Inclusive Education

An article explaining inclusive education, that I wrote for students in mainstream schools and colleges. If anybody uses this article to read with students, please do share the responses from your discussions. It’ll be enlightening to hear students’ views.

What is inclusive education, why is it a desirable pedagogical model ?

Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school, in a common learning environment. The demographics of the classroom looks like a demographic of the society. This means every minority group should be visible in schools. Socioeconomically disadvantaged, both genders, religious groups, language groups, and students with disabilities would be a part of every class.

However, this is not always the case, is it? When was the last time you saw a wheelchair user at the cinema or the local restaurant? Have you ever seen a blind or deaf student?

In India, the reality is very different. Government run schools are naturally inclusive because every tax-payer is entitled to send their children to a government school, regardless of whether they are rich, poor, girl, boy, or have disabilities. However, many families in India, especially in urban India, send their children to private schools which are naturally exclusive; they only accept the kinds of students they want at their institutions. These private schools could be religion-based, sports-focused, arts-focused, alternate curricula, or for-profit. Each school has an agenda that excludes students that don’t subscribe to that agenda. It is, therefore, rare to find an inclusive model in private schools.

But why is inclusion important? Why should a student in a wheelchair attend a mainstream school? Shouldn’t there be a separate school for people with disabilities? Can such students with disabilities even attend school? Are they capable of learning?

This brings us to the definition of the word ‘education’. What is education? Is it the same as academics? Is academic knowledge the only thing one learns at school? I’ll leave you to ponder the following question to decide for yourself.

Food for Thought:

If the genie from the bottle allowed you one boon, to choose between academics and social soft skills, which would you pick? You are allowed all of one and none of the other. Which would serve you better in life?

 Think of these questions.

·        What would happen if I didn’t have an education?

o  This is reasonably easy to answer as we all have strong reasons to become educated.

·        Next think about how it would matter to you if your neighbor’s child or your relative was not educated.

o  This is a relatively harder question to answer, yet you’ll be able to come up with a few reasons for it.

·        Now think about how it would affect you if the vendor’s child, the maid’s child, the construction worker’s child and everybody else in society was not educated. Essentially the question boils down to, why is it education for all important?

o  This is quite a difficult question, and you may have to think hard about it. Could you justify the need for universal education?

 Food for thoughtWhy does every government in the world invest in free education?

Your answers to the last question might have involved altruistic responses – like the good of the world, the right thing to do, and such other moralistic reasons.

Educating the marginalized has been viewed from a charity model point of view. Accepting the marginalized, such as the poorer sections of society, the girl students (in some cases), various minorities, and children with disabilities is viewed as a noble gesture from the mainstream community towards the marginalized. As long as such a mindset is in place, the mainstream community loses out on a lot of potential benefit.

The Folly of the Charity Mindset:

Food for Thought: How can interacting with the disabled population benefit the mainstream population?

Our education can get us a lot of wealth and material goods. It also confers upon us the resulting happiness of acquiring such wealth, such as privileged status and connections. But can the richest man in the city breathe better air than the poorest man in the city? Can the rich drive on better pothole free roads than the poor? What then is one’s personal wealth useful for?

Personal wealth is rarely useful to create public wealth (clean air, clean water, crime-free cities, bridges and roads, etc). To develop public wealth, the resources of society have to be developed, and there is no greater resource than the people of the country.

Every single person’s potential needs to be developed fully in order for ALL of us to enjoy a high standard of living. We have to grow public wealth by educating every single person in society, and not just in academics.

However, why does such education have to happen in an inclusive setting?

Since many people think from a charity model mindset, the answer might seem counterintuitive. Inclusive education benefits the mainstream demographic as much as it benefits the rest of the population. Nothing develops understanding, character and people skills like interacting with the minority sections of our society. When that marginalized student is your neighbor in class, your own potential is further realized.

Food for Thought:

Have you heard of the zero-sum game? It states that for one to win, another has to lose. Is education a zero-sum game? Does including the disabled population in our schools take away from the neuro-typical students? Or does it enrich the character of all students?

General education students benefit a lot from including students with disabilities in school. Teachers use different teaching methods to teach students who struggle to understand, maybe due to a learning difficulty. These methods that work so well with struggling students work even better with all students. All students get the benefit of specialized teaching. Isn’t that a win-win for everybody?

