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March - April 201640
demystifying education
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act of 2009 guarantees all children aged between six and eleven access to
quality education regardless of any other social, economic, or political factors. For most children, the academic journey is a routine affair,
taken for granted. For some children, however, this journey is not as linear. This article explores the complexities faced by physically and
intellectually challenged children in their academic journey, and how the concept of inclusive education can help them resolve them,
when the requisite measures are accurately implemented.
Exploring Inclusive
Education in Indian Schools
Inclusive education implies that all children, regardless of
any handicaps or disabilities, share the same classroom and
are all equally involved in the process of learning at school.
Yet, implementing this system is not simple. There are several
logistical issues that inclusivity brings with it, such as
specialised teacher training and additional facilities, amongst
many other things. Inclusive education in India is restricted
by lack of funds and proper training. As such, inclusive schools
can be difficult to find, and even if you come across some,
it is extremely difficult to gauge the quality of the inclusive
education provided in India.
This is where word-of-mouth experience helps. To get a sense of
how schools are becoming inclusive across the country, let us take a
case in point: that of Deepa Garwa, mother of eight-year-old Arshia
who has Down’s syndrome. Deepa Garwa maintains that inclusive
education, when implemented properly, is a tremendously positive
experience for both neurotypical children as well as children with
special needs. “The former become sensitised to the problems of the
latter, whereas the latter imbibe the basic functional skills needed
to interact with mainstream society. However, despite the progress
made in India regarding inclusivity in the last few years, there is
still a long way to go,” she rues.
41March - April 2016
demystifying education
Garwa gives an example to illustrate how
even schools that claim to be inclusive
can still discriminate against children
with special needs. During her daughter’s
Annual Day at school, Garwa noticed that
Arshia and another child with Cerebral Palsy
were both sidelined and kept as flowers in
the background, something that greatly
upset her. She promptly complained to the
Principal of the school, and ensured that
Arshia was fully involved in the dance at the
next event and even excelled as a dancer.
“She dances at home all the time and is
physically fine despite being cognitively
delayed”, says Garwa. “But the school did
not recognise this and instead kept her
aside because she was ‘different’.”
While her school now recognises Arshia’s
potential and gives her some academic
support and leeway (in the form of visual
aids to facilitate learning as well as a
differently-paced syllabus), Garwa claims
that she had to battle for such facilitations
to be granted to Arshia and to ensure that
the child received the education she needed
and deserved. Thus, she makes it clear that
in order for inclusive education to work, not
only do schools have to be accommodating,
but parents must also be firm in their
demands of quality education for their
child in case of any resistance. Furthermore,
parents must create an atmosphere at home
that helps the child better adapt to her
mainstream school.
Garwa’s experience brings out certain
important facets of inclusive education.
First, schools that are inclusive require
an awareness and understanding of the
problems of children with special needs.
It is impossible to come up with solutions
to problems no one knows about! Second,
these schools must be flexible in order to
help children with differing conditions
adjust to life in a mainstream school,
and must demonstrate a willingness to
accommodate such children. A school that
claims to be inclusive cannot be judged using
brochures or websites. Navaz Hormusjee,
Head of Learning Support at Mallya Aditi
International School, recommends that
parents visit multiple schools and see for
themselves how inclusive they really are.
“Meeting with the head of school, at most
times, gives you a good indication of the
atmosphere of the school,”he says. Physical
infrastructure such as ramps and elevators
for the physically disabled also need to be
present, so parents should note such things
as well.
Experts Speak
“Most children with special needs
can enroll in mainstream schools
provided the school has the
infrastructure to support them.
You cannot enroll them in a school
where there are no trained special
educators and where other support
systems and facilities are not
available”.
Annie John
A psychologist at Mallya Aditi
International School in Bengaluru.
“It may be the job of the learning
support teacher to work with a
student with learning difficulties
but she can’t work in isolation,” she
points out. “Mainstream teachers
need to understand the process as
well. Teachers need to be sensitised
and this is an ongoing process.
Parents also play an important
part. They need to be counselled
and shown how to continue the
work back home”.
Navaz Hormusjee
Head of Learning Support at
Mallya Aditi International School.
“Some of the essentials an inclusive
school should offer include
appointing a Shadow Teacher (full
time/part time) to guide the child
depending upon her requirement,
formulating tailor-made notes
and learning materials to suit her
needs, etc.”
Monica D’Souza
Vice-Principal, Montfort
Matriculation Higher Secondary
School, Chennai.
Siddharth V.J., 18 years, Singapore, and
Kritika Srinivasan
March - April 201642
demystifying education
As mentioned earlier, a good inclusive
school will also involve parents heavily in
their child’s education and development,
so parents must be prepared to contribute
as well. Parents must ensure that there is
continuity at home to facilitate a completely
inclusive education for their child. And they
must constantly communicate with the
school to ensure that they are up-to-date
with their child’s experiences in school, and
to ensure that the child is not being left out
of anything. A child with special needs who
is enrolled in a mainstream school, included
in the same classroom, but not involved
in the same activities as her neurotypical
peers, is not going to benefit much.
