Special Issue "Special and Inclusive Education: Perspectives, Challenges and Prospects"

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Special and Inclusive Education".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 March 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Garry Hornby
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Education, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA,UK
Interests: inclusive and special education; parental involvement in education; evidence-based practice; teacher education for special needs; educational psychology; bullying
Prof. Dr. James M. Kauffman
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
Interests: special education; pedagogy and education; teaching and learning teacher training; behavior; teaching; inclusion; professional development; learning

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

For the past 50 years, there has been increasing consideration and debate about how to best educate learners with special educational needs and disabilities. Competing paradigms of special education and inclusive education have been developed, disseminated and discussed at length over the years. These discussions have focused the attention on effectively educating learners with different types and severities of special educational needs and disabilities, who are living in either developing and developed countries in various parts of the world.

The aim of this Special Issue of Education Sciences is to focus on the latest theory, practice and research relevant to special education and inclusive education. Articles that present new ideas, suggest future research directions or potential ways forward for educational practice are of particular interest. 

Articles are sought that present differing perspectives on the issues, examine challenges to implementing effective practice, and consider future prospects for developing theories or conducting research. Of particular interest are articles that focus on the development of models of effective practice in special education or inclusive education, or combinations of the two, that are suitable for implementation in the different education systems that exist in various countries throughout the world.

Therefore, articles based on reviews of the recent and relevant literature or on novel practices are welcomed, as well as those based on research conducted using a range of methodologies, or of differing theoretical perspectives. In this way, it is intended that this Special Issue will help to enable a community of scholars, policymakers and practitioners to consider the latest thinking on this issue.

Prof. Dr. Garry Hornby
Prof. Dr. James M. Kauffman
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Education Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • special educational needs
  • disabilities
  • special education
  • inclusive education

Published Papers (16 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Special and Inclusive Education: Perspectives, Challenges and Prospects
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(7), 362; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11070362 - 20 Jul 2021
Viewed by 620
Abstract
For around 40 years, there has been intense debate about how to best educate learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Universal Design for Learning: Is It Gaining Momentum in Irish Education?
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(7), 341; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11070341 - 12 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1168
Abstract
Responding to student diversity has become a key policy priority in education systems around the world. In addition to international and national institutional policies, major changes are underway in instructional practices and pedagogy in many national contexts. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has [...] Read more.
Responding to student diversity has become a key policy priority in education systems around the world. In addition to international and national institutional policies, major changes are underway in instructional practices and pedagogy in many national contexts. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has become a key pedagogical approach used in education systems which seek to promote inclusive and equitable education in response to student diversity. Despite Ireland’s policy commitment to inclusive education, UDL has been traditionally focused on the higher education sector with little discussion about the role UDL can play at primary and second-level education to achieve inclusion. Furthermore, there has been no research to date on the extent to which education policy reforms are introducing part, or all, of the aspects of the UDL framework. The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which UDL is gaining momentum in Irish primary and second-level education through an analysis of curriculum policy. This paper examines the development and evolution of UDL in Irish education policy over the past decade by exploring the use of UDL in national educational curriculum frameworks. The paper highlights how UDL is slowly and implicitly emerging in education policy at a national level but suggests further momentum could be gained from its inclusion in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and professional development programmes. By exploring the development of UDL within existing policy contexts, the paper argues for a more explicit commitment to UDL as part of ongoing curriculum reform at the primary level, the review of Senior Cycle, and Ireland’s broader inclusive education agenda. Full article
Article
The Promises and Limitations of Educational Tiers for Special and Inclusive Education
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(7), 323; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11070323 - 29 Jun 2021
Viewed by 634
Abstract
Making public school accommodating of all learners such that the need for special education is obviated, or at least reduced, has long been a desideratum of educators. Various strategies for making general public education more accommodating of students with disabilities have been tried. [...] Read more.
