Inclusive education in India

Inclusive education is a new approach towards educating the children with disability and learning difficulties with that of normal ones within the same roof. This approach brings all students together in one classroom and community regardless of their strengths or weaknesses in any area and seeks to maximize the potential of all students.

The World Bank report states that people with disabilities have very low educational attainment rates with 52% illiteracy. Illiteracy levels are very low across all categories of disability and extremely for children with visual, mental and multiple disabilities. Data also suggests that children with disabilities rarely progress beyond primary school.

Need and importance of inclusive education:

Inclusive education is about understanding and appreciating each individual’s differences and unique set of strengths and limitations. Children grow into adults who live in a world filled with people different from themselves; learning how to interact and work with these people is a key accomplishment of childhood, as integral as academic proficiency. An inclusive school is a perfect training ground in real life, because daily social, physical and academic interaction between kids who are typically developing and their special needs means students develop:

  • Greater sensitivity
  • Better understanding of strengths and weaknesses
  • More tolerance

Challenges to implement inclusive education in India:

Although the government of India has attempted to create policies that are inclusive for people with disabilities, their implementation efforts have not resulted in an inclusive system for education  nor have they reached their goal of ‘Education for all’.

Some of the barriers to inclusive education are:

  • Attitudinal barriers: Negative attitudes are one of the greatest barriers to inclusive education. Many people are not prepared to interact with people with disabilities. They think that persons with disabilities lack the skills needed to live in the community or to be educated with non- disabled children.. Physical and emotional bullying is another barrier to learning that can lead to isolation and closure of possible inclusion. Often people with disabilities become an object of outright ostracism in school and community.
  • Physical barriers:  Lack of wheelchair ramps in school buildings, playgrounds, washrooms, public transport etc. are a difficulty faced by several students with disabilities when going to school. Lack of assistive technology to aid children with a particular type of difficulty.
  • Inappropriate curriculum: The curriculum is one of the chief impediments to the progress of inclusive education. It happens because it does not meet the needs of a broad range of diverse learners. In many contexts, it is centralized in design and rigid in approach which causes little flexibility for modification based on the local setting or for teachers to try out new approaches.
  • Untrained teachers: Unfortunately, the teachers’ competency and attitudes can be the most important constraints for inclusive education. If teachers do not have optimistic attitude toward children with special educational needs, meaningful education for them is far-fetched.
  • Inadequate funding is a chief threat to the implementation of inclusive learning.
  • Policy barriers: Policy makers who have unsound grasp or opposing views on inclusive education are obstacles to the implementation of inclusive policies.

Universalization of education is a dream which can be achieved only if there is a harmonious effort from the government as well as the stakeholders of the system of inclusive education. Apart from government, we also need to understand and analyze the issue from the view points of the schools, parents as well as the children themselves. The idea of inclusive education is a child of the capability approach which strives to make the disadvantaged section of the society capable instead of sympathizing with them throughout their lives.

For successful implementation of inclusive education in India, the parents, teachers and even the children without disabilities have to be educated about the system and made aware of the benefits. These people play a pivotal role in the implementation process as they interact with the children with disabilities on a regular basis and form their immediate surroundings.

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