From the editor - Learning Curve Issue XXIII

The Editorial from Issue XXIII of the Learning Curve on the theme of 'Inclusive Education'.

In any situation in life, human beings want to be included: it begins in the playground even as children take their first tentative steps into socializing in the world around them. We sometimes see a child – or children - standing at the fringes of a group engrossed in an activity or game, looking forlorn and dejected until they are inducted into the group. This desire presents itself at every stage, even into adulthood, when we get our first jobs, indeed till the very end of life.

However, in the less than ideal world of ours, exclusion is rampant. Whether that is based on creed, colour, race, ethnicity, class, gender – the list is very long - human beings can become victims of illogical, irrational prejudices. Paradoxically, as boundaries shrink and the terms such as, ‘global village’ become commonplace, there are deeper and deeper fissures.

This Issue is in answer to the many types of biases that have existed, and still exist, in human society. It can take many different hues and each country has to tackle the issue in its own way. In India we battle discrimination based on caste, creed, social class, gender and disabilities, etc. In the past, educational and employment opportunities were denied to various categories of people based on one or more of these divisive forces.

However, the scenario now makes us much more optimistic. Diversity has begun to be valued as a marker for greater and richer human understanding and is now a point of view to show the measure we place on variegated experiences. ‘Classrooms without walls’ is an ideal that has been talked about and discussed, though like many ideals, it has still to take concrete shape.

To make the right to education for all a reality, it is the responsibility of every society to make sure that its educational system answers basic learning needs and enriches every child’s life so that he or she is assured of the right to a childhood, later emerging as a happy, well-adjusted adult. However, even in the 21st century, this remains a distant and remote dream for millions of children across the globe. Children continue to experience exclusion on the basis of socially ascribed or traditionally perceived differences such as gender, economic condition, class, religion and, in India, caste as well. Education is a key tool in preventing and removing obstacles in the path to a child’s right to growth in any sphere that he or she may choose.

Although inclusion is a concept that concerns us all as it is a basic human desire to ‘fit in’ to any group that we might be part of, physical disability is the most evident as a differentiator. Specially challenged children today want the opportunity to be included because they want to be a part of the productive work force, although it is equally true that one’s employability is not the only index of one’s worth.  Because they do not get the critical first job, there is the knock-on effect which places subsequent opportunities out of reach. By the same token, differences in caste, creed, social class and gender are guilty of discrimination first in school and later in higher institutions of education, in social situations, in opportunities, in world-views and therefore in personality. Although we know that the human mind veers almost naturally to categorization, it is difficult to see how and why diversity is not celebrated, especially in a world without frontiers and with geographical boundaries disappearing with the internet, TV and ever more improved forms of instant connectivity.

There is today a brave new world waiting to be explored and conquered in a manner that earlier generations of explorers and adventurers, however intrepid, could not have dreamed of, for it is a world of ordinary people, like most of us, who want to do away with borders of human achievement.

This being the case and committed as we are in the Azim Premji Foundation to promoting every type of equality and diversity while at the same time demolishing preconceived notions of barriers in human progress, Learning Curve decided to devote this Issue to Inclusive Education as a theme. In this Issue, readers will find articles on literature for children particularly emphasizing inclusion, on gender stereotyping and an article on RTE and inclusion in schooling.

There are other viewpoints as well: as a sample, I mention integration of adolescents with learning difficulties into mainstream schooling, thereby providing a school environment for those who otherwise might drop out, the place of textbooks in creating cultural differences and ways this could be remedied, differentiating between inclusion and integration as concepts.  We also have an article on teaching language to include, caste as a barrier to education and upward social mobility and, finally, teacher preparedness in curriculum development.  This last is particularly significant, for at the centre of beneficial change lies the wise and aware teacher.

The list is not complete, it is merely a selection of the array of the thought-provoking and reflective articles that our contributors have written, in response to our request to shed some light on this critical aspect of human progress. For there is no doubt about that: progress depends on our ability to respect differences and honouring them as adding to rich tapestry of life.

We could not have produced so enriched an Issue without our special advisors. For this one, we have relied heavily on the unflagging help and support of Dr. Ankur Madan and Dr. Jyothsna Latha Belliappa. Thank you both!

Prema Raghunath
Editor
prema.raghunath@azimpremjifoundation.org

Comments

ramanan.P's picture

This Issue is in answer to the many types of biases that have existed, and still exist, in human societyIt can take many different hues and each country has to tackle the issue in its own way.In India we battle discrimination based on caste, creed, social class, gender and disabilities, etc.In the past, educational and employment opportunities were denied to various categories of people based on one or more of these divisive forces.this is very nature of learning curve

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