Making public school accommodating of all learners such that the need for special education is obviated, or at least reduced, has long been a desideratum of educators. Various strategies for making general public education more accommodating of students with disabilities have been tried. The most recent efforts to improve the general education of students with disabilities involve various models of tiered education. Educational tiers can be logical and advantageous in some ways, holding promise for improving general education, but they do not address the core problems of special education. Special education is still needed as part of inclusive education. Full article
Article
Triennial Evaluations: Divorcing the Means from the Ends
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(7), 314; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11070314 - 23 Jun 2021
Viewed by 593
Abstract
Confusion among stakeholders regarding some aspects of the special education process—chiefly the triennial reevaluation—leads to misapplication of rules across districts and states based on interpretations of informal lore-based reasoning. Local education agencies (LEA) can determine that no additional data are needed and advise [...] Read more.
Confusion among stakeholders regarding some aspects of the special education process—chiefly the triennial reevaluation—leads to misapplication of rules across districts and states based on interpretations of informal lore-based reasoning. Local education agencies (LEA) can determine that no additional data are needed and advise parents to forego the evaluation. Too, often, families who fear losing special education services for their child will acquiesce and decline the evaluation. Although this may be appropriate for some students, for others it can be a highly questionable and counterproductive decision. We illustrated the ways that avoiding triennial evaluations could hamper the ability of the LEA to adequately foster the student’s independence, monitor the student’s disability condition, and set and reach the student’s Individual Education Plans (IEP) goals. We argued that the major issue in decisions regarding triennial evaluations is centered on determining if a student is still eligible for special education services. This places too much attention on test-based eligibility and too little on educational needs, transition needs, and the instructional program. Triennial reevaluations should pivot from an “eligibility” focus to a “needs” focus, allowing schools and parents to gain a fresh understanding of the individual receiving the services. Failure to do so raises questions about the fidelity of assessment within the structure of special education service provision. Finally, we suggested that the motives underlying the practices for triennial evaluations illustrated here call the pragmatic acceptability of “full inclusion” into question. Full article
Article
Are Inclusive Education or Special Education Programs More Likely to Result in Inclusion Post-School?
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(6), 304; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11060304 - 19 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 846
Abstract
The main goal of both special education and inclusive education for young people with learning or behavioral difficulties is their maximum inclusion in the community as adults. The question of which of these two approaches is more likely to achieve this goal is [...] Read more.
The main goal of both special education and inclusive education for young people with learning or behavioral difficulties is their maximum inclusion in the community as adults. The question of which of these two approaches is more likely to achieve this goal is addressed by considering the findings of three outcome studies of young people with moderate to severe levels of learning or behavioral difficulties who experienced either option, or some combination of the two. The overall findings indicate that students who left school from a special education setting had better outcomes than those who completed their education in mainstream schools. This is considered to be due to the vocational curriculum and work experience they gained in their final years of special education, which those in mainstream schools did not receive. This suggests that a policy of full inclusion, with the closure of special classes and special schools, will result in less inclusion in their communities post-school for young people with moderate to severe levels of learning or behavioral difficulties. Full article
Article
Lessons from the Past and Challenges for the Future: Inclusive Education for Students with Unique Needs
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(6), 281; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11060281 - 07 Jun 2021
Viewed by 790
Abstract
The school-age population of students is becoming increasingly more culturally and linguistically diverse. There is mounting recognition that English Learners (EL) represent a unique group of students who have special educational and linguistic needs. This article considered the needs of learners with diverse [...] Read more.
The school-age population of students is becoming increasingly more culturally and linguistically diverse. There is mounting recognition that English Learners (EL) represent a unique group of students who have special educational and linguistic needs. This article considered the needs of learners with diverse special needs such as (a) learning and behavior challenges and (b) English Learners identified as students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE). We highlighted some potential lessons to be learned from past-to-present efforts to serve students with behavior problems. Selected evidence-based practices were featured that are applicable to learners with special needs, thereby supporting the development of effective inclusive education, especially for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Full article
Article
Leading Inclusive Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Post-Primary Schools in Ireland: Does Provision Mapping Support an Integrated, School-Wide and Systematic Approach to Inclusive Special Education?
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11040168 - 05 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1955
Abstract
A parallel system of inclusive and special education persists in Ireland despite attempts to move towards integrated provision for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) along a flexible continuum of support. Even in mainstream schools, duality exists and discrete delivery of [...] Read more.
