MAKING IT HAPPEN
The purpose of this chapter is to map practical thinking for establishing inclusive schools. In many countries, inclusive education is seen as part of general education reform so that all children are accepted in regular schools. They are valued. Differences and diversities brought by them become a norm rather than an exception. Curriculum and pedagogy are geared to respond to diversities. In this chapter, the experiences drawn from documents developed in Australia, America, Britain and by UNESCO are presented. A model for making a beginning to establish an inclusive education school system in India has also been presented.
INITIATIVES IN AUSTRALIA
Under the AUSAID programme of capacity building for teachers in establishing inclusive schools, an inclusive school is defined as one that educates all students in the mainstream, which means that every student is in regular classes; they receive educational programmes that are challenging but appropriate to their capabilities and needs. They receive any support and assistance that they or their teachers need in the mainstream. Further, ‘an inclusive school is a place where everyone belongs, is accepted, supports, and is supported by his or her peers and other members of the school community.’ Some of the characteristics of an inclusive school are:
- All students attend their home school.
- There is a philosophy of ‘zero reject’.
- Students with disabilities in the school are proportionate to those in the general community.
- Students with and without disabilities have frequent contact with each other.
- Students learn in groups, which are heterogeneous.
- Individualised instruction, co-operative learning and peer tutoring are evident.
- Teachers and students are encouraged to develop an appreciation for diversity.
- The acquisitions of social skills are valued as much as academic skills.
Three basic issues that need to be taken into account for creating an inclusive school are: development of school level curriculum, individualised instructions and adaptation of curriculum. School level curriculum is developed in the light of larger objectives of national and state curricula and within the framework provided by them. While doing so, the following broad issues are addressed:
- Who shall determine what is taught? How to organise and work to decide what is to be taught?
- What sources are to be used in determining what is to be taught?
- How to teach what is to be taught?
- How much general and specialised education would be required?
- What would be the resource, support and assistance required for organising teaching?
- How to evaluate what is being taught?
In some schools in Australia there is some sort of negotiation between parents, teachers/schools and may be even students to determine the curriculum for a child, particularly one with special needs, so that the child does not feel discriminated against and at the same time he or she learns what is most appropriate for him/her.
Individualised instruction does not mean isolated and one-to-one instruction. It is tailored to the student's individual needs. It may occur under various arrangements: small groups, peer teaching, large groups and even one to one. It ‘places the learner, the task and the instructional strategy on the same wavelength to ensure there is optimal growth for the student.’
Adaptation refers to changes and adjustments in the areas of curricular content, learning environment, instructional practices and evaluation for achieving the defined curricular objectives of a student. Such adjustments are required to respond to the unique learning of the student. It may involve the modification of the presentation of materials, demands on time, group and peer involvement, and also use of aids and other resources. A good adaptation strategy would use the student's strength and ability to compensate for his or her weakness or disability.
INITIATIVES IN THE UNITED STATES
Ferguson (1996) has discussed the systemic inclusion in American schools. America does not have a national curriculum for schools. American schools do not have high stake public examinations either at the terminal stage of schooling. However, there have been growing concerns for national standards and measurement of students’ achievements by those standards. At the same time, school effectiveness is being redefined as the process outcome of students’ schooling, such as their ‘abilities to work in groups, communicate effectively, think, solve problems, and produce creative and high-quality work.’ The focus is shifting from content of learning to process of learning. Accordingly, all students need not learn the same things within the same timeframe. Twelve dimensions of restructuring general education reforms have been identified (Ferguson, 1996). They include four dimensions in each of the three types of variables: central, enabling and support. The central variables have learner outcomes, curriculum, instruction, assessment/evaluation; the enabling variables constitute learning environments, technology, time, school/community relationship; and supporting variables are identified in terms of governance, teacher leadership, personnel and working relationships. The ‘seeds of systemic inclusion are well rooted in each of these dimensions’ (ibid.). The following three features of systemic inclusion have been identified:
- Mixed-ability group of teachers: Each teacher collaborates with other teachers, special teachers and support staff to ‘problem-solve’ in respect of learning requirements of a child, including of a special child, instead of handing over the child for some aspect of learning.