In truth, students with disabilities are already in every classroom, whether we know it or not. Students with possible invisible learning difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hearing loss or mild autism might be in mainstream schools because they have not been assessed. They might be sitting in class, struggling with academics and failing in exams. Such students will benefit from being taught with some specialized methods, which will also help all other students in class too. 

Teachers will benefit from getting trained in teaching a heterogeneous class. While the addition of students with disabilities adds richness and diversity to the classroom, it also makes the class heterogeneous, and teachers need guidance in order to use effective pedagogical and behavioral strategies for every student. Differentiating instruction will become critical to ensuring the success of every student. This, in turn, will add to the professional development of the teacher.

Children with disabilities cannot be educated in artificially segregated settings, such as special schools, during school age, and then be expected to function in the real world as adults. They have to be taught in an authentic setting so that, as adults, they are able to interact in society comfortably. They need to work at jobs, take the bus, go shopping, and perform so many other tasks independently, that we take for granted every day. These skills can only be learned while interacting with neuro-typical peers on a regular basis. Suffice it to say, inclusion benefits every student – with or without disabilities.

This poignant verse from German pastor Martin Niemöller written after the gruesome 2nd World War underscores the tragedy of exclusionary policies.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 What if the poem ran like this?

First they came for the wheelchair users, and I did not speak out-because I was not a wheelchair user.

Then they came for the intellectually disabled, and I did not speak out-because I was not intellectually disabled.

Then they came for the economically depressed students, and I did not speak out-because I was not economically depressed.

Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.

 Spread the word on inclusive education! Live in an enlightened world!

Contact Samam Vidya to learn more about inclusive education.

Establishing Systemic Benchmarks for Facilitating Inclusive Education

An article I wrote for UNESCO Futures of Education Initiative on systemic benchmarks required for effective inclusive education.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the need for, and to initiate dialogue about, a set of foundational questions that the Indian educational system must answer before designing and implementing practical educational models to positively affect the greatest number of students. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan has mandated inclusive education already, but many teachers across the country have expressed misgivings about their skills to teach inclusive classes. The current education system doesn’t always benefit students with cognitive or physical difficulties.

To build an inclusive system, foundational questions must be rigorously and tightly defined. What is the purpose of education? What is the measurable definition of literacy? What is the minimum we expect our students to have learned after eight years in school? A simple question like ‘What is education?’ can yield multiple responses. This disconnect creates a problem for the next question, ‘Who is education for?’ Is it only for academic achievers?

Inclusive education is not just physically including socio-economically diverse or disabled demographics into the existing academic classroom. We must ask: What is inclusion, and what does it look like? Who can be included in an academic classroom? What continuum of services need to be offered? What type of support systems do teachers and students need for successful inclusion? What staffing and training needs must be met? What does pedagogy, discipline and assessment look like for students with disabilities? Would they be held to the same intractable standard as all students? Who are the stakeholders? And most importantly, what benefit does inclusive education offer to each of these stakeholder groups? This last question is paramount in creating buy-in for inclusive education, without which we will never see widespread implementation and acceptance.

In the essay, I am referring to publicly funded education (funded by tax monies) – government schools. Privately funded schools are naturally exclusive, as is their prerogative.

There are some truths that have to be crisply defined for the benefit of every stakeholder in the ecosystem. When we leave fundamental axioms unexpressed, it lends itself to various interpretations and implementations, which leads to a dilution of standards and rigor. It is my vision that these points will be included in the national education policy document to lend legitimacy and gravitas to the inclusive education work being done at the grassroots level, in classrooms.

What is education?

In the Indian context, education seems to imply academics. While the government has mandated education for all, this stance immediately makes it exclusive, rather than inclusive. Does the government mean for EVERY student to be academically inclined? Is there a plan for students who cannot master academics? What about students with Down’s syndrome or intellectual disabilities? What educational path does the government have for them?

My take: Education is any learning that takes us forward to college, job or independence. When I share this with others, people usually like to add aspects like soft skills, personality development or confidence etc. While all the ideas are true and valuable, they are all part of the original single sentence, and its three paths. This definition has to be clearly stated in the master education plan, in order to ensure that EVERY student, academically inclined or not, is represented in the system.

Who is school for?

If education is academics, then the current system is designed for the college-bound student, or for those able to graduate high school. Does the government mean to exclude other school-aged students from the educational system? What about the large number of students who do not go on to college, but need job skills and independent living skills? Does the education system take into consideration the needs of such students in designing the continuum of services?

