Need more focus on inclusive education in India

April 20, 2015

Courtesy Global Accessibility News

Inclusive education is not a much-discussed subject. It is not the talking point at seminars or conferences. We know that there is a large population of persons with disabilities in the country with the whole range of known disabilities and we also know that the existing services are abysmally low in availability and quality. But there are exceptions of institutes doing outstanding work that has kept the subject alive in the public mind.

What few would know is that there is very little understanding of what disability means, to the person, and the family that has to primarily deal with it. What is stated and what actually translates into action on the ground are two different stories.

There are some compelling personal accounts, for instance, Malini Chib’s ‘One Little Finger’ and Arun Shourie’s ‘Does he know a mother’s heart’? The first is a disarming and frank autobiography of the writer’s own disability and the second an inquiry into the entire question of suffering from the standpoint of a father dealing with his son’s disability. Soon to be released is the film ‘Margarita with a Straw’ and until then, ‘Tare Zameen Par’ and ‘Barfi’ are the best films in recent times on the subject, although of a different genre.

What is inclusion? And what is inclusive education? Simply stated, it is the inclusion of anyone outside the mainstream into the common fold, so the person included becomes a part of the whole, and does not remain a separate isolated unit, an exclusion born out of rejection by those who are normal.

Inclusiveness can be of many types, social and economic for instance, aimed at treating all human beings as intrinsically of equal worth and thus part of a homogenous society. That is left to the domain of the government.

There are national and international laws to protect the rights and interests of the disabled but unless there is an awakening of the spirit to enable it can remain a mere rhetoric.

Inclusive education implies that all students are welcomed by the school in the neighbourhood and participate in all aspects of life at the school. It provides opportunities to learn and accept individual differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying. Inclusion in education is an approach for educating students with disabilities and having them spend most of their time with other children. It may take the form of integration, which would be more limited in its approach, and yet a very good way to begin.

Children with mild or moderate disabilities that do not effect academic achievement, such as using a wheelchair, are more likely to be fully included.

In an inclusive program, children are generally placed with their chronological age mates to encourage a sense of belonging as emphasis is placed on the value of friendship. This is also used to show students that a diverse group of people make up a community and that no one type of student is better than another and to remove any barriers that can be construed as helplessness.

An inclusive program has limitations especially with children with severe behavior disabilities who may endanger the safety of others, or those with acute hyperactivity who may disrupt a class constantly.

Dua is former principal of Ruchika Preschool and Pradhan is a teacher at the institute

Source: Times of India