The term “Inclusion”, with reference to a school, may be understood as a school where all learners of a particular age, irrespective of their difficulties, learn together. It aims to integrate students with specific learning difficulties into a general classroom. The belief behind this philosophy is that no child should be denied quality education only because they have special needs. Some believe that schools are able to find diversity through inclusion.
Does inclusion mean to only provide remediation through a Learning Resource Centre with special educators? This may help to equip the students with the deficient skills. But is that enough?
Children with specific learning difficulties face challenges that range over a large spectrum. Difficulties in reasoning and perception, sequencing, varying lags in expressive and receptive language, difficulties in math, and the list goes on. They may also be associated with other conditions like ADHD and mild autism. Most of these students need intensive remediation, occupational and speech therapy and counselling. Due to their difficulties, they are generally subjected to bullying and humiliation by peers and perhaps unknowingly, at times by adults, that manifests into low self-esteem or very aggressive behavior. In a classroom of over 30 students, a teacher who is not a special educator may find it difficult to give individualised attention to the struggles faced by such learners. In addition to that, dealing with a vast number of subjects further adds to the child’s distress. Will then a child with special needs be able to take advantage of the quality education that is provided by the school? This is a matter of debate.
There are a few schools that may have found the right balance of inclusive education, through integration. Their philosophy is to integrate various students with different types and levels of difficulties under one roof, and provide holistic education together with in-house therapies. Ours is such a school that has succeeded in providing a nurturing environment that has helped children with varying levels of difficulties to pass board exams. We have seen children who have come to us with their self-confidence completely shattered, gain confidence and fly out into the world to chase their dreams.
I wonder what the magic formula is, that has helped to bloom their personality. Some parents have been amazed by the happy and positive energy at school that immediately uplifts the mood. Some students still remember their favourite teachers with their child centric teaching with fun activities. They recount their learning experiences through field trips and exposure to the environment. Students value the emphasis we lay on social and emotional development that lets them introspect and be aware of their self-worth and helps them to cope with the day to day challenges. By giving them ample opportunities we provide a platform to showcase their talents and leadership qualities. Encouraging them when they falter and prodding them to achieve their true potential, when they are on the verge of giving up may be the true essence of their success.
Ms. Leena Kotwal Head of Senior School The Aditya Birla Integrated School