A parallel system of inclusive and special education persists in Ireland despite attempts to move towards integrated provision for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) along a flexible continuum of support. Even in mainstream schools, duality exists and discrete delivery of special education continues to create ‘siloed’ approaches to education for some students. This paper outlines a research and knowledge exchange initiative involving a higher education institution and a management body for post-primary schools in Ireland attempting to develop integrated, school-wide, systematic and collaborative approaches to inclusive and special education. Theoretically underpinned by Hornby’s model of Inclusive Special Education (2015) and a conceptualisation of the SENCO role in the Irish context, a pilot process was implemented to support the development of an integrated response to a continuum of need. A year after initial implementation a review was undertaken. Focus group and individual interviews with SENCOs, Curriculum Leaders and Principals in six schools indicate that the initiative, while still in its infancy, raised awareness about inclusive special education amongst staff and provided data-informed approaches to education. The centrality of leadership in promoting school-wide approaches to inclusive special education also emerged. Finally, the importance of situated community of practice approaches to professional learning were identified as critical to leading change in schools. Full article
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Article
Inclusive Education in Portugal: Teachers’ Professional Development, Working Conditions, and Instructional Efficacy
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 169; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11040169 - 04 Apr 2021
Viewed by 936
Abstract
Inclusive education policies thin the boundaries of special and regular education as well as teachers’ roles and competencies. The present study, using data from TALIS 2018, aims to find out whether Portuguese teachers working in classes directed entirely or mainly to special education [...] Read more.
Inclusive education policies thin the boundaries of special and regular education as well as teachers’ roles and competencies. The present study, using data from TALIS 2018, aims to find out whether Portuguese teachers working in classes directed entirely or mainly to special education needs students (SENS) differ from teachers working in classes with few or no SENS in the following areas: (a) professional development needs in special education; (b) perceived barriers to professional development; and (c) teaching and work features related to SENS. The results show small but significant differences between teachers working and teachers not working entirely or mainly with SENS in professional development needs, perceived opportunities for professional development, and stress involved in modifying SENS lessons. No other significant differences were found. Still, the results show that both groups of teachers perceive significant professional development needs and barriers to professional development but are optimistic about the quality of professional development, job satisfaction, and self-efficacy in instruction. However, teachers of both groups are pessimistic about professional collaboration, a key element of inclusive education. Overall, it seems that some critical elements of inclusive education are still to be implemented in Portuguese schools. Full article
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Article
Designing and Implementing an In-Service Training Course for School Teams on Inclusive Education: Reflections from Participants
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11040166 - 02 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 632
Abstract
Significant and effective implementation of inclusive education (IE) has been a major challenge in many countries during the last decades. Although teachers’ knowledge and skills are considered a key factor for successful inclusive practice, the whole school staff commitment and contribution to implementing [...] Read more.
Significant and effective implementation of inclusive education (IE) has been a major challenge in many countries during the last decades. Although teachers’ knowledge and skills are considered a key factor for successful inclusive practice, the whole school staff commitment and contribution to implementing IE policies are equally important. Collaboration between different professionals such as teachers, school leaders, and support specialists is crucial. This study aimed to design and implement an in-service training course for school teams (teachers, support specialists, school leaders) on IE in the Estonian context and to explore how participants experienced learning as a team in this course. The results of this study showed that the main aspects of the in-service training for school teams valued by participants were: (1) All topics covered in a systematic and coherent way gave a good opportunity to focus on relevant issues, which should be considered in the schools’ self-development activities in the field of IE; (2) practical approach to training structure helped to identify priority areas that need to be developed in particular schools; (3) learning from each other both within their own school team and across school teams contributed to finding the best solutions for meaningful implementation of IE. The implication of these findings is further discussed in the paper. Full article
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Article
Inclusion at a Crossroads: Dismantling Ireland’s System of Special Education
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 161; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11040161 - 01 Apr 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1159
Abstract
Ireland’s system of special education has undergone unprecedented change over the last three decades. Following major policy developments in the mid-2000s which emphasised inclusive education, there have been changes to special education school personnel and funding structures which seek to include greater numbers [...] Read more.
