inclusive education

Effecting inclusion involves an attitude of acceptance. The diversity of faiths, customs, languages, and ethnicities in India places us in professional, social, personal situations where we are presented with opportunities to practice inclusion-- and for acceptance of the differences. In many ways then we have been practicing aspects of inclusion-exclusion in our routines of work, social and personal practices. Given the diversities within our context inclusion as a concept is thus not new to Indian society or to its ancient and/or traditional practices.

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”. To a large extent, it is these words of Ignacio Estrada that guides us in reaching out to students who experience difficulties in learning and therefore are unable to cope with the demands of mainstream education. Students, who fall scholastically behind their grade-level peers time and time again, are bound to feel inadequate about their capabilities, be low in self esteem and lack self confidence. A section for alternative studies, for 12 to 15 year-olds (Std. 7 to Std.

As an answer to the question, “What would constitute an excellent Indian education for Indian children?” the school called The Southpoint Vidyashram was set up in 1990 in Varanasi, U.P. by our society NIRMAN. The answer to the above question was two-fold. One, the education must be inclusive. It must include children from any and all backgrounds, varying by class, religious or regional community, gender, and ability. Indian schools, obviously, are not inclusive. Students were differentiated always according to class and often by other criteria as well.

The inclusive education concept is not new to India but has gained prevalence in last decade when the Right to Education (RtE) became a fundamental right. The underlying thought of inclusive education is that every child is treated equally and given a space to realize his/her true potential. It also implies pedagogical practices inside the school where needs of every individual is duly recognized irrespective of the caste, class, ethnic, gender and ability differences.
 

Teacher preparation can be a dynamic vehicle in the cause of promoting social justice (Hansen, 2008). Social justice may be a philosophically contested and normative concept (Goodlad, 2002). But then to Rawls “justice is the first virtue of social institutions” (Rawls, 1971; p.3). Also Novak (2000) argues that social justice is a virtue ascribed to the “reflective and deliberative acts of individuals (quoted in Grant & Agosto, 2008; p.98).

The article makes a case for including children with special needs in the regular school system highlighting the multiple interpretations of inclusive education in India and how these impact its interpretations for policy. The author urges individual effort on part of schools to adopt teaching and learning practices that support the learning needs of children with special needs and in effect improve learning for all the children in the classroom. 

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.

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