Researching Policy and Practice

Theoretical Framework

In theory the community-based school model leaves key decisions regarding schools to the schools themselves, the idea being that the schools should be responsive to local needs and accountable to communities. Yet, several authors have stressed the impact on schools of the politicisation of the education sector and have argued that politics influence the motivation and deployment of teaching staff and that School Management Committees often are captured by political interests, thus undermining the role of headteachers (Pherali, Smith and Vaux, 2011; MoE 2016; Joshi 2018).

Ecological systems theoryCo-creation (collaboration)Inclusive Education
We approach our research using the ecological model developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) to capture system factors that contribute to inclusive education, placing the learner/ child in the centre of inclusive education policies and delivery of education. The figure below exemplifies how different layers of systems are interlinked:

Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model

The micro system consists of the immediate environment of the children – the children themselves and their parents, their teachers, the school management, and the physical environment. This means that the questions about how different stakeholders promote inclusive education should be focused around their role, responsibilities and commitments towards the child in need. The meso system is made up of the municipality in which the school is located, and includes institutions such as the council, the administration, the wards, and civil society organisations. At this level, we are particularly interested in understanding the idea of network governance in terms of the collaboration for improved inclusivity and co-creation of governance knowledge and practice. The exosystem involves the indirect environment, such as national and global policies that impact on inclusive education practices at school levels. The macrosystem refers to sociocultural and economic structures that impact on practices of inclusion in the educational domains. At this level, we are interested in how cultural traditions such as castes, gender, ethnicity, social/ cultural attitudes towards disability, and different forms of exclusions create barriers or provide opportunities for inclusion in education. The chrono system refers to the time dimension in terms of how different moments of change in the history of Nepal’s sociopolitical change have shaped practices in inclusive education. In this regard, we will treat the 2015 Constitution as the before and after variable as this point of time is significant due to the change in governance structure which provides autonomy for local governance. The other variables serve as context variables.

Another analysis scheme that has been applied specifically to inclusive education and that may help us think through our approach draws on Mel Ainscow’s work. Ainscow et al (2012) refers to ‘an ecology of equity’, proposing that equity in education depends on three sets of factors:

  • within school factors (relationship between the child and school)
  • between school factors: the system (mesosystem – how different institutions around and including the school interact for better inclusive education outcomes)
  • beyond school factors: the policy context, family processes and resources, demography, economics (macrosystem – how systems outside the immediate experiences of the child impact on inclusion)

More broadly, we are also interested in the political economy of inclusive education in Nepal. This framework relates to unequal distribution of power and resources in education and the reproductive nature of the system that hinders transformative change in lives of learners who represent the most marginalized communities in Nepal.

Our theoretical approach to co-creation in the public sector is conceptualised as a process through which institutions tackle an educational problem through ‘a constructive exchange of different kinds of knowledge, resources, competences and ideas that enhance the production of public value in terms of visions, plans, policies, strategies, regulatory frameworks, or services, either through a continuous improvement of outputs or outcomes or through innovative step-changes that transform the understanding of the problem or task at hand and find new ways of solving it’ (Torfing, Sorensen and Roiseland, 2016: 8). The definition suggests a focus on:

  • the knowledge, resources, competences and ideas contributed by network actors;
  • the joint production of visions, plans, policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks that structure policy implementation;
  • the concrete services that are produced by network actors through exchange; and
  • the ‘framing’ of the problem to be addressed.

The definition highlights characteristics of network actors, the structuration of the network, the degree of exchange and co-production among network actors, and the framing of the problem.

UNESCO defines Inclusive Education (IE) as ‘a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision that covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children’ (UNESCO, 2005, p.13). Inclusive education (IE) is according to the definition a process AND an outcome

  • IE is a process of addressing and responding to the needs of all children and youths through making changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies
  • IE is an outcome for children defined by the presence, participation and achievement of all students, and in particular vulnerable students/students at risk
Taken together these concepts provide an analytical framework for this study that incorporate the understanding/attitudes/framing of inclusion, the networks, the process and practice of inclusion, and the outcomes for children.