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Thursday, December 4, 2008

'Inclusive' Teaching

Lessons in ‘inclusive’ teaching



   Movies like Black and Taare Zameen Par were appreciated by most people, including educationists, for aptly showing how a good teacher could transform a student's life. But how sensitised are teachers today, when it comes to acceptance of special children in mainstream classrooms? 

   It is felt that in the absence of a skilled workforce it is not easy to bring about inclusion in mainstream schools. A teacher with no knowledge of how to identify, assess and assist children with special needs in mainstream classrooms can perpetuate failure. 

   Ashok Ganguly, former head of CBSE, cites an example of a boy who did not mark that he was dyslexic in his answer sheet to avail of the provisions. Unfortunately, the invigilator too was not attentive and the answer sheet was assessed with general category students instead of special category. Consequently, the student failed in mathematics. 

   The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 and the National Focus Group reports have also identified and highlighted various issues crucial in providing education to children from disadvantaged groups. In this regard, it was felt that issues like persistence of stereotype thinking regarding children from marginalised groups, including scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) and children with special needs (who can't be taught along with other children) among others, need extensive discussion among the teacher-educators working in various DIETs, SCERTs and non-government organisations. The NCERT recently organised a two-day orientation programme to sensitise inclusive educators on the issue. 


S Nagpal, DTEE, NCERT, says inclusive educators play a key role in the entire process. He adds: "They have to act like motivators, counsellors, myth-breakers, resource persons and, above all, mentors to the teachers working in an inclusive education environment." 

   While admitting that inclusion of children with special needs is tough as an average classroom has more than 30 children with varying learning needs, Kate Currawalla, founder-president, Maharashtra Dyslexia Association (MDA), says emphasis should be on applying knowledge and not on completing the curriculum. 

   "To successfully include children with special needs, teachers must believe that all students can learn and plan for the success of diverse learners. Once teachers accept, recognise and celebrate diverse learners in the classroom, can we achieve inclusion," says Renu Singh, national manager - education, Save the Children. 


Teacher educators at the workshop discussed classroom management in an inclusive environment, details of multi-grade and multi-ability teaching, taking care of children with blindness and low vision, appropriate learning material for teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds, difference between inclusion and integration, and so on. 

   Informs Neerja Shukla, professor and head, Department of Education and Groups with Special Needs (DEGSN), NCERT: "Participants also wanted expert opinion on how to motivate illiterate parents to send their children to school, inclusion strategies for the hearing impaired and mentally-challenged children, providing quality education in inclusive set-ups, helping to overcome the stereotypical thinking associated with the education of children with special educational needs (CWSN), building sensitivity among teachers and ways to contextualise the curriculum." 

   Surprisingly, a few teacher-educators expressed concern over inclusive education from the perspective of parents who said they would not like to send their child to a school where CWSN are also studying in the same class. Others were more concerned about the strategies and methods required to include children with a hearing or visual impairment in the classroom. 


Ganguly feels that the biggest barrier to inclusion is teacher training. He says: “We are providing assistance and evaluating the curriculum. Besides, we have introduced several provisions such as question papers in Braille and answer sheets of children with special needs are evaluated separately. However, despite all these provisions, if teachers and support staff are not sensitised, no progress can be made.” 

   Similarly, Shukla recommends that teacher-educators may carry out a small research on prevailing myths and prejudices with respect to various groups of children like SC, ST, minorities, girl child and the differently-abled. Once the list of myths and prejudices is ready the next step is to test them against reality and then work on them to stop their propagation. 

   Anita Julka, a reader with DEGSN, NCERT, suggests various strategies like cooperative learning, peer tutoring and participatory learning for handling the large classroom. She adds: “These strategies are useful in any classroom situation irrespective of the presence of CWSN in the classroom.” 

   The programme motivated participants to develop and use strategies for curriculum adaptation, contextualisation and classroom teaching-learning based on specific needs as one general strategy can’t be applied/prescribed for every situation, since each child is different from the other irrespective of his/her abilities or disabilities or special educational needs or background. 

   Moreover, participants agreed that the utilisation of local resources, involvement of parents and developing team work culture involving special educators, doctors, regular teachers and peers is essential for the success of inclusion, and breaking myths and attitudes associated with special education. 

   Sums up Singh: “Student trainees must be mentored during their internship teaching and be exposed to addressing diverse needs in the classroom. S/he must be helped to not only respect diversity but more importantly to celebrate diversity.” 

   Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


1 comment:

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