The Inclusive Education Awareness Week, 4-8 December 2017, is an attempt to identify the challenges that country continues to face in addressing different learning and special needs of children, with a particular focus on those who are excluded or isolated in schools and classrooms.
The focus is to create awareness, spark meaningful conversations to stop and contemplate the role of schools, teachers and parents in bringing meaningful solutions.
Today it is important for school’s whole community to understand to make inclusion a goal. School Administrators, teachers, children and parents everybody should understand and adopt the value of inclusion as a way of life.
What is Inclusive Education?
Inclusive education is an approach towards educating the children with different abilities and learning difficulties with developing children under one roof. In general parlance, it means special need children share same physical space under one roof, learn, interact, socially and academically.
Inclusion is defined as a process of addressing the diverse needs of all learners by reducing barriers to and within the learning environment. It means attending the age-appropriate class of the child’s local school, with individually tailored support.” – UNICEF
The Concept of Inclusion
The term Special Need Education refers to the education of all those children or youths whose needs arise due to abilities or learning difficulties. The concept inclusive is extended beyond special need education to cover those children who are failing in schools due to a wide variety of reasons that are known to have likely to impede a child’s optimal progress. These may be a group of children who may require additional support of material resources or school needs to support them with curriculum to stimulate them towards effective learning and efficient outcome.
This kind of exclusion results in inferiority complex among students.
The inclusion also means education system must be open to all kinds of backgrounds caste, religion, financial status and ability.
Education should aim at the integrated development of children with special needs and normal through mainstream schooling. Special focus must be given to developing curriculum for special education and its inclusion in general teacher preparation programmes.
Inclusive Education Scenario in India
The inclusion and equity can be addressed through the transformation of education for all the forms of exclusion and marginalization, disparities, inequalities in access and participation and learning outcomes. Looking at the big picture there are two types of inclusions required in Indian school system landscape:
Inclusion of special need children
Inclusive education practices for the minor learning disabilities
Inclusive Education for Special Need
Millions of children in India face obstacles to a good education are daunting enough, over that, 2.9 million children face some kind of disabilities, compounding the barriers to providing education for all. The reality is today 34% o of these children in the age-group of 6-14 years remain out of schools, according to report commissioned jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF. The percentages are even higher with intellectual disabilities(48%), speech impairments (36%) and multiple disabilities(59%).
These children are excluded from mainstream school, despite reformulation of policies and efforts by the Government and NGOs. The Right to Education Act, 2009, mandates that every child in the country with any form of disability must receive meaningful and quality education, look closely beyond act on the paper it seems far from the reality.
In the current GEM report by UNESCO, it is stated that constitutions, laws or policies in 42 of 86 countries explicitly referenced inclusive education although interpretations of the term differ.
The interpretation of the term inclusive education is itself under the scanner in the most of schools who call themselves inclusive. The concept of inclusive when looked closely they are not inclusive it was found that there was segregation. About 80% of the schools in India struggle to provide pragmatic and meaningful education so either there is no inclusion or some of them who call themselves inclusive schools may share same physical roof but have totally different classroom activities and definitely this cannot be called inclusion.
An official Census of 2011 by Government of India brought to light that the number of people with disabilities in India is 26 million or roughly 2.6% of the total population. About 75% of these reside in rural areas.
“The overwhelming majority of vagabond not due to the violation but due to callous management and over-anxious parents of the abled children in the travesty of humanity and social justice. They have consistently discouraged children with disabilities from entering classrooms.”
Less than five percent of children with disability are in schools, remaining 95% are excluded. Against this backdrop of continuous neglect, there is an urgent need to find ways for developing the potential of this large proportion of challenged children.
Obstacles to Inclusion
The special segregation education has been the main vehicle of teaching special children within our school system due to many factors the most common being it impedes the learning progress of the other children in the classroom as the teacher has to devote extra time to such children.
It is difficult in India to collect the exact data of education with special needs. It is not only because of the complexity of documentation but also because disability is unfortunately, still seen as stigmatizing. There is no internationally established definition of special education. There is no set definition of inclusive education, which makes it harder to set universal standards.
In prevailing Indian scenario, the resources are insufficient to provide quality education through mainstream schools.
Why Inclusion in Education?
The importance of inclusion has increased manifold with the changing times. It is also about appreciating each individual's unique set of strengths and limitations. Inclusion is not just education philosophy it is life skill and way of life.
Better understanding of strengths and weaknesses
Religious and communal understanding
Instills values – Schools are the only place where children interact with diverse community
Instill values of fraternity and equality
Inclusion isn’t just education style it is a life skill, a value, it is a way of life that can be practiced every day. Let us start inclusion with schools, with our young children. Create awareness, work to build opportunities for inclusion.
NexSchools is making a small effort to bring forward core concerns in the education system that you and us can change. Inclusive education is also a solution to many problems persistent in the prevailing Indian Education System; we will spark a conversation on some of them in the days to come.
We welcome and invite you to share your experiences when you as the parent, educators, or special need professionals felt inclusive and exclusive. We invite you to share your projects with us.
Part 2 - The mainstream School’s Perspective - 5 December 2017