Inclusion in the Faroese public school
: From political vision to practice in tension between general education and special needs education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research study focused on exploring the development of inclusive education in the Faroese public school from political vision to practice. The study used Situational Analysis as its theoretical and methodological framework and involved interviewing 97 actors in the Faroese school system and analysing school policy documents. The study aimed to understand how the global vision of inclusion is transferred, translated and transformed in the local environment of the Faroe Islands as a very small society.

The study revealed the absence of overarching initiatives and leadership to promote inclusive education in the Faroese school system. This is partly explained through the Faroese culture and the close relationship between culture/practice and the political sector in a small society like the Faroe Islands. The research raises the question of where the impetus for initiating and motivating inclusive development processes should come from. Although the Faroe Islands is a small society with a historical dependency on Denmark, it is also part of the global world and inspired by international policies and research that affect its practice. Hence, despite being subject to the basic conditions of a small society, there are also points of similarity with the international environment. The findings reveal that the development of inclusive education in the Faroe Islands finds itself caught in the middle of cross-pressures from different and divergent global school policy trends and special features of local policy practice and local traditions and culture.

The study argues that inclusive education should be an issue for an overarching school policy that applies to the entire school environment. It provides insights into pupils' perspectives, which can contribute to developing inclusive education. If pupils are listened to and heard as experts in their school lives, we can understand what it takes to achieve inclusion. In our search for effectiveness and quality of school life, pupils' perspectives can serve as a "directional indicator" for inclusion.

Understanding inclusion as a situational and involvement issue means that the development of inclusion is not just about the structure and organisational and strategic measures but also about social learning processes that require involvement from multiple standpoints. In the Faroese case, this primarily means involvement from the administrative and political sectors to initiate, motivate and lead inclusive school development processes while also involving stakeholders' experiences, perspectives, views, and positions from different social worlds and arenas to discuss and negotiate how to approach and develop inclusion.

The study focused on the tension between general education and special needs education problematised through a compensatory and inclusive approach. The empirical material reveals that the Faroe Islands' education system primarily has a narrow approach to translating inclusive principles into practice. Simultaneously, it also reveals that the actors view the inclusive approach as desirable but requiring significant changes in the legislation concerning political and local leadership, in structure, collaboration and with regard to understanding the concept of being professional. This research argues that developing inclusive education must be anchored in local policy and culture and may require combining compensatory and inclusive approaches to work with and handle dilemmas. In the Faroe Islands, there is an increased demand for special educational needs settings with a compensatory approach, which may hinder the transformation of inclusive principles. This is because structural reforms without working to ensure that teachers, pedagogues, and other educational and advisory staff work inclusively do not lead to the transformation of inclusive principles into practice. Developing inclusive education requires recognising and working in and with dilemmas between special needs education and general education.

This study advocates a whole situational approach that has allowed me to develop and propose “situated inclusion” as a new concept in the global and local discourse on inclusive education. “Situated inclusion” addresses the four core involvement elements of community involvement, negotiating involvement, policy and administration involvement and argument involvement. This may be the direction to take to develop inclusive education in the Faroe Islands.
Date of Award4 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aarhus University
  • Fróðskaparsetur Føroya - The University of the Faroe Islands
SupervisorLotte Hedegaard-Sørensen (Supervisor), Kirsten Baltzer (Supervisor) & Erika Anne Hayfield (Supervisor)


  • Inclusive education
  • Faroese public school
  • School policy and practice
  • Inclusive education with an ecological perspective
  • Studying inclusive education with Situational Analysis
  • Faroe Islands

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