Ireland’s system of special education has undergone unprecedented change over the last three decades. Following major policy developments in the mid-2000s which emphasised inclusive education, there have been changes to special education school personnel and funding structures which seek to include greater numbers of students with disabilities in mainstream education. There is one anomaly however: Ireland continues to operate a parallel system of special schools and classes with an emphasis on special class provision for students with disabilities. The aim of this paper is to examine the evolution of Ireland’s special education policy over the past three decades and explore the extent to which it is compatible with its obligations under the United Nations Convention for People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and more recent discussions around moving to inclusive education. It uses a systematic investigation of policy and administrative data on special class growth over time to highlight anomalies between the policy narrative around inclusive education in Ireland and the continued use of segregated settings. The current system, therefore, suggests confused thinking at a policy level which has resulted in the implementation of special education grafted on to the general education system. Any move to an inclusive system therefore, in order to be successful, would require a root and branch overhaul of existing policies. Full article
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Article
Using Evidence-Based Practice and Data-Based Decision Making in Inclusive Education
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(3), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11030129 - 17 Mar 2021
Viewed by 777
Abstract
There are longstanding calls for inclusive education for all regardless of student need or teacher capacity to meet those needs. Unfortunately, there are little empirical data to support full inclusion for all students and even less information on the role of data-based decision [...] Read more.
There are longstanding calls for inclusive education for all regardless of student need or teacher capacity to meet those needs. Unfortunately, there are little empirical data to support full inclusion for all students and even less information on the role of data-based decision making in inclusive education specifically, even though there is extensive research on the effectiveness of data-based decision making. In this article, we reviewed what data-based decision making is and its role in education, the current state of evidence related to inclusive education, and how data-based decision making can be used to support decisions for students with reading disabilities and those with intellectual disabilities transitioning to adulthood. What is known about evidence-based practices in supporting reading and transition are reviewed in relationship to the realities of implementing these practices in inclusive education settings. Finally, implications for using data-based decisions in inclusive settings are discussed. Full article
Article
An Historical Review from Exclusion to Inclusion in Western Australia across the Past Five Decades: What Have We Learnt?
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(3), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11030119 - 11 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 785
Abstract
Current practices regarding inclusive education vary enormously depending on a wide range of issues, specifically the context and culture of an education system. To maximise the validity of data, and to avoid contextual confusion, this review focuses on one state in Australia, that [...] Read more.
Current practices regarding inclusive education vary enormously depending on a wide range of issues, specifically the context and culture of an education system. To maximise the validity of data, and to avoid contextual confusion, this review focuses on one state in Australia, that of Western Australia. By applying a review of five-decade archival data, changes to education for learners with disability in this state are critiqued. Analysis involved applying five a priori themes to review educational reform practices. These were related to legislation and policy, support, curriculum, teacher education and parental choice. Discussion teased out the impact of these changes on the competing paradigms of special and inclusive education, and models and challenges of implementing effective inclusive practice for all learners in one Australian state. Critical reflection provides valuable insight into futures planning for all educational systems to reform practice to become more inclusive. Full article
Article
A Comparison of Provision and Access to Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities in a Metropolitan City and a Rural District in Telangana State, India
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(3), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11030111 - 09 Mar 2021
Viewed by 659
Abstract
In response to international agreements, recent Indian legislation has raised expectations that all children, regardless of need or ability, should gain access to formal education that is inclusive and addresses their social and learning needs. Initiatives designed to support the implementation of this [...] Read more.
In response to international agreements, recent Indian legislation has raised expectations that all children, regardless of need or ability, should gain access to formal education that is inclusive and addresses their social and learning needs. Initiatives designed to support the implementation of this legislation have been undertaken in several parts of India. Reports related to such initiatives have largely focused upon developments in large urban connotations, with studies in rural areas being less in evidence. This paper reports a small-scale study conducted in Telangana a state in the south-central part of India. Through the application of semi-structured interviews data were obtained to enable a comparison to be made of the experiences of two purposive samples of families of children with disabilities and special educational needs, and the professionals who support them. The first sample was located in Hyderabad, a large metropolitan city, the capital of Telangana State. The second was situated in villages in Sangareddy, a single rural district of the same state. Interviews were conducted either in English or in Telugu, the state language with all interviews transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis. The findings, which will be used to support further development in the area, reveal a willingness on the part of professionals to support the education and social welfare needs of children with special educational needs and their families and an awareness of current national legislation aimed at achieving this objective. A disparity exists between the availability of professional support services available to families and children, with those living in the rural district experiencing greater difficulty in accessing appropriate support than their counterparts in the metropolitan city. The lack of opportunities for training and professional development is perceived to be a major obstacle to the progress of inclusive education as required by national legislation in both locations. Recommendations are made for further research that is closely allied to changes in practice, for the development of professional development of teachers and other professionals, and for the development of centralised provision in rural areas to address the needs of families. Full article
Article
Twice-Exceptional Students: Review of Implications for Special and Inclusive Education
Educ. Sci. 2021, 11(2), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11020085 - 22 Feb 2021
Viewed by 1220
Abstract
The purpose of this article is to review recent literature on twice-exceptional students and consider implications for their education in the context of the trend towards increased inclusive education for students with disabilities. The review focused on teachers’ experiences and perceptions and the [...] Read more.