Garwa insists that if a child is being
neglected and not integrated properly with
her peers, the solution is not to withdraw
her and opt for home schooling instead.
“Schools can be negligent at times, but it
is upto us parents to dig our heels in and
attempt to optimise the integration process
for our children!” she exclaims.
If implemented correctly, inclusivity can be
beneficial to all the students, according to
Monica D’Souza, Vice-Principal, Montfort
Matriculation Higher Secondary School in
Chennai. For neurotypical students, the
exposure to, and experience of socialising
with children with special needs sensitises
them and teaches them how to adapt
to and work with people with differing
abilities. It instills in them an awareness
about the laws and rights of people. For
children with special needs, inclusivity
fosters independence and gives them an
awareness of their strength and weaknesses.
As they grow, they realise that while
their weaknesses cannot be completely
eliminated, they can be worked around.
Garwa admits that Arshia’s interactions
with her peers at school has made her far
more aware and street-smart, enabling her
to interact with the rest of society in ways
that other such children who do not go to a
mainstream school cannot.
The financial flipside means that to cater
to these children with special needs, the
school must be committed to investing
in the additional resources that are so
indispensable. D’Souza mentions that
Montfort has invested in many such
resources. “Inclusive education means
integrating children with special needs
within the regular syllabus and classroom,
therefore, in order to bridge the gap, a
few extra measures have to be taken,”
she elaborates. “Some of the essentials
an inclusive school should offer include
appointing a Shadow Teacher (full time/
part time) to guide the child depending
upon her requirement, formulating tailor-
made notes and learning materials to suit
her needs, etc. Of course, all this adds to the
cost, which will eventually have to be borne
by the parents. However, if one can afford
it, the cost is negligible when compared to
the benefits it offers the student in the long
run.”
Inclusive education is certainly growing
more common in India and many schools
today do integrate special needs and
neurotypical children. However, schools
must be circumspect and understand the
needs of such children completely, and
implement inclusive measures accurately. A
faulty system will do more harm than good
to those it is intended for. For instance, the
Shadow Teacher concept can be detrimental
to a student if incorrectly applied. A teacher
constantly tailing a student throughout
the day can deter other children from
approaching her, thus isolating the child.
Such teachers should know precisely when
to step in and help the child, as opposed
to consistently handholding such children
and obstructing their development and
socialisation process.
The onus is on the parents to opt for
inclusive education for their children with
special needs, ensure that the school is
taking the correct measures to integrate the
child, and work closely with the school to
perfect the system.
Some schools that
claim inclusivity:
Vibgyor High, Mumbai
Amar Jyoti School,
Delhi and Gwalior
Montfort Matriculation
Higher Secondary
School, Chennai
R B Academy, Pune
Mallya Aditi
International School,
Bangalore

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ParentEdge_MarApr2016_Article2

  • 1. March - April 201640 demystifying education The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act of 2009 guarantees all children aged between six and eleven access to quality education regardless of any other social, economic, or political factors. For most children, the academic journey is a routine affair, taken for granted. For some children, however, this journey is not as linear. This article explores the complexities faced by physically and intellectually challenged children in their academic journey, and how the concept of inclusive education can help them resolve them, when the requisite measures are accurately implemented. Exploring Inclusive Education in Indian Schools Inclusive education implies that all children, regardless of any handicaps or disabilities, share the same classroom and are all equally involved in the process of learning at school. Yet, implementing this system is not simple. There are several logistical issues that inclusivity brings with it, such as specialised teacher training and additional facilities, amongst many other things. Inclusive education in India is restricted by lack of funds and proper training. As such, inclusive schools can be difficult to find, and even if you come across some, it is extremely difficult to gauge the quality of the inclusive education provided in India. This is where word-of-mouth experience helps. To get a sense of how schools are becoming inclusive across the country, let us take a case in point: that of Deepa Garwa, mother of eight-year-old Arshia who has Down’s syndrome. Deepa Garwa maintains that inclusive education, when implemented properly, is a tremendously positive experience for both neurotypical children as well as children with special needs. “The former become sensitised to the problems of the latter, whereas the latter imbibe the basic functional skills needed to interact with mainstream society. However, despite the progress made in India regarding inclusivity in the last few years, there is still a long way to go,” she rues.