My take: Education is for EVERYBODY, every child between 5 and 15 years of age, at least. Which means the government needs to plan for different kinds of students, not just the college-bound. Development of an alternate life skills syllabus and assessment system for students with intellectual disabilities, along the lines of NCERT or CBSE, etc should be developed, to ensure that foundational academics and life skills are imparted in a formal and rigorous manner. There is little justification to subject every student to an academic exam.

What is the purpose of education/school?

If the education system caters mostly to the college-bound, then what is the purpose of schooling for remainder of the population?

My take: Foundational literacy, numeracy, oracy, life skills. With this as the basis, students who struggle with hard core academics have a solid and useful curriculum to take them forward in life. Struggling students would certainly benefit from, and should have access to, Science, Social Studies, typing and other subjects. However the focus should be on the above mentioned areas. A thoughtful functional curriculum should be created for students who need this framework. It serves nobody to try to jam a square peg into a round hole.

Are benchmarks for foundational literacy defined? What is the minimum we expect from our students after eight years in school?

College-bound students and graduating high-schoolers have a well-defined syllabus they need to master. Students not on track to graduate high school should also spend their school career productively. They should make at least minimal progress year after year. School is not a baby-sitting service. Learning of all kinds should be happening for every student.

My take: Every student should show progress from the year before, in academics and life skills. Graduating students, college-bound or not, should be able to read the newspaper, write at an 8th grade level, know arithmetic and cash Math, and communicate adequately (understand and be understood) by the time they leave our sphere of influence. Special education teachers should be empowered to define individualized levels of proficiency for students with cognitive disabilities to graduate from the school system.

How, and who, would decide which student would require an alternate curriculum stream? And at what age would this decision be made? Now we are getting deeper into the design of a truly inclusive system. I have raised several more questions earlier in this essay as well. However, we need to first address the four major points to create an inclusive system, before we can discuss the details of inclusive education. It is hard to be inclusive in the classroom, when the system makes large numbers of students feel like unwelcome misfits. 

Looking forward three decades, I would love to see clarity and coherence in the system, where every teacher knows the goal, where every student has a place in school, where struggling students are taught vocational skills with the same rigor as college-bound students are taught physics, where students with disabilities are taught life skills with the same urgency as the college-bound students are taught test-taking skills, and where every student gets a purposeful education. This can only happen when the questions raised here are discussed by all the stake-holders and crafted into a holistic plan to create a well-defined and equitable inclusive system.

An inclusive educational system has to precede an inclusive classroom.

Inclusive Education-What’s in it for me?

‌inclusion article (2)

  INCLUSIVE EDUCATION

What’s in it for Me?

By Padma Shastry

Director – Samam Vidya

Why is inclusive education a desirable pedagogical model? And, before that, what is inclusive education?

Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school, in a common learning environment. The demographics of the classroom looks like a demographic of society. This means every minority group should be visible in schools. Rich and poor, both genders, religious groups, language groups, and students with disabilities would be a part of every class.

However, this is not always the case, is it? When was the last time you saw a wheelchair user at the cinema or the local restaurant? Have you seen a blind or deaf student at your school?

But why is this important?

Why should a student in a wheelchair attend my school? Shouldn’t there be a separate school for people with disabilities? Can students with disabilities attend school? Are they even capable of learning?

This brings us to the definition of the word ‘education’. What is education? Is it the same as academics? Is academic knowledge the only thing you learn at school?

Ponder this:

If a genie from a bottle allowed you one boon – a choice between academics and social soft skills – which would you pick? You are allowed all of one and none of the other. Which would serve you better in life? And where would you learn this?

Consider this thought experiment.

  • What would happen if I didn’t have an education?
    • This is reasonably easy to answer as we all have strong reasons to become educated. List a few of them.
  • Now turn to the person next to you, and tell him or her, how it would matter to you if s/he or his/her child was not educated.
    • This is a relatively harder question to answer, yet you’ll be able to come up with a few reasons for it. List them out.
  • Now discuss in a small group how it would affect you if the vendor’s child, the maid’s child, the construction worker’s child and everybody else in society was not educated. Essentially the question boils down to, why is education for all important?
    • This is quite a difficult question, and you may have to think hard about it. Were you able to justify the need for universal education?

Ponder this: Why does every government in the world invest in universal free education?

Your answers to the last question might have involved altruistic responses – like the good of the world, the right thing to do, and such other moralistic reasons.

