Theses Doctoral

The Myriad Meanings of Inclusion: Educators’ Beliefs and Practices Regarding Inclusive Education for Migrant Students in Uruguay’s Early Childhood and Primary Education Public Schools

Caumont Stipanicic, Lucía Milagros

Uruguay’s public education system is at the center of a complex web of contradictory forces concerning contemporary migration to the country and migrant students. The country’s educators are part of a system that has historically interpellated them to assimilate migrant students around a problematic national imagination of homogeneity, modernity, and European heritage. These educators are also members of the larger Uruguayan society where discriminatory bias against recent migration to the country prevails, especially against migrants from the Global South. While Uruguay’s rights-based migration legislation and policy aim to promote the sociocultural integration of migrants, the measures taken thus far have overwhelmingly focused on migration management. In effect, the State has placed the responsibility for the sociocultural integration of migrants on the public education system. Specifically, the Council of Early Childhood and Primary Education created the Migrations Commission to promote inclusive education for the growing number of migrant children and youth arriving in the country’s public schools. The Migrations Commission implemented a professional development course to train educators on inclusion and interculturalidad to adequately serve migrant students and their families. However, limited data are available regarding the creation and implementation of this professional development and the impact it had on educators and their work with migrant students.

To address these gaps, this study employed a qualitative methodology to examine the State’s efforts, through the Migrations Commission, to support inclusive education for migrant students and the impact of these efforts on educators. Data collection included the following: interviews with eight Migrations Commission members and affiliates, 17 educators who participated in the commission’s professional development, 10 educators from a school in which the principal had completed the professional development, and eight educators at another school who had no experience with the professional development; 15 instances of participant observation with educators in the aforementioned schools who had migrant students in their classrooms; and analysis of documents produced by and about the Migrations Commission.

An analysis of the Migrations Commission’s discourse reveals the continued persistence of assimilation as a competing theoretical model for understanding the incorporation of migrant students and their families both in the country’s public education system and the larger social context. The presence of contradictory perspectives (inclusive education/interculturalidad versus assimilation) was also found among educators, both at the discursive level of pedagogical understanding and the pragmatic level of school practices.

Therefore, this inquiry concludes that the State’s efforts to date have not been enough to effect significant and lasting change in the country’s education system. In addition, the study’s findings indicate that Uruguay’s educators, including those who participated in the Migrations Commission’s professional development that specifically focused on inclusion and interculturalidad, remain uncertain about how to implement inclusive and intercultural practices in their schools and classrooms and continue to be influenced by the education system’s historical mandate to assimilate migrant students into the national hegemonic culture as well as by stereotypes and prejudicial assumptions embraced by the larger society regarding migrants.

Based on these findings, the study proposes policy recommendations to inform the Migrations Commission’s work to advance inclusive education for migrant students in Uruguay’s early childhood and primary education public schools and outlines future lines of research to contribute to the academic production on inclusion in education beyond the specific case of Uruguay.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Cortina, Regina
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2020