  • 2. 41March - April 2016 demystifying education Garwa gives an example to illustrate how even schools that claim to be inclusive can still discriminate against children with special needs. During her daughter’s Annual Day at school, Garwa noticed that Arshia and another child with Cerebral Palsy were both sidelined and kept as flowers in the background, something that greatly upset her. She promptly complained to the Principal of the school, and ensured that Arshia was fully involved in the dance at the next event and even excelled as a dancer. “She dances at home all the time and is physically fine despite being cognitively delayed”, says Garwa. “But the school did not recognise this and instead kept her aside because she was ‘different’.” While her school now recognises Arshia’s potential and gives her some academic support and leeway (in the form of visual aids to facilitate learning as well as a differently-paced syllabus), Garwa claims that she had to battle for such facilitations to be granted to Arshia and to ensure that the child received the education she needed and deserved. Thus, she makes it clear that in order for inclusive education to work, not only do schools have to be accommodating, but parents must also be firm in their demands of quality education for their child in case of any resistance. Furthermore, parents must create an atmosphere at home that helps the child better adapt to her mainstream school. Garwa’s experience brings out certain important facets of inclusive education. First, schools that are inclusive require an awareness and understanding of the problems of children with special needs. It is impossible to come up with solutions to problems no one knows about! Second, these schools must be flexible in order to help children with differing conditions adjust to life in a mainstream school, and must demonstrate a willingness to accommodate such children. A school that claims to be inclusive cannot be judged using brochures or websites. Navaz Hormusjee, Head of Learning Support at Mallya Aditi International School, recommends that parents visit multiple schools and see for themselves how inclusive they really are. “Meeting with the head of school, at most times, gives you a good indication of the atmosphere of the school,”he says. Physical infrastructure such as ramps and elevators for the physically disabled also need to be present, so parents should note such things as well. Experts Speak “Most children with special needs can enroll in mainstream schools provided the school has the infrastructure to support them. You cannot enroll them in a school where there are no trained special educators and where other support systems and facilities are not available”. Annie John A psychologist at Mallya Aditi International School in Bengaluru. “It may be the job of the learning support teacher to work with a student with learning difficulties but she can’t work in isolation,” she points out. “Mainstream teachers need to understand the process as well. Teachers need to be sensitised and this is an ongoing process. Parents also play an important part. They need to be counselled and shown how to continue the work back home”. Navaz Hormusjee Head of Learning Support at Mallya Aditi International School. “Some of the essentials an inclusive school should offer include appointing a Shadow Teacher (full time/part time) to guide the child depending upon her requirement, formulating tailor-made notes and learning materials to suit her needs, etc.” Monica D’Souza Vice-Principal, Montfort Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai.
  • 3. Siddharth V.J., 18 years, Singapore, and Kritika Srinivasan March - April 201642 demystifying education As mentioned earlier, a good inclusive school will also involve parents heavily in their child’s education and development, so parents must be prepared to contribute as well. Parents must ensure that there is continuity at home to facilitate a completely inclusive education for their child. And they must constantly communicate with the school to ensure that they are up-to-date with their child’s experiences in school, and to ensure that the child is not being left out of anything. A child with special needs who is enrolled in a mainstream school, included in the same classroom, but not involved in the same activities as her neurotypical peers, is not going to benefit much. Garwa insists that if a child is being neglected and not integrated properly with her peers, the solution is not to withdraw her and opt for home schooling instead. “Schools can be negligent at times, but it is upto us parents to dig our heels in and attempt to optimise the integration process for our children!” she exclaims. If implemented correctly, inclusivity can be beneficial to all the students, according to Monica D’Souza, Vice-Principal, Montfort Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Chennai. For neurotypical students, the exposure to, and experience of socialising with children with special needs sensitises them and teaches them how to adapt to and work with people with differing abilities. It instills in them an awareness about the laws and rights of people. For children with special needs, inclusivity fosters independence and gives them an awareness of their strength and weaknesses. As they grow, they realise that while their weaknesses cannot be completely eliminated, they can be worked around. Garwa admits that Arshia’s interactions with her peers at school has made her far more aware and street-smart, enabling her to interact with the rest of society in ways that other such children who do not go to a mainstream school cannot. The financial flipside means that to cater to these children with special needs, the school must be committed to investing in the additional resources that are so indispensable. D’Souza mentions that Montfort has invested in many such resources. “Inclusive education means integrating children with special needs within the regular syllabus and classroom, therefore, in order to bridge the gap, a few extra measures have to be taken,” she elaborates. “Some of the essentials an inclusive school should offer include appointing a Shadow Teacher (full time/ part time) to guide the child depending upon her requirement, formulating tailor- made notes and learning materials to suit her needs, etc. Of course, all this adds to the cost, which will eventually have to be borne by the parents. However, if one can afford it, the cost is negligible when compared to the benefits it offers the student in the long run.” Inclusive education is certainly growing more common in India and many schools today do integrate special needs and neurotypical children. However, schools must be circumspect and understand the needs of such children completely, and implement inclusive measures accurately. A faulty system will do more harm than good to those it is intended for. For instance, the Shadow Teacher concept can be detrimental to a student if incorrectly applied. A teacher constantly tailing a student throughout the day can deter other children from approaching her, thus isolating the child. Such teachers should know precisely when to step in and help the child, as opposed to consistently handholding such children and obstructing their development and socialisation process. The onus is on the parents to opt for inclusive education for their children with special needs, ensure that the school is taking the correct measures to integrate the child, and work closely with the school to perfect the system. Some schools that claim inclusivity: Vibgyor High, Mumbai Amar Jyoti School, Delhi and Gwalior Montfort Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai R B Academy, Pune Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore