NEP-2020: Call for inclusive education
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 defines inclusive education as a ‘system of education wherein students with and without disabilities learn together and the system of teaching and learning is suitably adapted to meet the learning needs of different types of students with disabilities’.
In an equitable and inclusive classroom every student has equal access to learning, is treated equitably by the learning community, and feels valued and supported by their instructor and peers. These learning environments emphasize the importance of cultural awareness, value all social identities, and consider the impact of systemic inequities.
Identifying these important factors shapes the classroom experiences and impacts student learning. Equity and inclusion are an important part of designing educational spaces that address the needs of all students; it does not matter whether a student has a visible or invisible disability, English Language Learner, or an at-risk learner.
This inclusive system recognises all students’ entitlement to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates and considers a variety of learning needs and preferences. According to UNESCO, inclusive education is seen as “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion from education and from within education.”
Countries across the globe are making efforts to develop inclusive education in their unique contexts. At the same time, the collaborative efforts by international agencies such as the World Bank, UNICEF, IIEP, UNECSO, donors and others in addition to the local and international DPOs focus on building a common understanding of the need for systemic change at the global and local levels.
Group of normal and deaf and mute children studying together
Inclusive and equitable education, while indeed an essential goal in its own right, is also critical to achieve an inclusive and equitable society in which every citizen has the opportunity to dream, thrive, and contribute to the nation. The education system must aim to benefit all children so that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of circumstances of birth or background.
This Policy reaffirms that bridging the social category gaps in access, participation, and learning outcomes in school education will continue to be one of the major goals of all education sector development programmes. Equitable and inclusive teaching practices help create educational environments in which all individuals are welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate in the learning process
It is important to utilize formative assessments where students can monitor their progress throughout the course, before, during and after learning. Provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in different modes and modalities. Doing so enhances the learning experience for all students and may increase their likelihood of success. There should be variability in activities to support all students.
Design activities that encourage autonomy where students can contribute freely. Help students feel that their perspectives are valued and respected. Authentic activities may increase engagement and help students deepen their understanding. An inclusive classroom also encourages students to become more engaged in authentic experiences that are relevant to their lives and interests.
Classroom observations and reflective coaching conversations are essential components to building equitable, inclusive, and excellent schools. Teachers may set out with the best intentions to support all students, but nothing is predictable in school. Reflecting on our practices helps us understand what works well and what doesn’t work so well. Inclusive education involves transforming the whole education system – legislation and policy, systems for financing, administration, design, delivery and monitoring of education, and the way schools are organized.
It takes time and money to change systems. Teachers need training and guidance, and students need to be provided with services to overcome barriers to learning. Action is needed to challenge negative attitudes and prejudice against children with disabilities.
Inclusive education will benefit from the widest possible experience and knowledge. It will be an end to discrimination, an end to excluding children with disabilities. Inclusive education generates and provides acceptance and understanding towards the needs of students and also identifies the differences, diversity and cultural background of the students. Simply placing the student with disabilities in the common class room is not enough; they need to be truly included and provided with opportunities to work alongside their peers. Teachers should also consider sharing with students that they all have diverse needs, which means that each student is unique to you.
(The author is associated with an Inclusive Institution at Srinagar)