Moving away from labels
A SCHOOL FOR ALL
Article written by Indumathi Rao and sharada Prahalda Rao
In the year 1995 we published a special issue of CBR (community-based rehabilitation) Frontline Digest, a quarterly magazine on education of children with disabilities in South Asia. We gave the title Integrated / inclusive education in South Asia. My friend, Mr. Ture Johnson, after reading this journal wrote, "Integrated and inclusive education are not the same, and these two approaches are built on different rationale and vision." This made me think deeper and deeper in understanding inclusive education. Once I went to see a school in a village called Thyamagondlu in Karnataka state where I was implementing the Integrated Education of Disabled Children (IEDC) scheme. I went 15 minutes before the school was supposed to open. I sat there watching children coming to school with their books and bags. The head master was a very young man in his early 20s and newly married. He came on his brand new bicycle. As he entered the main door, he asked one of the students to bring the wooden ramp he'd had specially made for his bicycle. The student promptly brought the ramp and fixed it to the stairs. There were about 5 steps. The head master pushed his cycle using the ramp and neatly parked it near the side of the classroom wall. He saw me and said, "Namasthe madam." Then we started talking about the integration of children with disabilities in village schools. As we were talking, a physically challenged boy around 12 years came to school. His father brought him on his cycle. The boy entered the school building with great difficulty, as there were five huge steps, which made entry very difficult. Children helped him climb the steps. The head master was also watching this scenario with me. I asked the head master, "You bring your cycle very easily because the ramp was there, but this boy has difficulty in entering, doesn't he?"
The Head master could not see my point immediately and said, "Yes madam that boy has polio, he cannot climb steps." I joked, "Your cycle could also not climb the steps?" He said, "Yes, you are right." I tried to help him think. "But you could lift the cycle by building up a ramp." Then suddenly he realized what I was trying to convey. "Madam I am sorry I thought so much about my cycle - a lifeless object. If only I had left the ramp a little longer, the boy could have entered using the same ramp!!" In another village school in Varthur, I went to see how the IEDC (Integrated Education of Disabled Child) was functioning. When I went, the teacher was busy in the class. I asked her, "How are you? I come from the CBR project." Immediately she asked all the IED children to stand up. Who are the IED children? A new label? A new brand? This is how the teacher identified children with disabilities as IED children! In another village in Kanakapura, I visited government schools in very remote villages. When I went there I could not see a single child with disability. The school was part of the project where we were implementing IEDC. I asked the teacher where the children were. She said without any hesitation, "They have been sent back home. Their teacher is on leave for a week. So I have asked them to study at home instead of wasting time coming to school!" These experiences made me think about why IEDC was not successful. It was not successful because it never took the classroom teacher into confidence. It was heavily dependent on resource teachers. It continued to label children as children with special needs. In IEDC we saw the child as the problem and never looked at the education system as the problem. Therefore whatever we did in IEDC we did outside the education system and focused on 'using the general education system'. We did not think of building IEDC based on the existing education system. In principle, in India, the IEDC planners were in fact convinced about inclusive principles. But, in practice, it ended up as a resource teaching model which 'used' existing schools. On the whole the IEDC scheme was like Velcro stuck to the mainstream schools. Teachers were still using the terms 'taking classes', 'covering portions', 'finishing syllabuses, and the teacher-centered approach was the major barrier to inclusion. When we asked teachers, "Do you know why you are teaching this concept? Do you know about the curriculum you are using?" Teachers always showed us text books whenever we spoke about the curriculum. When we tried to help them to play with the methodology to reach curricular goals, teachers were so helpless. They did not understand much about anything other than textbooks. When we asked them to use methodology relevant to the child's environment, they said, "Inspectors will object if we innovate in the classroom!!"
This rigidity in the general education system is the single most significant barrier in providing education to all children. The second barrier is the total lack of community and family involvement. The community almost always referred to 'village schools' as 'government schools'!! It was not 'our village school' - this is most unfortunate. How can primary education progress with the community being such passive partners? Indian Scenario Education of children with disabilities in India, as all over the world, has moved from segregation, special schools to integrated education. There is a national level central government sponsored scheme called Integrated Education of Disabled Children (IEDC). This project was started in 1980s and designed based on the experience gathered from a UNICEF assisted pilot project called PIED (project on integrated education of disabled children). In the mid-1980s many NGOs implemented this IEDC with grants from government. Of India. This project is implemented by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This is basically an itinerant resource teaching approach and one resource teacher was given to every 8 children with special needs. There are around 60,000 children with disabilities getting access to education under this scheme. By and large the project is managed by the NGO sector. Although the goals and objectives of the IEDC program were laudable, the number of children with disabilities enrolled was woefully small. This book is written with the objectives of enabling families and Teachers at the grassroots level to include ALL children into neighborhood schools.
