Becoming Visible – Brazil Conference – comparing inclusive and special education policies, practices and research in Brazil and the UK

I have recently returned back from Brazil. I went to São Carlos in the state of São Paulo in March 2015 to present my doctoral research at a conference. The conference was entitled,Becoming visible: comparing inclusive and special education policies, practices and research in Brazil and the UK. It was held over three days and was facilitated by two leading academics, one from Brazil and one from the UK. A team of four academic mentors, two from Brazil and two from the UK provided additional facilitation and led a series of ‘break out’ workshops. The project itself was funded by the British Council, São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and Newton Fund.

The idea behind the conference was to bring Early-Career Researchers (ECRs), who had completed their research within the last ten years, together from the UK and Brazil. One of the overall aims being to create a space in which to share ideas and to form international links for future work. Similarly to the work of Inclusive Solutions, delegates were encouraged to reflect upon the key debates within inclusive and special education with a view to highlighting examples of best practice.

Each ECR presented their research in approximately fifteen to twenty minutes slots. A professional translator translated presentations given in English to Portuguese and vice versa. The leading academics and academic mentors summarised and offered their reflections on the key themes emerging from each block of presentations. Key note speakers, for example, a representative from the British Council also provided input.

Informal opportunities for discussion and networking were embedded into the timetable. Working relationships and friendships were formed and work is set to continue as a result of the formation of a number of Becoming Visible ‘splinter groups.’

Although still under the umbrella of ‘inclusive and special education’ each of these has a slightly different focus. The focus of my group is ‘poverty and exclusion.’ So far, we are in the process of making plans to collate real life stories in the context of education to furnish cross cultural comparisons. As part of this colleagues from Brazil and the UK are working together to devise an ethical framework for practice.

So far, I have learnt that there appears to be many points of similarity and difference when comparing inclusive and special education in Brazil and the UK. As far as I understand these are,

  • The inclusion debate started far more recently in Brazil in comparison to the UK. The debate started approximately within the last ten years or so in Brazil.
  • Special schools in Brazil are very few and far between. The majority of children and young people with additional needs are educated within mainstream settings.
  • Brazil seems to have less opportunities for early intervention support for children and young people with additional needs.
  • In Brazil education and other professionals make efforts to visit families at home in support of children and young people. This may relate to approaches to parent participation in the UK.
  • Central to both the UK and Brazil seems to be a recognition and strong emphasis towards locating children and young people, and their families, at the heart of their own systems for progression and affirmative action.


Dr Louise Sawyerr

Educational Psychologist

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