Educating the marginalized has been viewed from a charity model point of view. Accepting the marginalized, such as the poorer sections of society, the girl students (in some cases), various minorities, and people with disabilities is viewed as a noble gesture from the mainstream community towards the marginalized. As long as such a mindset is in place, the mainstream community loses out on a lot of potential benefit.

The Folly of the Charity Mindset:

Ponder this: How can interacting with the disabled population benefit the mainstream population?

Discuss with your friends and list out your reasons.

Our education can get us a lot of wealth and material goods. It also confers upon us the resulting happiness of acquiring such wealth, such as privileged status and connections. But can the richest person in the city breathe better air than the poorest person? Can the rich drive on better roads than the poor?

Personal wealth is rarely useful to create public wealth (clean air, clean water, crime-free cities, bridges and roads, etc.) To develop public wealth, the resources of society have to be developed, and there is no greater resource than the people of the country.

Every single person’s potential needs to be developed fully in order for ALL of us to enjoy a high standard of living. We have to grow public wealth by educating every single person in society, and not just in academics.

OK, but why does such education have to happen at my school?

Why does my school have to be inclusive?

Since many people think from a charity mindset, the answer might seem counterintuitive.

Inclusive education benefits the mainstream demographic as much as it benefits the rest of the population. Nothing develops understanding, character and people skills like interacting with the minority sections of our society. When that marginalized student is your neighbor in class, your own potential is further realized.

Imagine a potential Stephen Hawking, Beethoven or Sudha Chandran as your classmate…

What might you have gained from being their classmate?

Ponder this: Have you heard of the zero-sum game? It states that for one to win, another has to lose. Is education a zero-sum game? Why is this question germane to our topic?

This poignant verse from German pastor Martin Niemöller written after the gruesome 2nd World War underscores the tragedy of exclusionary policies.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

What if the poem ran like this?

First they came for the wheelchair users, and I did not speak out-because I was not a wheelchair user.

Then they came for the intellectually disabled, and I did not speak out-because I was not intellectually disabled.

Then they came for the economically depressed students, and I did not speak out-because I was not economically depressed.

Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.

Lastly, is this practical?

Inclusive education is not new. It has been practiced in the past, and is currently the law in many countries. I have taught in an inclusive setting my entire career. Speaking as a person who’s been there and done that, it’s eminently possible!!

Ask me how!

Contact Samam Vidya to learn more about inclusive education or to enroll in an Inclusive Teaching course for teachers.

Spread the word on inclusive education! Live in an enlightened world!

January 2020 workshops

Interesting new topics on the slate for January. We have three workshops in January-Brain based learning, Growth Mindset and Study Skills. Here is more information about them.The brain is a wondrous organ, and teachers will appreciate the beauty of the learning process in the brain based learning workshop. The growth mindset workshop will help teachers to nurture a classroom culture that values effort over end product. Exam time will soon be upon us, and the study skills session will help teachers and parents with revision skills for their students. Call to register. Referrals are appreciated.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019!

2018 has been an eventful year. We’ve graduated a new batch of teachers with expertise in Special Education in an Inclusive Setting. Over 165 government school students attended a writing program and authored handwritten books. Several professional development workshops were offered by Samam Vidya, and over 150 teachers participated.
As Margaret Mead said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
In the new year, Samam Vidya calls on all thoughtful, committed people to work on furthering the cause of inclusive education. We will know that inclusive education has become embedded in our culture when the term becomes obsolete.
Best wishes for a Happy New Year 2019!Slide1

Q/A on Inclusive Education

  1. What is a learning disability and what, in your opinion, is the bright side about school boards making an effort to make education inclusive? (or advantages of children with learning disabilities attending mainstream schools)

A learning disability is a neurological disorder. Some brains are wired differently and such students learn differently. Such students may have trouble learning through the traditional teaching methods.

Learning disability is an invisible disability, and most students, in the absence of any medical condition, cannot be identified merely by looking at them as there is no obvious outward sign of learning disability. Teachers get the impression that the reason such students are not doing well in school is because they have a bad attitude, are not motivated or have a depressed IQ (stupid, dull, slow, and other such terms are used)

There is no correlation between having a learning disability and IQ levels. Students with LD can be found anywhere on the IQ bell curve. Famous successful artists have admitted to struggling with LD as students. On the other hand, LD is also frequently found as a comorbidity with other conditions such as Down’s, autism or physical disabilities.

