Unit III: Creating supports for inclusive education
3.1 Early identification and intervention for inclusion
3.2 Foundational literacy for inclusive education
3.3 Empowering families for inclusion
3.4 Sensitizing stakeholders and schools for inclusive education
3.5 Teacher preparation for inclusive education
3.1 Early identification and intervention for inclusion
Early Identification refers to a parent, educator, health professional, or other adult’s ability to recognize developmental milestones in children and to understand the value of early intervention.
The earliest years of a child's life are critical. These years determine child's survival and thriving in life, and lay the foundations for her/ his learning and holistic development. It is during the early years that children develop the cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills that they need to succeed in life. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that early childhood is the most important phase for overall development. Factors like disability and malnutrition pose particularly difficult challenges. However, if these problems are solved at an early age, it minimizes developmental risks and enhances child development.
However as per guidelines of IDEA (Individuals with establishing the socio-demographic profiles & the Disabilities Education Act) of United States, "Early pattern of clinical features in children attending EIP. The intervention services are designed to meet the study also sought to assess the profile and expectations of developmental needs of children, from birth to three years people who attended the clinic with the long term of age, who have a delay in physical, cognitive, objective of modifying the program as per their needs. communicative, social, emotional or adaptive development or have a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay"Individuals with (Disabilities EducationAct, 2001.
If children with developmental delays or disabilities and their families are not provided with timely and appropriate early intervention, support and protection, their difficulties can become more severe often leading to lifetime consequences, increased poverty and profound exclusion. Typical development is sometimes a struggle. Everyone likes to think that all babies will be okay, that parents will have nothing to worry about. But the reality is that not all babies will keep up, and some will continue to fall further and further behind. Science demonstrates that intellectual and cognitive potential is determined by how the brain develops during the first few years of life. The brain controls the biological effects of all the other organ systems and influences cognition, intelligence, learning, coping and adaptive skills, and behaviour. Because the brain controls these different aspects of human life, impaired brain function leads to impaired physical, mental, and emotional health and decreased functioning in society. Therefore, investments in early childhood to support healthy brain development help to reduce societal costs in remediation, health care, mental health services, and increased rates of incarceration.
There are a number of reasons for this early identification:
· Early Identification leads to early intervention, which is considered essential in remediation.
· The children have not yet faced academic failure therefore it becomes easier to work with them as they still retain their motivation to learn.
· At that young an age they have not developed the compensatory strategies, which will later form barriers in the remedial process.
· Research has shown that children who received assessment and remedial services at a younger age were better able to cope with the disability and had a better prognosis than those who received help later.
“The Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities is a
federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive
statewide program of early intervention services for infants and
toddlers with disabilities, age’s birth through age 2 years, and their
families”. Part C of IDEA, Dec 9, 2015
It is also commonly reported as being the provision of support (and resources) to families of infants and young children from members of informal and formal social support networks that impact both directly and indirectly on parent, family and child functioning (Dunst, Trivette and Jodry, 1997).
Early intervention for children who have developmental problems is the “systematic and planned effort to promote development through a series of manipulations of environmental or experiential factors initiated during the first five years of life” (Guralnick and Bennet, 1987, p. 19).
Early intervention is a system of services that helps babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. Early intervention focuses on helping eligible babies and toddlers learn the basic and brand-new skills that typically develop during the first three years of life, such as:
The introduction of planned program deliberately timed and arranged in-order to alter the anticipated or projected course of development.
Preventive – Primary, Secondary
Curative – Treatment, Surgery
Remedial – Aids & Appliances
Early intervention is an early stimulation and enrichment programme for infants and young children with varying types and degrees of disability.
It is primarily used for children with developmental disabilities offering services which will enhance the development of young children. In developing countries, where health services are lacking in urban slums and deprived rural populations and where poverty is widespread, such early intervention services form the basis of ensuring proper care and management of at-risk infants.
Early intervention applies to children of school age or younger who are discovered to have or be at risk of developing a handicapping condition or other special need that may affect their development.
Early intervention means finding the specific ways to help a child become as functional as possible.
Early intervention can sometimes help a child catch up to peers There are three primary reasons for intervening early with an exceptional child:
1. to enhance the child's development,
2. to provide support and assistance to the family, and
3. to maximize the child's and family's benefit to society.
Effectiveness of Early Intervention
Ø needing fewer special education and other facilitative services later in life;
Ø being retained in grade less often; and
Ø in some cases being indistinguishable from non handicapped classmates years after intervention.