- Personalized learning and accomplishments: The traditional approach has been to work on official or standard curriculum. Those who could not cope with them are taken to remediation or special classes and schools. Some even ‘failed’ or dropped-out. Under the new approach teachers are expected to use the differences that students bring with them: ‘different abilities, different interests, different family styles and composition and different preferences for learning approaches.’ It is further argued that ‘students’ linguistic background, socioeconomic status, and cultural heritage must also be considered as a part of curriculum and teaching decisions.’
- Support rather than services: Earlier, the differences were separated and provided separate tools. Now, diversity is valued and students need not wait for services to come or minimum normalization to be achieved; teachers are encouraged to ‘support an individual's learning and use of abilities rather than discouraging and constraining them.’ Under the support concept, the emphasis shifts from diagnosis and prescription, individualized assessment and planning to a learning enterprise becoming ‘a constant conversation between student and teacher to construct learning, document accomplishments, and adjust supports’ (ibid, p. 32).
The following ‘components’ of systemic inclusion have also been identified:
- Students are learning members of their neighborhood school and participating members of their surrounding community.
- Students, families and community members contribute to design, maintenance, and effectiveness of the school community.
- All faculty and staff contribute to the design, maintenance, and effectiveness of the school community.
- Teachers share responsibility for curriculum development, teaching and problem solving for all students.
- Individual students’ experiences of curriculum are age-appropriate and referenced to family and community.
- Teaching is creative, varied, effective, and responsive to individual student learning.
- Individual classrooms and school as a whole are effectively organized and managed (ibid.)
INITIATIVES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
While the Australian and American perspectives on restructuring of general education to make it more inclusive give a heretical and conceptual framework that would help in the development of inclusive practices, Booth et al. (2000) in Britain have developed practical manuals or ‘a set of materials to support schools in a process of inclusive development in partnership with a number of primary and secondary schools, local educational authorities and funding support from the central government. They have also developed an Inclusion Index (ibid., p. 19) which is a process based document consisting of five phases, which can be diagrammatically represented as follows:
Phase 1 of starting the index process includes stetting up of a coordinating group, raising awareness about the index, exploring the knowledge of the group, preparing to use the indicators and questions.
Phase 2 involves finding out about the school. The activities include exploring the knowledge of staff and governors, knowledge of students, knowledge of parents and members of the community and deciding priorities for development.
Phase 3 leads to production of an inclusive school development plan and putting the index and the priorities into the plan.
Phase 4 involves implementation and includes recording progress, putting priorities into practice and sustaining the development.
Phase 5 reviews the index process, evaluates developments and enters into the loop beginning with Phase 2 which relates to dialogue and exploring the knowledge of teachers, staff, governors, parents and community.
Phases 2-5 move in a cycle. After the implementation of the school development plan and the review, the cycle moves back to Phase 2 which is ‘finding out about the school’, thus making inclusion a process based exercise.
Each phase sets out a number of questions and activities that would help in achieving the objectives of that phase. The Index gives some examples but the school would have the freedom to raise further questions and concerns. For example, when exploring the knowledge of the group, it raises the basic question: what is inclusion and what is learning support?
The approach to inclusion has very clearly been underlined in the Index.
- Inclusion involves the process of increasing the participation of students in, and reducing their exclusion from, the cultures, curricula and communities of local schools.
- It involves restructuring the cultures, policies and practices in schools so that they respond to the diversity of students in their locality.
- It is concerned with the learning and participation of all students vulnerable to exclusionary pressures, not only those with impairments or those who are categorised as ‘having special educational needs.’
- Inclusion is concerned with improving schools for staff as well as for students.