LD is the single largest group of students among all disabilities. Fully half of all disabilities is LD. This is a huge section of our population. Neglecting to nurture the potential of such students is a disservice to the students and to our country. As previously mentioned, students with LD can be found everywhere on the IQ graph, which means that there are several bright students with LD who are dropping out of our sphere of influence due to our (the system’s) apathy. Such bright students, if properly supported by our education system, would be successful contributing members of society.

It is commendable that boards are now open to supporting such students by making education inclusive. Schools should be a microcosm of the society we live in. All students should learn to coexist comfortably with each other. This can only happen when all children are exposed to children different from themselves in some way from a young age. Education is truly inclusive when children from all socio-economic groups, religions, genders, sexual orientations or abilities study together.

All children benefit from inclusive education by learning to accept differences in a matter-of-fact way, and becoming comfortable in their company.

Children with LD definitely benefit from an inclusive education because they have the potential to succeed with support. Willfully releasing thousands of such students from our sphere of influence prematurely (giving up on them) is a dangerous social disaster. We don’t want ill-educated children with no skills, but with enough intelligence to get into trouble, to grow into under-employed and bitter adults. It has been proved by studies that supporting students with LD to stay in school will lead to a lower petty crime rate.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02673843.1991.9747697 (there are other such studies as well)

  1. How beneficial do you reckon are the CBSE’s relaxations for students with learning disabilities? 

Most of the concessions are focused on visual impairment and other visible disabilities. The following seem applicable to students with LD.

General guidelines for deciding concessions – it should be highly INDIVIDUALIZED. Not every student needs everything that’s offered. Every student should be given what s/he NEEDS. That’s the only way equity can work in an inclusive class.

A parent of a typically developing child feels it’s unjust for one child to get a copy of the class notes, and not her own son/daughter. So concessions will only work when the principle of equity is uniformly enforced – EVERY child gets what s/he NEEDS, including typically developing students. Arbitrary capricious heavy handed giving of concessions dilutes the spirit of offering APPROPRIATE help. The same big hammer cannot be employed for every nail.

Fears about giving concessions – All concessions have to be weaned slowly over time. (But not all concessions can be removed entirely. Some students will need some concessions all through life.) But as students, they need concessions on a regular basis to succeed, and they need to get used to succeeding. (Their self-esteem will already be low from chronic failure over time). The same concessions cannot be given throughout the entire school career. Some will be removed, others will be added. Concessions are not supposed to be a lifetime free pass.

This fear is because the Indian education system has not defined a clear final goal of a school education. One of the goals is INDEPENDENCE. Whatever we do for students has to move them towards this goal. Hence we wouldn’t be very good educators if we sent out a student into the world saddled with a meaningless concession. It behooves us to make the student as independent as possible, empowered with meaningful concessions.

http://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/the-abcs-of-ieps/examples-of-accommodations-modifications/ I can assure you this is only a partial list of possible accommodations and modifications. Accommodations and modifications are decided by the special educator to suit the situation at hand.

Scribe – Not all students with LD need a scribe. In fact, I don’t remember assigning a scribe to even one student with LD over my career, and I’ve had many many students with LD. A scribe is given if there is a chronic fine motor issue, or an extremely ADHD/ADD situation (even this is very rare. We use several other strategies to avoid using a scribe.) I did assign a scribe to one visually impaired student. I assigned a scribe based on need for a scribe, not based on the name of the disability.

A fine motor disability can be seen in many students for many reasons, maybe Down’s, maybe autism, maybe physical disability, maybe CP, etc. So there has to be a solid reason to assign a scribe; the decision is not made based on the name of the disability.

Compensatory time – Again, not a good blanket concession. First, it has to be determined whether students are actually using the regular time given to them. Are they actually using the entire 2 hour exam period, are they fully engaged the whole time? If they are, and they are not able to finish the exam despite their good faith efforts, THEN extra time is called for. The special educator needs to establish a history of past testing behavior before deciding if extra time is warranted.

Counterpoint – it is downright cruel to lock an ADHD child for an extra hour in his/her seat in the name of giving extra time.

A better solution would be to give the test in short 15 min/half hour bursts, in as many sessions as required to finish it. The right attention span would only be determined after classroom observation by the special educator. Such a concession would be slowly weaned off, increasing testing time increments gradually, and POSSIBLY ELIMINATING the need for extra time by the time board exams roll around.