Focus of Early Intervention
• Prevention of disability or delay
• Promotion of positive assets of a developmentally delayed child
• Enhance the capacity of the family to meet the special needs of their infants and toddlers
3.2 Foundational literacy for inclusive education
The education system in India is one of the largest in the world, with over 260 million children studying in more than 1.5 million schools across the country. Today, close to 97% children in the age group of 6 to 14 years are going to school. Yet, children are not necessarily learning in spite of attending school. Several data sources have shown that each year an estimated 6 million children complete 8 years of compulsory schooling in India with alarmingly low learning levels. And the learning crisis starts early, with more than half of these children unable to read simple text or do basic mathematics at the level expected of them by as early as class 3.
Without these basic skills, the benefits of education in later years are lost. We believe foundational learning, or children’s ability to read with meaning and do basic math calculations by class 3, forms the basis of all future learning. It is thus most critical to achieve foundational learning for all children in order to improve overall student learning outcomes in India and build an effective and inclusive education system.
FOUNDATIONAL LITERACY: is students being able to read with comprehension:
· Identify letters
· Identify initial or final words
· Read non-words
· Read familiar words
· Listen with comprehension
· Orally read with fluency and comprehension
FOUNDATIONAL NUMERACY: is students being able to have “number sense”, which would include the ability to:
· Identify numbers
· Discriminate between numbers
· Find missing numbers
· Solve addition problems
· Solve subtraction problems
· Solve word problems
Foundational learning forms the basis of all future learning. Those who fail to attain basic literacy and numeracy skills by class 3 find it difficult to catch up with the rigour of the curriculum in later classes and fall behind, creating wide learning gaps. This also increases the chances of these students dropping out of the school system altogether.
Countries have moved from low to middle levels of performance by reducing the proportion of lowest performing children and ensuring that there are very few students who have not mastered these foundational skills. The examples of Vietnam, Brazil, Kenya and Peru show that making foundational learning a priority benefits not just the individual child, but also improves the learning levels of the country as a whole. Investing in early grades is also cost-effective – the highest rate of economic return comes from the earliest investments in children.
For children from disadvantaged and low-income communities, the home environment is unable to supplement school education. Providing these children with foundational skills in the early years ensures that all students, regardless of their socio-economic background, are given equal opportunity to perform well in schools and are better prepared to improve their quality of life.
By empowering individuals to take advantage of the extensive benefits of education in later years, foundational learning ensures better life outcomes. It is directly correlated to increased workforce participation and opens up opportunities for social and economic advancement.
Modifying the existing 10+2 structure of school education and introducing the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, NEP 2020 has responded to this impending need with a strong commitment to universalising pre-school foundational learning. The NEP envisions that every child under the age of five will be included in foundational learning process. A large percentage of children entering primary education in India, especially in Government schools, do not possess the ability to read and comprehend basic texts, meaning that they are not school-ready.
Pre-school foundational learning will ensure that children are school ready as they enter grade 1 and will significantly reduce the number of dropouts at the primary school level. Many research studies have shown that pre-primary education is of tremendous importance as it gives children a solid foundation to begin an efficient and more productive educational future. While children from privileged and mostly urban households had the benefit of attending pre-schools, children from marginalised families, rural and remote areas were left in the lurch. To mitigate the exclusion of such children, the NEP also commits to give priority to areas that are particularly socio-economically disadvantaged.
Setting up of the National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy to achieve universal foundational literacy by 2025 will ensure a focussed and time-bound implementation of the mentioned strategies.
Foundational education in a child’s mother tongue has been recommended by several research studies. UNICEF reports from across the world support mother tongue education for a more efficient and inclusive learning environment. Children learn best if they learn in their mother tongue in the early years. The challenge of coping with a language that is not used in the households is greater for children from marginalised communities, Scheduled Tribes in particular. Those who can afford supplementary training in an unfamiliar language gain a significant advantage over their poorer counterparts.
The NEP recommends that the medium of instruction until at least class five to be in the local language/mother tongue/home language. This initiative would be a great leveller for all those children; besides improving their learning and reducing the dropout ratio after class five.
Offering a wide range of choices of subjects to secondary school students would lead to a more holistic learning environment for the children. Streams like music and arts have been undervalued in the educational system for far too long. Although private educational institutions have realised their importance making them integral to their curriculum, government schools have continued to neglect them, dubbing them as “extra-curricular”. Underprivileged children in government schools have not been exposed to a whole new world.
