Inclusive Education – Challenges and Barriers – Guest column by Rukmini Krishnaswamy
In our weekly guest column, we have Rukmini Krishnaswamy, Director of Spastics Society of Karnataka, renowned for her work in helping children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
Inclusive education means that all children regardless of their ability level, are included in the mainstream classroom, or in the most appropriate or Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), that students of all ability levels are taught as equals, and that teachers must adjust their curriculum and teaching methodologies so that all students benefit (UNESCO,2012).
Thus inclusiveness is about creating an environment where each and every member of any type of community is an integral part of the society notwithstanding physical or mental capabilities, disabilities, economic status and manmade constructs like religion or caste.
UNESCO in the year 1994 called upon all governments and urged them to adopt as a matter of law or policy the principles of inclusive education enrolling all children in regular schools, unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise.
Challenges and Barriers
Although the Government of India has attempted to create policies that are inclusive for people with disabilities, their implementation efforts have not resulted in an inclusive system of education, nor have they reached their goal of Education for All.
- Special Educational Needs: As barriers to inclusion, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, did refer to a move from the term ‘Special Educational needs’ to inclusive education.
- Attitudinal Barriers
Social Exclusion and Discrimination: Many are marginalised by dimensions such as poverty, gender and caste, while many educational programmes have attempted to reach out to these previously excluded children those with disabilities are often forgotten. The social exclusion and negative attitudes result in social discrimination and thus leads to isolation, which produces barriers to inclusion.
Peer Pressure: Negative peer attitude as being a major barrier to full social inclusion at school for students with disabilities. Children with disabilities are often an easy target for being teased and bullied by their non-disabled peers.
Attitude of Regular Teachers:Several studies using both quantitative and qualitative data have examined teacher’s belief, attitudes and perceptions about students with disabilities and inclusive education conclude that attitudes and concerns of teachers affect their acceptance and commitment to implementing inclusion.
Firstly, regular teachers considered children with disabilities as the responsibilities to be a ‘disturbance’ to the class and as causing distractions which delayed course completion. Therefore, they choose to ignore their presence and can concentrate on execution of their lesson plans.
School as Barriers: When it comes to admissions, most inclusive schools enrol children with only mild disabilities. They also find that schools also assess the parental support during the time of admission. They give preference when parents are willing to take on the extra responsibility for their child. There are also Commutation problems, those of buildings and infrastructure, problems related to materials and technology as teachers rarely use them. and classroom size.
Classroom as a Barrier: In any education system, the curriculum is one of the major obstacles or tools to facilitate the development of more inclusive system. In our country, the curriculum is unable to meet the needs of a wide range of difficulty in learners. In many contexts, the curriculum is centrally designed and rigid, leaving little flexibility for local adaptations or for teachers to experiment and try out new approaches.
In certain cases severe problems arise for arranging writers to assist children with special needs during examination. There are walls between schools and children before they get enrolled, they face walls with curriculum inside the classrooms and finally they face more walls when they have to take examinations which determine how successful they will be in life.
Untrained teachers as barriers: Teachers’ training, abilities and attitudes can be major limitations for inclusive education. The teachers are not trained adequately to teach the children with special needs. The training of staff at all levels is often not adequate. At present, training to teachers is fragmented, uncoordinated and inadequate hacking place in a segregated manner one for special children and another for students with general capabilities. So, all teachers do not have proper skills and positive attitudes towards learners with special needs.
Organisation of the educational system: There is also not an accurate picture of the number of learners excluded from the school system due to lack of co-ordination within many systems. Moreover, these are different types of schools such as private, government and public schools which are developing in equality by offering different levels of facilities and support.
Constraint of Resources: Adequate financial resources are being a big challenge to inclusion.
Once walls within schools are broken, schools move out of their boundaries, end isolation and reach out to the communities. The distance between formal schools, non-formal schools, special schools and open schools will be eliminated.