- A concern with overcoming barriers to the access and participation of particular students may reveal gaps in the attempts of a school to respond to diversity more generally.
- All students have a right to an education in their locality.
- Diversity is not viewed as a problem to be overcome, but as a rich resource to support the learning of all.
- Inclusion is concerned with fostering mutually sustaining relationships between schools and communities.
- Inclusion in education is one aspect of inclusion in society (Booth et al., 2000, p. 12).
The Index has replaced the concept of ‘special educational needs’ with the term ‘barriers to learning and participation’. Inclusion, accordingly, means minimising barriers and maximising participation by organising support and restructuring curricula and pedagogy.
The Index is based upon three dimensions and two sections in each of these dimensions.
Dimension A: Creating inclusive CULTURES
Section A. 1: Building community
- Everyone is felt welcome.
- Students help each other.
- Staff collaborate with each other.
- Staff and students treat one another with respect.
- There is a partnership between staff and parents/carers.
- Staff and governors work well together.
- All local communities are involved in the school.
Section A.2: Establishing inclusive values
- There are high expectations for all students.
- Staff, governors, students and parents share a philosophy of inclusion.
- Students are equally valued.
- Staff and students are treated as human beings as well as occupants of a ‘role’.
- Staff seek to remove all barriers to learning and participation in school.
- The school strives to minimize discriminatory practices.
Dimension B: Producing inclusive POLICIES
Section B.1: Developing a school for all
- Staff appointments and promotions are fair.
- All new staff are helped to settle into the school.
- The school seeks to admit all students from its locality.
- The school makes its building physically accessible to all people.
- All students, new to the school, are helped to feel settled.
- The school arranges teaching groups so that all students are valued.
Section B.2: Organising support for diversity
- All forms of support are coordinated.
- Staff development activities help staff to respond to student diversity.
- ‘Special needs policies’ are inclusion policies.
- The Code of Practice is used to reduce the barriers to learning and participation of all students.
- Support for those learning English as an additional language is coordinated with learning support.
- Pastoral and behavioural support policies are linked to curriculum development and learning support policies.
- Pressures for disciplinary exclusion are decreased.
- Barriers to attendance are reduced.
- Bullying is minimised.
Dimension C: Evolving inclusive PRACTICES
Section C.1: Orchestrating learning
- Lessons are responsive to student diversity.
- Lessons are made accessible to all students.
- Lessons develop an understanding of differences.
- Students are actively involved in their own learning.
- Students learn collaboratively.
- Assessment encourages the achievements of all students.
- Classroom discipline is based on mutual respect.
- Teachers plan, review and teach in partnership.
- Teachers are concerned to support the learning and participation of all students.
- Learning support assistants are concerned to support the learning and participation of all students.
- Homework contributes to the learning of all.
- All students take part in activities outside the classroom.
Section C.2: Mobilizing resources
- School resources are distributed fairly to support inclusion.
- Community resources are known and drawn upon.
- Staff expertise is fully utilised.
- Student differences are used as a resource for teaching and learning.
- Staff develop resources to support learning and participation.
The Index contains a number of questions in respect of each of the indicators. These questions are illustrative and provide an opportunity to examine the status of various dimensions in the context of inclusion. Some of these indicators could be directly relevant for the Indian situation also, while others could be modified or new ones could be added. The Index has been developed for a system where neighbourhood schooling is a rule rather than an exception, and where students in these neighbourhood schools are not charged any fees. Hence, getting a heterogeneous student population is not a major issue in England. Public schools (normally referred to as boarding schools in the private sector) do exist but they cater mostly to the elites and an average Briton as well as a non-British resident sends his children to the neighbourhood school for education. Besides, inclusion strategies in England revolve around the SEN policy and the Code of Practice. These factors have to be kept in view while adapting the inputs and the inclusion indicators given in the Index for Indian schools.