The NEP has also recognised the huge educational potential of (Anganwadi) AWCs in India. There are close to 14 lakh AWCs in India but they have been predominantly looked at as nutritional supplement centres till now. This policy realises their potential as foundational teaching spaces. As AWC are largely used by children from marginalised communities, envisaging them as centres for foundational learning is a significant step towards a more inclusive pre-school education. Scaling up the infrastructure of AWC would yield dual results: Improved nutritional status of children and providing them with foundational learning.
Research shows that undernutrition is one of the biggest impediments in the path towards education of children from underprivileged households. Inadequate food and lack of nutrition not only compromises their immunity but also impairs their learning ability. Several studies have found clear association between school meals and educational performance. Introduction of breakfast in schools is a great step towards eliminating classroom hunger and universalisation of primary education.
A vision of an inclusive education system towards achieving universal education is one of the biggest highlights of the NEP. It sets the goal to achieve 100 per cent gross enrolment ratio in preschool to secondary level by 2030. Having a cohort of well-trained teachers is a pre-condition for achieving this. Other than the obvious measures of improving teachers training and increase in recruitments, NEP recognised critical gaps like urban-rural divide in the availability of teachers.
Recruiting teachers from local areas, providing them housing facilities and discouraging frequent transfers would lead to a more sustainable teacher-student relationship in rural areas. Making a provision for “special educators” for differently-abled children at the middle and secondary level is another novel step towards a more inclusive and equitable education system. Providing barrier free access to school infrastructure, providing them with appropriate technology assistance tool and creation of accommodation facilities for these children on school premises are all steps recommended in the policy towards creating an enabling ecosystem for differently-abled children.
The NEP recognises that socio-economic marginalisation and exclusion is multidimensional and that children from socio-economically disadvantaged groups (SEDGs) have been underrepresented in the education system. Categorising their exclusion on the lines of gender, socio-cultural and geographical identities, disabilities and vulnerabilities that include victims of trafficking, orphans, child beggars in urban areas, and the urban poor, the NEP has broadened the framework of looking at exclusion from a class-caste-gender lens. The recommendation to create “special education zones”, areas with large presence of SEDGs, would ensure inclusive actions in most of these areas.
The NEP substantially lays the critical foundation for a more inclusive school education. However, there are innumerable challenges ahead in terms of its implementation. And the implementation of the provisions will essentially depend upon a harmonious cooperation between the units of the federal structure.
3.3 Empowering families for inclusion
In Empowering Families, community-based prevention services are provided to strengthen the protective factors, or positive qualities in families. The services develop skills, personal characteristics, knowledge, relationships, and opportunities to help individuals and families deal with challenges and difficulties experienced in school, work, and life.
Empowering families strengthens families by giving them a voice and a choice. Strengths-based services are centered around the needs of each individual family. Focusing on the positive qualities every family has, the program supports the family as they identify and change habits and behaviors that challenge their ability to function in a healthy manner.
Involving parents is an important principle of quality, both in and out of the classroom. It is even more relevant in the case of inclusive education, which is much broader than formal education and should not only take place within the four walls of a classroom.
· Parents’ collaboration is not only of benefit for children: there are also possible gains for all parties, for instance:
· Parents increase interaction with their children, become more responsive and sensitive to their needs and more confident in their parenting skills.
· Educators acquire a better understanding of families’ culture and diversity, feel more comfortable at work and improve their morale.
· Schools, by involving parents and the community, tend to establish better reputations in the community.
Parental Involvement in Schools
• An important role to play – visiting the school, observing during classroom therapy sessions, participating in meetings
• Often have to overcome some teacher perspectives eg. feeling parents are intrusive
• Physical presence of the parents in the school is important
• Improved communication with teachers will positively affect development of social, academic and developmental skills of the child.
Here are some specific ways that schools can involve more parents, families, and communities in education:
• Survey educators and families to determine needs, interests, and ideas about partnering.
• Develop and pass family-friendly policies and laws [i.e., leaves of absence for parents/caregivers to participate in school or education-related activities; flexible scheduling to encourage participation by diverse families].
• Provide professional development on family and community engagement for school faculties.
• Offer training for parents and community stakeholders on effective communications and partnering skills.
• Provide better information on school and school district policies and procedures.
