Moving forward or standing still? A reflection of ‘special’ educational provision in Malaysia

Pei Wen Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates influential discourses embedded within policy documents and policymakers’ accounts to trace special education development in Malaysia. With a heavy reliance on the medical model, the binary distinction of the ‘educable’ and ‘ineducable’ based on self-care abilities is incongruent with inclusive ideals that support learner diversity. The diagnosed disability types of students bear a strong influence on their educational settings and learning pathways, leading to many students with physical impairments relegated to community care centres outwith the schooling system. Inclusive aspirations are also hampered by neoliberal education practices such as the competitive centralised examinations and inflexible curricular standards, which inexorably put ‘able-bodied’ students with a privileged socio-economic status at an advantage. The proportion of pupils in special schools remains low, yet special classes are expanding exponentially resulting from growing diagnoses of various kinds of learning disabilities, particularly the category of ‘slow learner’. This calls into question whether the increasing use of special classes leads to an improvement of support provision or the growing failings of the Malaysian general education system.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Special education
  • Inclusive education
  • Policy Making
  • discourse analysis
  • Malaysia


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