The idea of “inclusion”, or integration and equal access, has become a hot topic with many educationists. In the context of schools, Section 12(1)(c) or the Right to Education Act has called for 25% reservation in all non-minority unaided private schools to move towards greater social inclusion of students from different backgrounds. However, many schools are still struggling to find out how to address their specific needs and integrate them fully.
As discussed in a previous post (read here: http://righttoeducation.in/blog/the-rte-blog/2014/06/17/project-patang-s...), Centre for Civil Society has launched afterschool learning centres named Patang, which will provide support to both students and parents from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Teachers at these centres are trained to teach based on student need and incorporate different activities into their instruction, making it more accessible to different students. The hope is that by providing differentiated support after school through a more student-centric approach, students will receive more need-based attention and will further excel in school. Some teachers observed a marked increase in confidence, saying students have begun asking questions in class, participating in discussions, and their test results show significant improvements.
Though students are showing progress here, several schools are still struggling to foster a truly inclusive learning environment. Many schools argue that students from economically weaker backgrounds are fundamentally different and it is idealistic to even think they will integrate completely into their new, more privileged environment. Teachers are still singling students out as the “weaker students”, calling them by name or by economic status in classrooms. Though students may not understand the meaning of that phrase exactly, calling them out separately automatically indicates a separation. Parents of economically weaker students have also complained that while high income parents receive a full half an hour to discuss their child’s progress in school, teachers spend very little time explaining to them what is happening and how they can help. This cannot be attributed entirely to teachers – parents who may not have been through a formal school structure also have trouble communicating in English and understanding school systems. However, teachers need to be trained to better handle mixed classrooms and diverse student needs.
Therefore, the school management has to innovate and think out of the box to actively include the students, teachers and parents for a more inclusive school. Though, inclusion is complex, a dedicated school management with the will and vision for complete integration can take the first step in making our society more socially inclusive.