• Ensure timely access to information, using effective communications tools that address various family structures and are translated into languages that parents/families understand.
• Hire and train school-community liaisons who know the communities’ history, language, and cultural background to contact parents and coordinate activities.
• Collaborate with higher education institutions to infuse parent, family, and community involvement in education into teacher and administrator preparation programs.
• Develop an outreach strategy to inform families, businesses, and the community about school and family involvement opportunities, policies, and programs.
• Families do not have enough information about their child’s particular disability, its effects and its impact on their child’s capacity. This often leads to a sense of hopelessness. Early identification and intervention initiatives sensitize parents and community members about the education of children with disabilities.
However, the recognition that family engagement in education benefits children does not make clear how the involvement becomes a positive force. The first step for families to become involved in a collaborative way with schools is to promote a social and educational atmosphere where parents and partners feel welcomed, respected, trusted, heard and needed.
3.4 Sensitizing stakeholders and schools for inclusive education
In education, the term stakeholder typically refers to anyone who is invested in the welfare and success of a school and its students, including administrators, teachers, staff members, students, parents, families, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, city councilors, and state representatives. Stakeholders may also be collective entities, such as local businesses, organizations, advocacy groups, committees, media outlets, and cultural institutions, in addition to organizations that represent specific groups, such as teachers unions, parent-teacher organizations, and associations representing superintendents, principals, school boards, or teachers in specific academic disciplines (e.g., the National Council of Teachers of English or the Vermont Council of Teachers of Mathematics). In a word, stakeholders have a “stake” in the school and its students, meaning that they have personal, professional, civic, or financial interest or concern.
However, to make inclusive education a reality, a number of pieces in the system have to fall in place. It is true that the Government of India has made a significant fund allocation to achieve ‘Education for all’ through SSA. But to make it happen we need to have the stakeholders suitably prepared and involved. Some of the stakeholders include the regular teachers, special/resource teachers, school administrators, parents of children with special needs and parents of their peers who may not have special needs, children themselves with special needs, and those without special needs. In short, all sections of society who have a stake – directly and indirectly – in children’s education. The success of inclusion lies in the coordinated and collaborative efforts of all of the stakeholders.
Special Educators: With inclusive education initiated as a major step, a changing role of special educators is seen to be emerging. The educational programmes of special educators approved by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) prepare the special educators to become special teachers to cater to the needs of children with special needs in special schools. SSA has opened doors for them to be resource teachers in the inclusive education settings, where they are expected to visit regular schools periodically and function as partners to the regular educators in meeting the needs of children who have special needs. We cannot confidently say that they are equipped with skills for this task. As the roles change, the teacher preparation needs to undergo a change too. Perhaps, a short-term in-service programme may prepare them for this purpose, which can be offered by the Continuous Rehabilitation Education (CRE) programmes of RCI.
Class and subject teachers: In inclusive schools, though the responsibility of education of all children lies with the regular teacher, the resource teachers are expected to facilitate inclusive education by supporting the children and the teachers in regular schools. In some instances, it is seen that the regular teachers consider that children with special needs are the exclusive responsibility of the resource teachers. It is also observed that the resource teachers often do not communicate effectively or sufficiently with the regular teachers with regard to the education of children who need support. This results in lack of coordination between the teachers, ultimately defeating the purpose of inclusion. Many a time, the regular teachers are not prepared for inclusion. Therefore, their lack of knowledge and skills result in their resistance to change. It is essential that all the stakeholders are prepared suitably to have a smooth, seamless inclusion.
Peers: Children with disabilities and their peer group without special needs are to be prepared for inclusion so that the experience is not overwhelming for either of them. Children with special needs who are used to a protective environment with a small class strength of 8 to 10 children may be shocked when placed in a large class of 40 children. And those children who have not seen a child with a disability can react to the situation with varied emotional and behavioural responses ranging from pity and sympathy to bullying and making fun of their peers with special needs.
Parents: Parents also can have apprehensions if not suitably prepared. Parents of a child with disability may prefer the protective special class to the large regular class where their child may not get attention from the teacher. There have been occasions where the parents of a child without any special needs were afraid that their child might ‘behave’ in an odd manner by being with children with special needs. These are but a few examples of the many issues related to inclusion that need to be addressed, so that inclusion is realized in its true sense.
