KOCHI: World Disability day is all about encouraging educational inclusion: An educational approach and philosophy that provide all students get opportunities for academic and social achievement in the full range of social, recreational, arts, sports, music, day care and afterschool care, extra-curricular, and all other activities.
UNICEF’s report on the Status of Disability in India (2000) states that there are around 30 million children in India suffering from some form of disability. With challenges faced by children are becoming more complex, one way of handling this is by setting up more inclusive classrooms in regular schools. Such classrooms expose children to a “rich set of activities”, as per limitations and strengths of each child, in an experiential and stress-free environment.
But first, each of us needs to change our mindset towards this sector. The idea of a diverse student learning community is something that is modern and representative of a developed society. It needs to be discussed more openly with peers without the fear of taboo or societal alienation. Sensitising the public regarding this matter is the responsibility of stakeholders of India’s educational system, parents, teachers and fellow community members.
It is also our responsibility to have the requisite infrastructure in place by the time this social acknowledgement comes along. Effective skill development programmes should be in place to train teachers of regular schools, and help them empathise in understanding the difference between handling students with and without special needs, and how they interact with each other and the environment. Curriculum is another area that needs a makeover. There is no curriculum for children with special needs to help them remain in the mainstream education. This creates segregation between people with and without disabilities.
Several policies of government in terms of special education have been brought but the implementation has been limited with some states taking the lead while several others yet to take off.
Today, Kerala is considered as one of the best States to live in India with a high human development index. Several child care centres and inclusive classrooms are being set up in regular schools, with specialty centres such as Prayatna helping bridge the crucial gaps in this sector. Yet public acceptance of the need for better assessment of a child’s educational growth is still at a nascent stage.
In an inclusive educational setting, low-achieving students are able to get extra help. And as per research, it has been found that parents and classmates of students with disabilities experience growth in social cognition, often becoming more aware of the needs of others around them. As we celebrate special Education Day , let’s make our country a more socially respected country which believes in the educational rights of all classes of its citizens. Until then, the vision of education for all will remain incomplete.
(The author is a special educator at Prayatna, a speciality child care centre in Palarivattom which provides adaptive learning and behavioural therapy for children with learning disabilities)
The views expressed by the author are his own.