Planning and Managing an Inclusive Education


Q. Planning and Managing an Inclusive Education

Curriculum in Schools

Developing inclusive schools that cater to a wide range of pupils in both urban and rural areas requires:

  1. the articulation of a clear and forceful policy on inclusion together with adequate financial provision,
  2. an effective public information effort to combat prejudice and create informed and positive attitudes,
  3. an extensive programme of orientation and staff training,
  4. and the provision of necessary support services.

Changes in all the following aspects of schooling, as well as many others, are necessary to contribute to the success of inclusive schools:-

curriculum, buildings, school organization, pedagogy, assessment, staffing, school ethos, and extracurricular activities

[UNESCO, 1994: (The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education)].

An inclusive curriculum means one curriculum for all students rather than a separate curriculum for students without Special Educational Needs (SEN) and another for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

An inclusive curriculum is recognition that under the principle of social justice, participation in education should not involve discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, indigenous group, socio-economic status, and ability or disability. An inclusive curriculum, recognizes the need that schools be organized, with the individual differences of students in mind and allow for scope and flexibility to enable all students to achieve their goals.

 

Though the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) (2000) (NCERT, 2000), does mention the education of learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN) under the sections “Curriculum Concerns” and “Managing the System”, it does not address the Special Educational Needs (SEN) of learners under various other sections, such as, “Organization of Curriculum at Elementary and Secondary Stages”, “Organization of Curriculum at Higher Secondary Stage”, “Evaluation”, etc.

Educating children part time in special schools and part time in regular schools is not inclusion.

Educating children in special, mostly segregated, environments in regular schools is not inclusion.

Educating children in regular classes, but requiring them to follow substantially different courses of study in terms of content and learning environment to their peers, is also not inclusion (unless all children in a class follow individual programmes).

Inclusion means full inclusion of children with diverse abilities in all aspects of schooling that other children are able to access and enjoy. It involves regular schools and classrooms genuinely adapting and changing to meet the needs of all children, as well as celebrating and valuing differences. This definition of inclusion does not imply that children with diverse abilities will not receive specialized assistance or teaching outside of the classroom when required, but rather that this is just one of many options that are available to, and in fact required of, all children.

 

Access to an Inclusive Curriculum

It is believed that the fundamental right to education will bring more pupils with SEN into ordinary schools, and that this will provide the impetus for change. As stated this will regime a number of innovations in teaching–learning processes, and will also provide pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) access to a full curriculum in appropriate ways. To facilitate this access, it is important to provide information in Braille, on tape, through sign language, and in simple and straightforward language.

Access to the content of the curriculum is further highlighted later in this paper.

Teaching Practices

In India, the concept of Inclusive Education has not yet been linked to a broader discussion of pedagogy  and quality education. Any broad reform in education cannot be implemented without taking the inclusion of learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN) into consideration.

There are many teachers all over the country who do make small modifications in their teaching in accordance with the principles of inclusive education. The strategies used by them are:-

Group learning, peer tutoring, speaking slowly and clearly, looking at the hearing-impaired child while speaking so that they can lip read, writing on the blackboard, etc. Most teachers are aware of such techniques for classroom management of learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN). In this connection, they often consult the special educator for support.

An extensive review of research on learner and teacher characteristics, concluded that children with difficulties in learning need a mixture of teaching approaches with a bias towards fairly structured methods.

 

Strategies to Foster a Sense of Belonging in the Inclusion Classroom

Any teacher who has tried to improve a student’s social skills knows there are significant challenges to such an endeavor. Problems that interfere with the effectiveness of social skill interventions may include oppositional behavior, conduct problems, negative influences from peer groups, substance abuse, family difficulties, and limited cognitive abilities (Hansen, Nangle, & Meyer, 1998).

Why would students want to improve their social skills? Most likely, they seek to:

(a) avoid the negative consequences of inadequate social skills, including loneliness, job loss, or embarrassment at school or work; and

(b) enjoy the benefits of having good social skills, such as friendship, acceptance from others, and good relationships at school and work.

Nonetheless, students must see the need for the skills being taught. In an inclusion classroom setting, teachers may ask students to identify the social skills necessary for achieving goals important to them.

Based on such discussions, students and teachers can jointly select one or two skills to work on at a time.

One of the components of successful of inclusion is the degree to which the student with a disability feels a part of the general education classroom. The feeling of belonging positively affects the student s self-image and self-esteem, motivation to achieve, speed of adjustment to the larger classroom and new demands, general behavior, and general level of achievement. The impact of the new student on the general classroom is a major consideration for inclusion planners. Fostering positive social relationships between students with disabilities and their peers requires the preparation of nondisabled peers in the classroom so that they understand the needs of their new classmates.

 

Creating a Positive Inclusion Classroom Climate

Consistent and effective use of acquired social skills is more likely to occur in inclusion classrooms having a positive social atmosphere. Most adults can think of a situation in which they didn’t feel valued and, as a result, did not respond appropriately or compassionately to others. The inclusion classroom can ensure that all students know they are valued and respected members of a learning community by taking the following steps to create a positive school climate (Curtis, 2003):

  • Learn and use students’ names and know something about each student. This can be difficult in secondary schools; using nametags or assigned seating at the beginning of each term can be helpful.
  • Hold daily classroom meetings each morning to help build a sense of community and provide opportunities for conversation among students.
  • Provide unstructured time (e.g., recess) when students can practice their social skills with peers and experience feedback.
  • Encourage journal writing to improve self‐awareness.
  • Provide opportunities for students to participate noncompetitively (without tryouts or auditions) in extracurricular activities. Avoid unnecessary competition among students.
  • Provide ways for students to provide feedback regarding their experience at school, and show them that their input is taken seriously.
  • Make a point of connecting briefly and informally, over a period of several days, with individual students who are having difficulties. This establishes a relationship that will be helpful if the student s situation requires a more formal discussion at another time.

To be effective and worthwhile, social-skills training must result in skills that

(a) are socially relevant in the individual s life (social validity),

(b) are used in a variety of situations (generalization), and

(c) are maintained over time (treatment adherence) (Hansen, Nangle, & Meyer 1998).

Such skills will be most consistently employed in a setting that is supportive and respectful of each person’s individuality.

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