The purpose of this article is to review recent literature on twice-exceptional students and consider implications for their education in the context of the trend towards increased inclusive education for students with disabilities. The review focused on teachers’ experiences and perceptions and the school experiences of twice-exceptional students. Fifteen articles were reviewed, published between 2000 and 2020, selected according to a systematic protocol from two widely used online databases. Findings indicated that the implications that need to be considered were the importance of teacher preparation, the need for a continuum of special education interventions, the need for collaboration with parents and specialists, and teachers needing to focus on developing strengths as much as remediating difficulties. It was concluded that twice-exceptional students can be taught effectively in inclusive education settings as long as they are able to access appropriate strategies and programs from the fields of special education and gifted education. Full article
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Article
Analysis of Barriers to Inclusive Schools in Germany: Why Special Education Is Necessary and Not Evil
Educ. Sci. 2020, 10(12), 358; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci10120358 - 28 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 801
Abstract
Over the past decade, ever since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) in Germany, a morally charged debate has taken place about inclusive and special education. Special schools are under considerable attack and even [...] Read more.
Over the past decade, ever since the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) in Germany, a morally charged debate has taken place about inclusive and special education. Special schools are under considerable attack and even special education is deemed responsible for the difficulties in implementing full inclusion in schools. The gravest accusation is that special education and special schools are even today a close connection to the Nazi era between 1933 and 1945, when children with disabilities were sterilized and murdered. Special education is seen as a symbol and guarantor of separation and exclusion and therefore incompatible with the idea of inclusion. This article will outline and analyze this claim and present other more compelling reasons why full inclusion has been difficult to implement in Germany. Following the analysis, we will describe a possible way forward for inclusion and special education. Full article
Article
Inclusive Vision Versus Special Education Reality
Educ. Sci. 2020, 10(9), 258; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci10090258 - 22 Sep 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2166
Abstract
The reasons are examined for the disparity between the inclusive vision espoused by Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the reality of the limited extent of inclusion in education systems worldwide. First, the leadership [...] Read more.
The reasons are examined for the disparity between the inclusive vision espoused by Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the reality of the limited extent of inclusion in education systems worldwide. First, the leadership of key senior academics in the field of special education is considered to have been misguided in promoting a vision of full inclusion despite the lack of research evidence for the benefits of inclusive education over traditional special education provision. Second, attitudes toward and the treatment of people with disabilities have a long and complex history, and in this, many proponents of inclusion have been critical of 20th century special education. In particular, they claim that the sorting, labelling and categorizing required by special education have negative implications. Third, educators have been encouraged to imagine a system of education that is limitless, in the sense that all children with disabilities can be included in general education. This is because it is envisaged that general education classrooms will become so flexible that there will be no limits to the accommodation of students with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of their special educational needs. Fourth is the issue that deciding a student’s placement for education requires a judgment call and that, since human judgment is fallible, errors of judgment will always be made. Fifth, commitments to inclusion require that educators consider the practical, reality-based implications, whereas this has not been the case for many supporters of full inclusion. In conclusion, inclusion in the sense of students being physically present in general education classrooms is not considered as important as inclusion in the reality of being engaged in a program of instruction that is meaningful and challenging. Therefore, we consider that, rather than becoming extinct, special education needs to continue to be developed, disseminated and rigorously implemented in schools. Key special education strategies and approaches must co-exist with those from inclusive education, in order to provide effective education for all young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Full article
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