How Can We Improve Inclusive Education?

Inclusive Education, a trend that’s gaining global importance in modern society. Many schools in India and Abroad are realizing the importance of inclusive education and are trying their best to inculcate it within their curriculum.

So, What is inclusive Education?

Simply put, Inclusive education, also called ‘inclusion’, is a system practiced in schools and neighborhood academic settings, in which special needs children or children belonging to the minority, are placed with typically developing children in one physical space, that is, one classroom. The special needs students are with their peers for the maximum time. This ensures that the differences between children who need special care and attention and the normal school going students are diluted to the maximum effect.

However, it does not mean that special kids do not receive the attention they require, rather they are attended by professional teachers and are given due attention alongside studying with other normal peers. The idea that operates behind this approach is that students with disabilities or a minority stake, are as competent as students without. All students fully participate and help each other to learn and grow. 

The driving principle behind inclusive education is that the values of acceptance, understanding differences and diversity are inculcated within the students from a young age. The goal is to look at minority and disability with respect and a caregiving attitude, rather than treating it differently or condescendingly. Due to so many research-based results, this approach is gaining wider acceptance in schools with a progressive approach towards studies. The values behind the inclusive education approach are traits that are required for better functioning of society and in turn making the world a better place to live for everyone. 

What Inclusive Education is?

Inclusive education is often misunderstood and sometimes not fully practiced to the extent it should be. Disability is one of the strongest barriers to education, children with disabilities or children belonging to the minority are often overlooked while making policies for education, etc. The role of inclusive education is vital to give children with special needs an equal chance at education, learning and developing skills they require to fulfill their personal goals and ambitions. 

Inclusive education functions on the age-old belief of the value, children from diverse backgrounds and cultures, bring to the classroom and the intermingling of these values and ideas leads to the erasure of man-made barriers and the ability to learn and grow side by side. 

What inclusive education is not!

Inclusive education does not mean a separate building or classroom for students with disabilities. This is segregation and not inclusion. All the values and ideas behind this approach are ignored. Inclusive education does not mean placing disabled students with their normal peers without enough support or attention given to them. This is called a lack of attention. Students with disabilities require more attention and should be given the required amount of professional aid. 

The idea is to make them feel included in the mainstream life of school going kids who are their age, rather than trying to turn them into their peers. The special kids should feel comfortable and at ease while learning, to make it easier for them to “fit-in”. 

Benefits of Inclusive Education:

Inclusive education is a practice, a system of belief, attitude and methods incorporated into the life of students and teachers alike. The benefit of inclusive education has been seen through scientific research-based experiments. It has been found that schools that practice inclusive education benefits individuals and societies in different ways. Two of the following benefits are:

Beneficial for students academically:

Students with special needs were found to have an increased level of achievements and skills while in inclusive education. Skills such as literacy in reading and writing, language skills, communication skills, and analytical skills were improved on the whole. Students without disabilities were also found to improve in their academic and extracurricular suits. Their role as peer-coaches or peer-mentors for special students served as gaining a deeper knowledge of academic subjects and activities. By learning to help others, their own performance improved. 

Inclusion of parents:

Often parents of special children or minority classes are generally left out of the normal educational institutions due to the lack of policies and laws for inclusive education in schools. However, with their children attending schools alongside the normal school-going population, they also have a chance to mingle and form relationships with the parents of the other classmates. This leads to integration in community life. The community ends up becoming richer and more accepting of different cultures and beliefs leading to the way towards world peace. 

The world becomes a better place:

The world, in general, becomes a better place as we members of the globe start to accept and love each other. Similarly, the students who learn alongside special kids or minority children will become more accepting and loving towards them. They will learn the values of patience, acceptance and empathy while becoming sensitive to the role of words and how they can hurt. Through inclusive education, children become better individuals and becoming better individuals makes a better world. 

How can we improve Inclusive Education?

Inclusive education, although widely popular and far-reaching, still requires efforts on the part of lawmakers, policymakers, school authorities, individuals in a society, to be able to fully function. Inclusive education is learning that takes place in a common learning environment with participants from different backgrounds and abilities. 

An ideal inclusive education learning environment would:

Enable each student to utilize and develop their personality, skills through full participation. 

Promote a sense of belonging and common humanity within each of the participants. No one feels left out or at a minor stake than others. 

Feel responsive to individual learning needs and apply student-centered teaching practices and principles.

To improve Inclusive Education, one needs to follow certain guidelines and inclusive strategies that help in the overall improvement in education. 

One of the places we can start is the building of the academic institute. Some children belonging to the special needs need appropriate structures to be able to commute to classrooms and inside buildings. Making the building accessible in terms of ease of transport and accessibility to classrooms, libraries, auditoriums, etc, is the first step to practice inclusivity inside the academic field.

The other such ways we can improve inclusive education is through:

Inclusive Classroom strategies:

The classrooms are one of the most important places to practice inclusive education since this is where the actual learning takes place. Teachers and academicians must be effectively trained and supervised while delivering lessons. There are certain changes teachers can do in their daily class routine that will make it easier to accommodate special students as well.  Some of the effective strategies may include:

Reading instructions or questions orally

Flexibility in time management for tasks

Motor Breaks between regular intervals

Multiple means of representing a task or exercise (such as interactive whiteboards, projectors, etc)

Ensuring equality in little ways:

Children learn better when they know that all are equal and no one is treated better than others. Ensuring equality in little ways ensures that no one feels left out or immune to punishment. For example, a single time to enter and leave the class for all students not only ensures discipline but also ensures that students feel liable for their actions.

Applying Universal Design for Learning:

Students learn better when they have educational needs fulfilled. Flexibility is a must trait for teachers who wish to include all types of children. Applying universal design for learning ensures that resources and exercises are modified according to the needs of the individual. For example, for a student who might be deaf, teachers, and other students should learn sign language to be able to communicate with him/her, rather than sending the student out of the classroom for lessons with a sign language expert.

Another example might include, special kids, having the aid of peers to write their dictated response, using headphones, drawing pictures for certain tasks and giving extra time for assignments, tasks, etc. Hence, inclusive education is a growing worldwide trend, due to the many benefits it provides to not only schools but to the community in general. Inclusivity is a human trait and everyone deserves to be included irrespective of any man-made barriers.

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Date: 20 Mar 2020

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