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Barriers to Education for Special Educational Needs Students at Japanese Universities

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Simon Pryor

Niigata University, Japan


Matthew Diaz

Seishin Girls’ Middle and High School in Niigata, Japan


Mike Ruddick

Niigata University, Japan



In Japan there has recently been a national movement to include students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in mainstream education. In recent years, Japanese universities have seen a rise in SEN student numbers. As English is a compulsory subject for first year students at most universities in Japan, it is not unreasonable to predict that regular contact between SEN students and English faculty will occur on a regular basis. Studies have shown that negative attitudes of faculty members have had an adverse effect on SEN students (Kendall, 2016) and that SEN students are more likely to face obstacles such as lower academic expectations, inferior pedagogy, and a lack of access to the core curriculum (Wolanin & Steele, 2004). If this is true, then it is imperative that English-teaching faculty at Japanese universities are aware of any barriers in their classrooms that may contribute negatively to the education of SEN students. In order to determine if barriers exist, fifteen English teachers working at Japanese universities were interviewed to ascertain their experiences, interactions and perceptions with regards to SEN students. The findings show that, while positive attitudes and behavior toward SEN students exist, so do barriers to learning. The writers conclude that awareness building and training regarding SEN is key to reducing these barriers. Finally, examples of possible training courses are given, as are recommendations for university English teachers.



Special educational needs, barriers to education, Japanese universities, English teaching faculty, teacher and peer group attitudes