Inclusive Preschool

School A is from Nursery to Class X, with two to three sections per class. It has about 800 students. It employs both English and Hindi as the medium of instruction and has a maximum of 30 students per class.

If you visit the nursery school, you will find children playing, learning, and having fun. You will observe children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in each class. The Special Educational Needs (SEN) are because of intellectual, hearing, and vision impairments and neuromuscular and attention deficits disorders. But they are so well integrated in the group that one cannot identify them from the rest.

If you talk to the teacher about inclusion of such children in the class, you will hear her say that they are like any other children. How has this happened?

This has happened very naturally. For example, when a teacher spotted a child not singing along with other children, she asked the child to stand next to her and repeat the rhyme along with her, while she prompted him. By a happy coincidence, the student trainees of the Diploma in Early Childhood Education were carrying out teaching practice at that very school.

The trainees discussed the strategies that could be adopted for enhancing the participation of children in learning process, and the teachers’ realized the relevance of these strategies in the education of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and incorporated them in their own practice.

Thus, they began using three-dimensional teaching–learning materials, masks, and puppets for storytelling, using classmates as a peer tutors during rhymes, games, and the like. This new approach proved a rewarding experience and promoted close bonding among the students in each class.

By virtue of this experience, the school has adopted an open policy for admissions to its Nursery class.

The teachers have no hesitation in accepting children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), and the peer group readily welcomes them. by the MHRD (2003) uses the following definition:

Inclusive education means all learners, young people—with or without disabilities being able to learn together in ordinary preschool provisions, schools, and community educational settings with appropriate network of support services (Draft of Inclusive Education Scheme, MHRD, 2003)

Inclusion means the process of educating children with SEN alongside their peers in mainstream schools.

The feasibility of inclusion of such children in schools, however, has been an issue that has been discussed and debated extensively at various national and international fora.

Inclusion remains a complex and controversial issue which tends to generate heated debates… there is a great deal of uncertainty about the definition of inclusion… it is difficult to find research evidence that can provide definitive guidance as to where policy and practice should be heading…. In this climate some schools express increasing reluctance

to admit and retain pupils whose presence could have a negative impact on their overall profile of results…there is a growing movement in education towards differentiated provision—a trend that seems incompatible with an inclusive philosophy

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