A Comparison of Special Education Philosophy, Policies an Dpractice in Malaysia and Japan

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A COMPARISON OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PHILOSOPHY, POLICIES,

AND PRACTICE IN MALAYSIA AND JAPAN.

INTRODUCTION

The focus of this study is to compare the educational philosophies, policies,and practices between Malaysia and Japan, with regard to the education of children with special needs. Malaysia and Japan have some common historical experiences in that both countries were involved in the Second World War, both were colonised and given independence by Anglo-American powers. Geographically they are both in Asia. A significant difference between the two countries is the homogenous nature of Japan’s population and the pluralistic multicultural, multi lingual, multi ethnicity and religions of Malaysia. Japan is a developed and industrialised country whereas Malaysia is developing and targeting to be an industrialised one. Japan’s population of 127 million dwarfs Malaysia’s 29 million. It is needful to examine the set up of other countries, discover the root of the problems and analyse their solutions so as to better understand one’s own education system, avoid mistakes made and adopt suitable models accordingly. Hence, in this comparative study, an Asian country was chosen over an Anglo-American one, because Japan and Malaysia are both culturally group-oriented, power concentrated, inclined to be replicative and relationally holistic. As such it is probably easier to relate to contextually in matters relating to adapting globalised best practices in a culturally sensitive way. This paper seeks to look at the special educational policies and philosophies of both countries, study their practises, identify key issues and challenges faced, and to discover possibilities for mutual exchange, growth and development.

There has always been a personal interest in Special education probably from parental influence and also from exposure to special people at a very young age. The increasing awareness of Special Education in Malaysia can undoubtedly be attributed to regular reporting by the media and the escalating pervasiveness of information technology available to the masses.

In recent years, Special Education has given more attention to a wide range of learning difficulties, including dyslexia, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], Asperger’s syndrome and so on, with focus somewhat moving away from visual, hearing impairment and physical, mental impairments.

This is probably because in most developing and developing countries, visual and hearing impairments have already well-established special educational practices. For example, Special schools where various learning aids, such as sign language, Braille and magnified letters are used to accommodate the students’ teaching and learning needs. Some countries such as Japan and the United States of America (USA), have advanced to providing not only basic education but also pioneering tertiary education for the visually and hearing impaired.

Different forms of learning difficulties have emerged over the past 25 years and are probably still emerging. In the past, these special needs (learning difficulties) were all classified under mental retardation, but as discoveries continue to be made and learning difficulties are classified differently, statistics show that mental retardation worldwide has dropped considerably. As these conditions are discovered and researched, some theories about these conditions change and some evolve due to these theories being challenged or disproved and new theories being proposed. For example there is a wide range of autism, from highly-functioning to deeply autistic. Some children who were diagnosed as autistic ten years ago, are now discovered to have Asperger’s disorder. Disorders along the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continuum include autism, pervasive developmental disorder, Rett Syndrome (American Psychiatric Assocciation, 1995) and Asperger’s disorder. Since ASD exists along a spectrum, intervention...
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