School Administrators: The school administrators are another important component to make inclusion a success. Accessibility to classrooms by providing ramps for wheelchair users, having brightly lit and ventilated classrooms so that children who cannot hear can see the teacher clearly when she talks and the children with low vision will be able to see better, having curtains in class so that a child with attention deficit does not get distracted and look outside while the teacher is teaching… all these are the responsibility of the school administrator, so that accessibility and barrier free environment is ensured. More importantly, the attitude of the administrator will impact the other stakeholders. Therefore, by ensuring that the administrators have a positive attitude towards inclusion, a major milestone towards successful inclusion can be achieved.
In short, the Government of India has taken a major step towards inclusive education. To make it a success, all the stakeholders need to do their best so that inclusive education will be achieved in its true sense. After all, it is the right of the child to get the best education. Let us make it happen and bring out the maximum potential in every child – the future leaders of our nation!
3.5 Teacher preparation for inclusive education
An important element of inclusive education involves ensuring that all teachers are prepared to teach all students. Inclusion cannot be realized unless teachers are empowered agents of change, with values, knowledge and attitudes that permit every student to succeed. Despite their differences in teacher standards and qualifications, education systems are increasingly moving away from identifying problems with learners and towards identifying barriers to learning. To complete this shift, education systems must design teacher education and professional learning opportunities that dispel entrenched views that some students are deficient, unable to learn or incapable.
One of the greatest challenges for teacher education is posed by the demands of inclusive education but surprisingly little attention has been paid to this important topic. The 48th International Conference on Education, Inclusive Education: The Way of the Future (UNESCO IBE 2008), identified teacher education as a key area for future development. In calling upon the international community to adopt inclusive education as a way to achieve the goals of Education for All (EFA), it recommended six actions specific to teacher education and development:
1) Reinforce the role of teachers by working to improve their status and their working conditions, and develop mechanisms for recruiting suitable candidates, and retain qualified teachers who are sensitive to different learning requirements.
2) Train teachers by equipping them with the appropriate skills and materials to teach diverse student populations and meet the diverse learning needs of different categories of learners through methods such as professional development at the school level, pre-service training about inclusion, and instruction attentive to the development and strengths of the individual learner.
3) Support the strategic role of tertiary education in the pre-service and professional training of teachers on inclusive education practices through, inter alia, the provision of adequate resources.
4) Encourage innovative research in teaching and learning processes related to inclusive education.
5) Equip school administrators with the skills to respond effectively to the diverse needs of all learners and promote inclusive education in their schools.
6) Take into consideration the protection of learners, teachers, and schools in times of conflict.
While these recommendations identify key areas for future development, they also raise important questions that must be addressed if future developments are to be meaningful and sustainable. For example, what does it mean to train teachers by equipping them with the appropriate skills to teach diverse student populations? How can the strategic role of tertiary education be supported in the pre-service and professional training of teachers? What kind of research in teaching and learning related to inclusive education is needed?
We know that global disparities in educational provision, and differences in teacher education and teacher qualifications within and between countries, exacerbate inequality in educational opportunity. But while the form and structure of teacher education may vary from one country to another, some common issues and challenges in providing a good quality basic education for everyone remain largely unaddressed. Inclusive education represents an area of teacher professional knowledge that is a legitimate area of concern for teacher education, regardless of national differences in form or structure. Under the auspices of inclusive education, the reform of teacher education can become more than a matter of type or level of qualification, because inclusive education is for and about everyone. It is therefore timely that this special issue of Prospects focuses on the concept of inclusive education in teacher education.
In a country where traditional forms of learning — such as blackboard teaching and reading from the textbook have been more prevalent, teachers will now have to unlearn their traditional approach to learning and once again learn how to use a new experiential framework while guiding students.The COVID-19 pandemic has given an unexpected push to online education in India, it facilitated the continuation of formal education as schools were closed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. In times such as these when everything is being conducted online it has become all the more urgent and important that teachers mainly those belonging to remote rural areas be enabled and empowered in all aspects of digital education which in turn will help the children with limited or no access to proper digital education which is also inclusive in nature. An optimal teacher training program will prepare teachers for the future, help them become more literate digitally and help in incorporating digital learning with the traditional methods.A change in the attitude of teachers can have an influential effecton the successful implementation of inclusive education, children will be more attentive and empathetic towards the needs of their peers.
Teacher Training programmes do not only deliver basic education to teachers but also help in creating awareness towards issues like educating of the girl child, women empowerment, awareness on the eradication of casteism, equal civic rights among all individuals, etc which will help lay the foundation of a better and promising India.