Exemption from 3rd language – Very good concession. It is an excellent idea to reduce the academic load on struggling students, as they are using significant mental bandwidth to manage their LD.

Flexibility in choosing subjects – excellent concession. For the same above reasons. Also, students typically do better in their subjects of choice. When they have a strong purpose to learn (interest), they put in more effort.

My problem is with the medical certificate for LD. LD is not a medical condition. It’s not diagnosed, it’s identified. It’s not a blood test or MRI test. It is the purview of educators. Apart from a psychologist administering an IQ test, there’s no place for a medical input, unless there’s a comorbid medical condition. (Even then the LD itself should be off limit to doctors).

  1. In addition to offering concessions during examinations, what approaches do you think help a school board be truly inclusive? (IEP, teacher training etc.)

Teacher training / Solid pedagogy – teaching a heterogeneous classroom comes with a unique and new set of challenges and skills. Teacher training is critical to the success of inclusion. One can’t change the education system and forget to tell the teachers. ‘Oh, oops, yes, now you have got to cope.’

IEPs – a well-supported child will be more productive, and hence leads to easier classroom management

Resource rooms – Invaluable. I don’t mean a room where special ed kids go for instruction (this too, but this is not its primary purpose). This is NOT a sneaky way to segregate education within inclusion. ‘Special education is a service, not a room’. A resource room is just that – a room with valuable resources. It would be a room where low tech assistive technology, alternate curriculum, and high tech assistive technology would be kept for use by all teachers as needed. It would include space for quiet or separate testing if necessary. It would also serve as a quiet room for overstimulated students to decompress, when they feel overwhelmed. A lot more can be said about this.

Special educator – An invaluable member of the child’s IEP team. Special educators come with a knowledge base both broad and deep, and would be the case managers of students with special needs. A ratio of about 30 students to a teacher is manageable.

Alternate curriculum – if a child could learn at the same pace, and with the same methodology, as all students, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Schools need to relax and let go in order to accommodate the use of TLM that suits the needs of different students.

Alternate testing – same point as above… students with LD don’t test well. Assessing knowledge is not the same as scoring well on a test. So teachers need to consciously assess knowledge in the modality that works for the student.

Content knowledge of teachers – A content knowledge test for teachers before entering a B.Ed or D.Ed programs would ensure that all teachers have deep knowledge of the content that they would teach. They should also teach only in their area of expertise.

Ancillary service providers – if inclusion is to happen, then schools need to have SLPs (speech Language Pathologists), OTs, PTs, lip reading teachers, braille teachers, sign language teachers, educational psychologists, behavior specialists, etc. If a child can’t use braille, but is sitting in a mainstream class with a teacher with no training, optimal learning cannot happen. It’s just a stressful situation all around. If, in addition, this is a frustrated child with anger issues, it will lead to a very sad classroom management problem.

How would a school provide so many services? Well, these professionals wouldn’t be full time employees of the school, rather, contractors who visit on a regular schedule if there are such students at the campus.

  1. Do you have any thoughts on grading methods is equitable for children with learning disabilities in an inclusive setting?

Wow! Big question, and a hot button issue! Equity in grading… if a student tries and continues to fail, it won’t be long before the student stops trying. This is common sense. So how does one motivate while acknowledging that quality of content is not up to par?

Effort grades can be helpful in helping to motivate a student to try harder. The content (subject) teacher then assigns content grades on the same scale as the whole class. The student’s grade is then the average of the 2 parts. This is a direct lesson in how hard work can help them raise their grades. Over time, students do improve in their content knowledge. It goes without saying, alternate testing and testing accommodations should already be in place.

Grading apart, the tests themselves need to get inclusive. If a student struggles with reading, and fails a Math test with word problems, did he fail Math or did he fail reading? Did we measure his content knowledge (Math), or did we measure his weakest link (reading)? Tests have to be rigorously constructed to measure content knowledge by bypassing the weakest link. This is a very difficult trick, and the reason to train teachers, and hire a special educator at every school. Board exams need to adhere to this rigorous standard as well.

In Closing:

Finally, for inclusive education, schools have to get inclusive, boards have to get inclusive, text books and other TLM have to get inclusive, teachers, attitudes, testing, grading, infrastructure, training, doctors and other service providers, ayahs, bus drivers and other support staff have to get inclusive, and last but not the least, other students, parents and society have to get inclusive. Work has to happen in all these areas.