The Index, however, does provide a practical framework for developing inclusive schools. It also proves that in Britain too, the thinking is to move away from special education and the concept of ‘special educational needs’ towards inclusive cultures and practices.
INITIATIVES IN UNESCO
The development of the teacher resource pack was taken up by UNESCO in the 1980s and has proved to be very effective for training teachers towards building inclusive schools. The pack has been trialled in more than fifty countries and the materials have been translated into many languages, including Hindi. The material in the pack has been developed on the principle that SEN is a curriculum issue. The strategies for use in the pack are based on ‘active learning, negotiation of objectives, demonstration-practice and feedback, and continuous evaluation and support’.
The modules in the pack deal with the changes in thinking about special needs as an issue of curriculum (rather than of provisions). It provides materials for teachers taking a curriculum view of educational difficulties and the ways to respond to individual needs within a class. It provides strategies for cooperative learning, structuring group activities, problem solving and making learning more meaningful. It underlines the importance of organising a support network within schools and outside help which could include child-to-child learning, peer tutoring, partnership teaching, sharing classrooms and community involvement. Jangira (1995) who has used the pack with teachers in Indian schools says, ‘School based in service training programme, encouraging a “whole school approach” to bring about change, can be an effective strategy. The UNESCO teacher education resource pack is a useful resource for this approach.’
DEVELOPING INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS IN INDIA
Inclusive education initiatives may be organised at three levels in India. First, at the national or state or school system or school groups level; second, at the individual school level, and third, at the teacher or classroom level. With education, particularly school education, being a ‘concurrent subject’ in the Indian constitution, a lot of initiatives in the background of the national policy framework lie with the state governments. There are many autonomous school organisations also, aided and unaided by the government, that could take up issues relating to reforms to make their systems inclusive.
NATIONAL LEVEL INITIATIVES
At the national level, right to equality and non-discrimination as fundamental rights under the Indian constitution provide a sound framework for all children to learn together. The Directive Principles also talk of the state's duty to provide education up to age 14 to all children which includes ‘handicapped children as well’ as recognised by the Kothari Commission (1966).
Right to establish and administer educational institutions by minorities has also been guaranteed as a fundamental right (Article 30) under the constitution. However, in such institutions also there is a scope for the entry of non-minority children up to 50 per cent as per the Supreme Court ruling in the St. Stephen's College vs the University of Delhi case (1992 AIR [SC] 1630). Thus, the requirements of equal opportunity and non-discrimination envisaging an inclusive school system is inbuilt in the constitutional framework of India.
The 1968 National Education Policy presumably took the cue from the constitution and presented the ‘common school system’. It implied that all students irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex would get education of comparable quality. The National Policy on Education 1986 reiterated the resolve for the common school system and stated that ‘effective measures will be taken in the direction of the common school system recommended in the 1968 policy’. The Ramamurty Committee (MHRD, 1990) constituted for the review of the 1986 national policy, has noted, among others, the following reasons for the common school system not gaining ground:
- Lack of political will.
- Public schools, privately managed English medium schools, schools charging capitation fees and those having expensive coaching classes have proliferated.
- Growth of institutions in the government sector like the Sainik Schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas meant for separate categories of students (p. 92).
The committee further observed, ‘The first step in securing equity and social justice in education is the building up of a Common School System.’ It made the following major recommendations to implement the policy of the common school system:
- Ensuring instruction for all in the medium of mother tongue at the primary level…active encouragement for teaching in regional language at the secondary level, and discontinuation of state aid to the schools imparting education otherwise than in the medium of mother tongue/regional languages.
- Phased implementation of the Common School System within a ten-year time frame; and essential minimum legislation, particularly to dispense with early selection process, tuition fee, capitation fee, etc.
- Exploring ways of including the expensive private schools into the Common School System through a combination of incentives, disincentives and legislation (MHRD, 1990, pp 92-93).