Labels Funny side
What isinclusive education? 1.Inclusive policies
2.Inclusive thinking 3.Inclusive communities 4.Inclusivepractices
What policies promotes? India is a signatory to or participated in the United Nations Rights of the Child, United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities, the Jomtien Declaration on Education for All and the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action. "... Schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions." (Article 3, Salamanca Framework for Action) "Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system." (Article 2, Salamanca Statement) This framework stems from the messages of the Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (1990) and was reaffirmed in the Dakar Framework for Action (2000): In order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups, education systems should respond flexibly! Education systems must be inclusive, actively seeking out children who are not enrolled, and responding flexibly to the circumstances and needs of all learners™ (Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments. Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework for Action, Para 33)
Rule 6 of the UN Standard Rules for Persons with Disabilities states: ‘States should recognize the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities in integrated settings. They should ensure that the education of persons with disabilities is an integral part of the educational system. General education authorities are responsible for the education of persons with disabilities in integrated settings. Education for persons with disabilities should form an integral part of national educational planning, curriculum development and school organization. ™ The Indian ˜Equal Opportunities and Rights of Persons with Disabilities ACT™ 1995, rule 26, speak about the education of children with disabilities up to the age of 18 years in an appropriate environment™ India is a signatory to or has participated in the United Nations Rights of the Child, United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities, the Jomtien Declaration on Education for All and the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action. "... Schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, linguistic or other conditions." (Article 3, Salamanca Framework for Action) This framework stems from the messages of the Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (1990) and was reaffirmed in the Dakar Framework for Action (2000): “… In order to attract and retain children from marginalized and excluded groups, education systems should respond flexibly… Education systems must be inclusive, actively seeking out children who are not enrolled, and responding flexibly to the circumstances and needs of all learners…” (Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments. Expanded Commentary on the Dakar Framework for Action, Para 33) I Building on Existing strengths
When good inclusion is in place, the child who needs the inclusion does not stand out. The inclusive curriculum includes strong parental involvement, students making choices, and a lot of hands-on and headson involvement." -- Dr. Melissa Heston, Associate Professor of Education, University of Northern Iowa "After my son is out of public school, he’ll be living and working with a diverse population of people. I want him to be accepted after he’s out of school as much as when he’s in school. For me, that’s why inclusion is a key while he’s in school." -- Parent of a child with disability.” Where expertise is rare and specialists are few, it makes sense to utilize the limited expertise for both inclusive education and CBR training programmes." -Karnataka CBR program. Right to education A right to education is seen as the very core of all services being provided by NGOs working in disability sector. When services were first started in South Asia by NGOs, Children with disabilities had no access to any form of education, be it formal or informal. Today, both government and NGOs are able to provide educational provision for children at all levels. One saw more number of home-based services in NGO programs in 80’s. Mere home-based services were not sufficient as the child was isolated in his own home. Then started a massive movement under the popular slogan “Education for ALL”. “We used to beg teachers to include children with disabilities ten years ago. When they did there was sigh of relief and a sense of achievement. But now teachers in mainstream schools are keen to enroll children with disabilities”- CBR Volunteers in CBR program-Karnataka India. Programs initiated by NGOs in South Asia explored different approaches to ensure that the educational rights of children are not denied to children with special needs. They started many approaches such as resource rooms based teaching, special schools, self help groups, non formal education centers, home based teaching support and integrating children into the neighbor hood general schools. The general school was the only resource available to families; especially in the rural/tribal areas and so naturally they built on what was available. We see a conscious attempt made by a majority of NGO programs in rural India not to set up special and segregated educational services. Wherever they could not enroll children in the neighborhood schools they opted for home based teaching
approach. However we still see most measures have failed to remove the labels and stereotypes. The whole issue is why and where we have failed to achieve the desired goal of educational access and quality of early childhood development to every child with disability at least in the villages where Anagwadi centers and primary schools exist. The appallingly low reach of education, quantitatively and qualitatively, to those who are enrolled either by default or by design compels us to review our policies in the past and identify the point of modification required both at policy formulation and implementation levels. Perhaps lack of conceptual clarity and lack of convergence on inclusive education has led conflicting objectives and/or strategies.Some children feel 'left-out' and never enter school or enter only for a few years and, as repeaters, become 'drop-outs' or, more accurately 'pushed-outs', without their needs having been met. These children are a vivid illustration of the failure of schools to teach rather than the pupils' failure to learn. A school system emphasizing Education for All should ensure the right of all children to a meaningful education based on individual needs and abilities. (Ture Johnson 2002) With Inclusive education, the regular schools will now increasingly play a major role in making provision for children with special educational needs available nation-wide. Making the school system flexible and adopting an inclusive approach may, however, prove the most challenging task of all, a task calling for deep reflection and discussion of the two fundamental questions: "What is the overall role of education", and "What is it we want children to learn in school?" It might lead to the need of reforming the school system as a whole from a traditional, examination-oriented to an inclusive, child-oriented approach.
