Manjula Pooja Shroff: Inclusive education: Challenges before us

26 Sep

National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 has laid down a clear context of inclusive education. Inclusion is becoming a buzzword and doing the rounds in education circles but there are still a lot of cobwebs surrounding it, even though the work in this direction began way back with establishment of special schools in 1880s.

Simply put, inclusive education wishes that education system should value all children. There should be enough understanding to help children with different abilities within regular classrooms, so that all children can get equal opportunities to learn.

Government’s intention has remained quite clear and consistent, be it the formation of Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992, National Trust for Multiple Disability and most recently Right to Education Act 2009.

Growth, however, has been slow. Earlier children with different needs were enrolled in special schools. A movement began with debate about why special children should not receive education in mainstream schools. It soon gained momentum and schools started creating resource centres within the same campus for special learning. More recently, efforts are being made for inclusion of these special children into mainstream classrooms.

This is based on a global recognition that children and youth with disability are best educated alongside their non-disabled peers, whether in school years or during higher education.

Bringing special children into mainstream requires adjustments that schools need to make in advance. Transport facilities should be altered, so that these children can move around with relative ease. Schools could permit an adult to accompany the children in case of acute illness. Architecturally, there should be ramps and wheelchair access constructed in service areas such as toilets.

Necessary school supplies such as audio learning or textbooks in Braille should be made available. Suitable modification to examination system maybe required, so as to eliminate pure mathematical and logical assessments.

The biggest challenge lies in finding special education teachers. Any teacher who is able to respond to diversity of students in a classroom, can accommodate different learning styles and grasping abilities, is able to solve problems through consultation with colleagues or medical and psychological practitioners, will be able to go beyond four walls of the classroom and create an inclusive community.

Differently-abled are thought of as liability, of not having similar goals as normal people and demanding constant protection. It is by rising above these misconceptions and bringing in effective policies (currently on paper) inside the classroom that we can create a truly inclusive education community.

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