Development of the common school system may provide a launching platform for a system of inclusive education in the country as a whole or by state governments in respective states. As mentioned by the Ramamurty Committee, growth of student specific systems of schools under the state sector has been detrimental to the common school system. In addition to the Sainik Schools and the Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya schools have developed in recent years for ‘talented rural children’. Separate residential schools for tribal children are run by states. In order to eliminate child labour, separate child labour schools are opening under the aegis of the labour ministry. And, traditionally, special schools for the disabled have been with the ministry of social justice (welfare). Apart from bringing different school systems under the mainstream education ministry at the central and state levels, there could be a case for mixing children under the common school system without depriving special category children, such as ST/SC children, liberated child labour, children with disabilities and even rural talented children from the incentives, educational provisions and benefits they are entitled to get. It is believed that a common school or neighbourhood school strategy would benefit more such students at lesser costs, and would benefit the school system on the whole and all children.
The Kendriya Vidyalaya scheme was conceived in 1962 to facilitate education for the children of transferable central government employees. Absence of suitable schooling facilities could have been one of the factors for setting up such an exclusive system. Now, with the growth of schools in the state and private sectors there could be a case for making these schools more inclusive in the areas where there is no shortage of other schools to begin with.
The scheme of Navodaya schools received critical comment from some members of the Ramamurty Committee who felt that the scheme ‘catered to a microscopic minority of the total school population’ and was ‘an exclusive system inconsistent with the long-cherished common school system of public education’. They also questioned the system of a written test designed to select children and wonderd if it was free of ‘cultural, social and class biases’ and whether the tests evaluated ‘special talent or aptitude in all its dimensions—congnitive, affective and psycho-motor skills’. A recent status review of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Scheme (DRS, 2001) observes:
The annual income of parents clearly indicate that most students came from reasonably well-off families, who probably could pay for education if required…. Most students came from relatively better economic households…. The social, occupational and educational profile of the parents remain almost similar to the findings of a 1989-90 survery in 221 vidyalayas (pp 23-25).
The move towards a common school system could be initiated voluntarily by private schools also. A case in example is Loreto Day School, Sealdah (Kolkata), which has opened 50 per cent of its seats to non-fee paying children from nearby slums, ‘bustees’ and poorer areas of Kolkata. These students are subsidised by the fee paying students, by sponsors and grants made by the state government of West Bengal (Jessop, 1998).
As far as education of children with disabilites is concerned, the national policy as well as the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 do provide for their education in regular schools ‘in an appropriate environment’. The Act continues to remommend the establishment of special schools in the ‘government and private sectors for those in need of special education’. In practice, however, due to resource constraints the growth of special schools is taking place in the private sector mostly.
There is a need for articulating a comprehensive policy for moving towards an inclusive school set up which would not only aim to implement the already enunciated common school system policy but would also be in accordance with the constitutional obligation of equal opportunity and non-discrimination, as also the social responsibility of equity and social justice to the disadvantaged and the disabled. And to the non-disadvantaged and non-disabled, the policy initiative would provide an opportunity to learn collaboratively—an emerging need of the twenty-first century interdependent world—and thus reduce their isolation from the community.
SCHOOL LEVEL INITIATIVES
Notwithstanding policy adjustment at the national and state levels, a school can still take initiatives to make itself more inclusive. Some essential steps that a school could consider for moving towards inclusion are discussed here.
A shared vision: To begin with, school management, teachers and staff need to share a common vision. What are the values the school stands for? It needs to ask certain critical questions:
- Does it believe in the culture of rights, social justice and equity?
- Does it believe that all children are not the same and accepts diversity as a strength rather than a problem?
- Does it believe in a certain basic pedagogy that children learn in different ways, they have different levels of experiences and paces of learning?
A committed team: A good reflective beginning to building up a shared vision should be followed by organising a committed dynamic team to formulate an inclusive school development plan. The team should be led by the principal or the head master and may comprise key members from the management, the community, teachers, staff, parents and even some students. All those who have a stake in its implementation should own the inclusion decision. The team would have the basic responsibility of sharing the common vision with other members of the management team, other teachers and the community at large to involve them in the process of making the school inclusive. The next crucial step for the team would be to assess various issues critical for inclusion.
