Rethinking norms and collectivism in China's inclusive education – moving teachers’ understanding beyond integration

Xiao Qu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


The global debates over inclusive education have long moved beyond the archaic notion of physical integration and more towards the meaningful participation in education, children's rights and breaking down institutional barriers. The latest inclusion policy in China also recognises the need for schools to develop provisions to accommodate additional learner needs. However, Chinese teachers may still view inclusion as mere physical integration. This paper focuses on one key theme arising from a qualitative study and explores in-depth the possible causes behind teachers’ interpretation of inclusion as physical integration to offer deeper understanding of how to move China's inclusive education forward. Drawing from 37 interviews with mainstream primary school teachers in a Chinese city, this paper illustrates how teachers’ non-inclusive views can be embedded within the local culture, explaining how some teachers focused on physical attendance based on normalising values, although others emphasised assimilation as part of the collective culture. The paper aims to unsettle the often taken-for-granted beliefs regarding norms and collectivism in the Chinese culture. The conclusion suggests areas for change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-361
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Research in Special Educational Needs
Issue number4
Early online date10 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • physical attendance
  • assimilation
  • traditional Chinese culture
  • interpretation
  • normalising and collective society
  • alternative


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