At APL Global Schools, the approach goes beyond labelling children
In our series on Top Inclusive Schools of 2017, we profile APL Global Schools in Chennai.
APL Global School, set up 10 years ago, was triggered by a personal experience.
"My two daughters are gifted and even my sister had some developmental issues until Class 10", says school managing director Gita Jagannathan. "We struggled for many years and were just being slapped with all kinds of labels. This opened our eyes to the presence of so many kids that did not fit into mainstream schools."
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APL Global Schools has been inclusive one from the start. As Jagannathan says, it never occurred to the management to be anything but inclusive.
Each classroom has been structured in a way that the needs of all the children are attended to. The idea was to break away from the usual approach of identifying a weakness and focusing on that alone, as this undermines the child's strength.
There are 42 special educators in the school and the total strength of the teaching staff is 200, with the special educators acting as a resource for all the teachers.
"There has been advocacy that only special educators should teach gifted children, but we believe that this promotes exclusion", says Jagannathan.
"We work more from the angle of taking labels way and connecting with the child. So in our school, the class teacher is supported by the special educator."
APL Global Schools has a rigorous training process for teachers with trained counsellors from organisations like Vidya Sagar and Spastics Society stepping in to mentor them. The head of elementary education is from a special background and is also a trained counsellor.
Strong emphasis on self expression
There is a lot of emphasis on making children vocal about their needs and giving them the skills to speak for themselves. Business consultant Gopi Ramakrishnan, whose sons study here, says teachers are open, patient, and willing to hear the parents out.
"Over the last 10 years, the number of students has grown tremendously, but the culture of being accessible stays", says Ramakrishnan.
"The children feel that they can approach the teachers and management" - Gopinath Ramakrishnan, Parent.
There is no difference in the fees charged from children with special needs. "Funding does become a major challenge because the cost of therapists, etc is very high", says Jagannathan. "That becomes hard for schools to bear. It would be good if every school that is inclusive gets some form of government support."
To view the other schools which were part of the Inclusive Schools series, click below:
Orchid School, Pune
St Mary's, Delhi
Gamru Village School, Himachal Pradesh
The Heritage School, Kolkata
Nankana Sahib Public School, Ludhiana