Admission policy: The school needs to have a look at its admission policy and the composition of its student population. This is the most important element for making a school or a school system inclusive. What is the degree of heterogeneity in its student population? A homogeneous school deprives its students of the advantages of rich learning resources that diverse groups of students bring into culture and practices in school. Does the school reflect the proportion of students comparable to their population in the local community in terms of their social and economic status? Has it conducted any local check to make sure that children with disabilities in the neighbourhood exercise their choice to come to the nearby regular school? An inclusive school should have minimum students coming by vehicular transport. If necessary, in case of a fee charging private school, it should change its admission policy to accept at least 50 per cent of its student population from the neighbourhood. If minority institutions are permitted to fill 50 per cent of their seats from non-minority students, there is a case for other private/public schools to follow and dissolve their ‘exclusive’ characteristics. By doing so they would be fulfilling their social responsibility and, secondly, their students would not miss the opportunity of accessing a collaborative pedagogy in a heterogeneous learning environment. As pointed out by Skrtic (1991), students in a twenty-first century school would require such collaborative problem solving skills within a ‘community of interests’
School level curriculum: Does the school follow the standard curriculum largely targeted at cognitive and academic content-based subjects? Or, has it developed a school-based curriculum within the overall national or state curriculum framework? While retaining the basic features of the national and state curricula, a school can design its own curriculum that would encourage inclusive pedagogy and learning processes. In doing so, it needs to actively involve teachers, management, community and parents. It would also aim to provide education in the so called non-academic areas of national curriculum such as work education/experience, art and craft, and health and physical education that remain neglected in most schools. It could also establish close linkages between academics and these areas of curriculum and learning. A school level curriculum would take cognisance of multiple intelligences that encourage learning and education of a diverse student population. It would respond to experiences and resources that children bring from home and even streets and would aim also to provide life skills development.
Individual level curriculum: Some children may not be able to scope with the school level curriculum and may require it to be individualised. Such individualised curricula would be different from the British IEP, which is modelled on the child-deficit concept and for organising provisions and services for children with special needs. The individual level curriculum (ILC) based on the abilities of the child would focus on larger objectives of education and what the child can achieve with all the support available. It may also need to be negotiated with the parents. Theoretically, each child may require an ILC, but in practice it could be provided only for those students who might need it. It is expected that a very small section of children would require such ILC and that too for a short while. In general, most children, including those with physical and sensory disabilities, should be able to manage the school level curriculum.
Teacher and staff orientation and training: The school can initiate ‘school based in-service training programmes’ and/or could join outside training organised by the state or private agencies. Jangira (1995) has outlined four dimensions of school-based training:
- Having demand stimulation from within the school which requires no external technical assistance.
- Having demand stimulation from within the school which requires external technical assistance.
- Needing external stimulation but no external technical assistance.
- Needing both external stimulation and technical assistance.
To start with some schools may begin from Stage IV and then move to the other stages. A lot of materials and experiences are available in this area that schools could make use of, the UNESCO teacher education resource pack being one of them. In addition, training packages developed under various innovative programmes by voluntary agencies have strong elements of participatory and reflective activities that are crucial for the development of any programme for inclusion. Many schools such as government primary schools with fewer number of teachers in each of them need to join and network with outside training programmes and resource centres at the cluster and block levels. They need to remember that training, particularly to meet the diverse needs of children, is not a one-time affair. It needs to be recurrent, close to the work situation and should provide a forum for constant reflection and review of knowledge and skills acquired and applied in classrooms.
