks like in the context of each country, having in mind that conceptions of inclusive education differ among countries (Dyson, 1999) and result in different policies, practices and procedures. The second goal was to examine these contexts for integrity vulnerabilities related to inclusive education with the help of questionnaire eliciting examples of nine integrity violations in both mainstream and special schools, as well as examples of vulnerabilities which are associated with these violations and the education of students with ASN.
We found many indications of conflict, contradiction, dilemma, deriving from “approach [a] new task with old habits” (Blin, 2004). Our findings suggest that, despite their different trajectories of change towards inclusive education, the conditions in all four countries are conducive to malpractice because of vulnerabilities in major areas of policy and practice. Through inductive analysis we have identified six vulnerability areas, which are or could become a source of difficulties and integrity violations in the process of inclusive policy implementation: access to inclusive education, private supplementary tutoring, politicisation of education, assessment of student achievement, usage of funding and staffing policies and procedures. The list of vulnerability areas has been amended through consecutive stages of the research.