CURRENT REALITIES - EXCLUSION
Denial If we deny the presence of disabled people in our communities, and as potential recipients of all our services, it leads to
Exclusion In planning In service-delivery In development
Acceptance If we however accept that there are people with disabilities living in our communities, and that they have rights too, Understanding
this leads to
Segregation Special schools Protective/sheltered workshops
Once we start to understand that people with disabilities have equal rights - also the right to remain as active participants within their communities Knowledge When we decide to take action to realise the rights of people with disabilities by acquiring the necessary knowledge to remove barriers to participation, VISION - INCLUSION
it leads to
Special classes in ordinary schools
it leads to
Participation Schools which welcome all children, irrespective of difference, and who have equipped their teachers and classrooms to enable learners with disabilities to participate
Broadening the scope of special needs is a necessity. We cannot afford to set up separate schools for separate sets of children. The guiding principle that forms Salamanca Frame work is that schools should accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. This should include disabled and gifted children, street and working children, children from remote or nomadic populations, and children from linguistic, ethnic or cultural minorities and children from other disadvantaged or marginalized areas or groups. It is over a decade in India for the inclusive education movement. If we critically analyze the performance of both NGOs and government we can find considerable lacunae in the policy formulation. Where did we go wrong? Why? There are no easy answers. Perhaps the resistance to change could be one of the important factors. Perhaps unfounded fears that inclusive education will lead loss of jobs for IEDC and special teachers could be another reason. A lot of time was spent on debating this issue rather than on how to move forward? I regret my own initiatives to promote inclusive education, which turned a sour battle between promoters of integrated education against the promoter of inclusive education! Why were the grassroots level success stories by NGOs and state governments seen as exceptions and not as models? The key issues often raised were children with disabilities would loose a lot in terms of budgetary allocation if we push the concept of ALL children. Is it really true? In many countries a vast amount of welfare is based on quota system, categories, targets groups, beneficiaries - is this fear really unfounded? How do we really ensure that the inclusive strategy will lead to better allocation of meager resources? If we include all children whether our share of resources get distributed? Is this the main fear? Inclusive education is good education. Saying this too often I have lost the battle because many people in the main stream education system say, “our schools are so poor they are not able to give even average education to our children. What would happen to children with disabilities in such poor schools?” Whenever we said, “look inclusive education is a process – Inclusion is an entry point to improve the quality of schools”, a majority of policy makers (not teachers) said it was just a laudable theory which couldn’t be put to practice. Lack of faith in their own education system is one of the major causes for the hesitation to accept inclusion in letter and spirit and lack of convergence in teacher training is another reason.
Last but not least there is lack of inclusive technology relevant to India to meet the needs in the diverse socio cultural contexts. Thin and wide spread: Therefore, instead of spreading inclusion thin and wide there is a need to develop policy based on evidence. This exercise includes identifying the best practices initiated by NGO's and governments and developing broad policy guidelines and giving funding to district level administration to plan and manage inclusive education relevant to the local needs. Unless this happens, in a country like India with vast diversity, inclusive education distant dream to be accomplished. Policy and Reality: To open up the regular school system to disabled children is not an easy task. The policy on inclusion and mainstreaming can easily become "main dumping" if not implemented carefully. It was, however, pointed out that a big gap exists between this ideal situation and the present reality. There is an urgent need for interventions for equipping general teachers with special skills, making general curricula, teaching methods. Evaluation procedures, learning material disabilitysensitive and addressing the attitudes /needs of other children in the school to ensure such interventions benefit all children. It is important to have a holistic, comprehensive and inter-sect oral approach where all pieces are put together. It is not enough to present and implement one part only. An inclusion policy cannot stand-alone and "cannot be a substitute for careful planning of interventions and systematic capacity-building for the implementers of these interventions". Education of children with disabilities has always posed a challenge to Educators. Rule 6 of the UN Standard Rules for Persons with Disabilities states: ‘States should recognize the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities in integrated settings. They should ensure that the education of persons with disabilities is an integral part of the educational system. General education authorities are responsible for the education of persons with disabilities in integrated settings. Education for persons with disabilities should form an integral part of national educational planning, curriculum development and school organization.’
The Indian Equal Opportunities and Rights of Persons with Disabilities ACT 1995, rule 26, speak about the education of children with disabilities up to the age of 18 years in an appropriate environment. There is no specific mention of integrated/inclusive education in the Act. In the Disability ACT of 1995, emphasis is placed instead on special schools, giving the impression that children with disabilities need more special schools and inclusion is just another option. Education of children with special needs in rural areas Talking about rural areas in Disability sector is nothing new. Both Governments and NGO’s have realized the need to have a special focus on rural areas. A majority of people with disabilities live in rural areas and a majority of service institutions are urban based. To ensure that children with disabilities in rural areas do not remain uneducated, there was a need to start integrated educational services.
Salamanca –a shift from mere integration to full inclusive education The Salamanca declaration was a turning point in the education sector. It has helped us to think why earlier strategies in education of children with Conclusion Inclusive education must respond to all pupils as individuals, recognizing individuality as something to be appreciated and respected. Inclusive education responding to special needs will thus have positive returns for all pupils.” All children and young people of the world, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, with their hopes and expectations, have the right to education. It is not our education systems that have a right to a certain type of children. Therefore, it is the school system of a country that must be adjusted to meet the needs of all its children." .it is not enough to churn out data on how many children are included but we need to know how many children with disabilities are excluded from primary education.it is time to find out how well they are learning and included in the school community and if inclusion is leading mainstreaming and not maindumping!