Teaching and learning methodology: Inclusive schools should plan to move away from content-based and teacher-directed pedagogy. Primary schools particularly should use activity-centred pedagogy and local resources that stimulate children and keep them engaged and involved. Other forms of pedagogy such as peer tutoring and child-to-child learning, group and collaborative work, problem solving and project-based learning, and more innovative methods would become the practice of curriculum transactions in inclusive schools. These methodologies have strengths to keep children engaged, involved and participating in the learning process, a necessary component of inclusion in schools. A true collaborative learning pedagogy can develop only in a heterogeneous student population and not in ‘exclusive’ schools.
Resource mobilisation and use: This component of the inclusion plan can be broken into three parts—raising resources for schools keeping the needs of the disabled and the disadvantaged in view; creative and efficient use of resources; and reaching out to the community (by breaking walls!) to use its resources for curriculum transactions. The NCERT curriculum framework makes specific mention of such community resources.
The vastness and openness of the serene rural environment with its fields, forests, ponds, rivers, trees, orchards, birds and animals is a major provider to curriculum development. Similarly, the busy business centres, industrial complexes, neat and clean residential clusters and not so clean and not so healthy slum areas of cities provide a different kind of input to curriculum making…Community can also provide services of persons through voluntary contributions and also by providing services of persons having special skills, aptitudes and interests (NCERT, 2000, p. 108).
Assessment and evaluation: The approach to learning assessment of children has to change completely in the inclusive setting. It has to be viewed as an instrument for teachers understanding children's difficulties and a mechanism for feedback for further improvement in pedagogy and ILCs. Even for children who do not have ILCs, using exactly the same evaluation system would be inconsistent with the different paces at which children learn. Hence, a differential evaluation system may be helpful for a teacher to set different levels of expectations from differently abled children. Some children may require more time to complete a particular grade or class, and the school should provide for the same. As discussed earlier, assessment and examinations are not equity neutral.
Hence, the question of non-discrimination and equal opportunity would come into play, while maintaining the fairness and sanctity of examinations, in inclusive schools.
Reflection and review: There would be a continuous mechanism for participatory reflection and review of the inclusion plan with scope for its modification from time to time by the school team constituted for the purpose. Reflection and review would include collaboration and networking with other institutions including special schools or resource centres. Inclusion does not mean isolation from special teachers or the special school set up; rather it would mean more constructive dialogue with all partners working for the improvement of general school reforms.
CLASSROOM OR TEACHER LEVEL INITIATIVES
The question is, if there is no school level inclusion policy and plan can a teacher initiate inclusionary practice in the classroom? The answer would be in the affirmative. If a child with disability or learning difficulty comes to a classroom, an Indian teacher is not constrained with a policy on the pattern prevalent in Britain whereby a child has to be assessed and labeled as requiring special educational needs under the Code of Practice. Without any such labeling provisions, teachers in India can take charge of the child and organise activity and learning processes that would involve and ‘include’ that child in the classroom. The teacher may need to organise additional support that would minimise barriers and increase participation of the child in learning. Even in the absence of any such child who may have a disability, a teacher could create involving and participatory pedagogy that is currently missing from Indian classrooms. Inclusion practices are necessary conditions for the education of children with disabilities and the disadvantaged in regular schools. Other support systems including the services of a special teacher in certain cases would make conditions sufficient to provide a complete education to such children.
The purpose of stating these intitiaves is not to present any rigid model for developing an inclusive school. A variety of strategies may be thought of if the fundamentals are strong. The approach to inclusive education and inclusive schools may be shaped into an equilateral triangle with one of its arms as ethics and humanity, and the other one as rights and social justice. The base of the triangle would be drawn by curriculum and pedagogy. Indian tradition and culture values the arm defined by ethics and humanity. The Indian constitution and polity provide the arm representing rights, equity and social justice. While these two arms may be ‘external’ to a child and would depend on school and state factors, the third arm represented by curriculum and pedagogy directly influences a child's schooling and education. Teachers under the Indian culture have been placed on a high pedestal, and it is they who can provide the base for creating an inclusive system of education for all.