“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” – Chinese proverb.
Our school life definitely plays an important role in shaping careers; moreover, teaches many things not included in the ‘curriculum’ – humility, perseverance, team work and patience. But why are some children excluded from basic privileges of going to a certain school? Globally, education is recognized as an elementary human right; but is it so in practice?
A typical urban Indian classroom consists of children from various backgrounds, economic classes,castes, religions, and speaking different languages. Likewise, differences in abilities, strengths and performances also prevail; which often become the premise to categorize certain children with difficulties from ‘regular’ children. The purpose of education is to provide students the skills and knowledge to prepare them for the future and wellbeing of society. Educators hence cannot ignore that each child can be different in several ways and it is their role to involve them together in the same classroom, regardless of differences. Earlier, children with special needs were segregated and taught in separate schools. However, it was soon realized that these kids would benefit when integrated with other children in regular schools with additive training. This change was thought and proven to be effective for everyone in the classroom – creating more mature and understanding children who learn to respect individual differences.
Inclusion is simply an effort to make sure that diverse learners – with disabilities, different languages, different interests and ways of learning – are treated with respect and imbibed with skills each can absorb as per their own unique potential. ‘Inclusive Education’ aims to provide equality and fairness to students, regardless of strengths, weaknesses and backgrounds. It teaches students, teachers as well as parents – righteousness and acceptance, and helps in building a child’s character in so many ways than one. This approach helps children learn team work, co-operation, leadership, and also develop prosocial behaviour and friendships with a variety of children, each with their own needs and abilities, diminishing stigmatization. Teachers in inclusive classrooms also vary their styles to enhance learning for students in turn facilitating each child.
Nonetheless, the contrary belief that children with disabilities would only learn better in special schools also exists and many educators strongly oppose inclusive education. Such strong decisions have thus invited many political controversies and make the course of action more challenging. As we strive to cross these hurdles, involvement and cooperation of educators, parents, psychologists and community leaders has become more and more pivotal for bringing better and more inclusive schools into practice.Radhika Kulkarni