Date of Award

12-2005

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

J. Amos Hatch

Committee Members

Susan Benner, Gina Barclay-McLaughlin, Deborah Tegano

Abstract

Since 1985, the Hong Kong government has been collaborating with the selected non-profit private service providers to implement integrated kindergarten education in mainstream kindergarten programs initially designed for typically developing children. The term "integrated" is roughly equivalent to "inclusive" in the United States. This study's purpose is to describe kindergarten teachers' perspectives on the provision of quality integrated education for children with disabilities in Hong Kong contexts. The findings of this study offer empirical data that suggest ways to improve the quality of integrated kindergarten programs so that young children with disabilities can attain a high-quality early childhood education experience that lays a solid foundation upon which successful subsequent schooling can be built. In-depth, open-ended qualitative interviewing was the primary data collection method for this study. Four integrated kindergarten programs in Hong Kong were involved, and two kindergarten teachers from each program participated as informants. Each of the eight informants was interviewed three times; and data were analyzed using typological techniques. Two research questions guided the study: (a) How do early childhood educators describe their experience with integration? and (b) According to the teachers, what does instruction look like in integrated kindergarten programs? Findings were descriptions of teachers' perspectives on working in integrated kindergartens in Hong Kong. Analysis of informants' data identified two broad generalizations: (a) Kindergarten teachers in this study emphasized teaching academics to children without disabilities, but they focused on social developnlent at the exclusion of academic instruction for children with disabilities, and (b) According to the teachers, instruction was academic and skill-oriented in the integrated kindergarten programs. The results documented that kindergarten teachers felt compelled to teach academics to children without disabilities primarily due to the schools' academic goals, the standardized curriculum, parents' expectations for their children's academic achievement, primary schools' academic requirements for entering pupils, and the Hong Kong government's demand for students' academic competence. Contradictorily, kindergarten teachers felt no pressure to teach academics to children with disabilities due to negative teacher attitudes toward children with disabilities, resource constraints within school systems, the Hong Kong government's unsupported policy toward integrated education, and an unreceptive culture toward individuals with disabilities. Kindergarten teachers in this study commented that the integrated kindergarten programs they provided did not serve the interests ofchildren with or without disabilities.

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