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How inclusive are ‘inclusive’ schools?

DNIS News Network - The issue of inclusive education was recently debated in the Capital.

Recent education seminars held in Delhi examined the issue of inclusive education. The 32nd annual meet of the National Progressive Schools Conference, held from 25-26 February, discussed the theme Social consciousness An educational responsibility.

Held in the first week of March, North-South Dialogue III was centred on the theme, Towards a global alliance on inclusive education. Educationists and activists from India and abroad aired their views and suggestions on inclusive education. Several workshops were held during the week to debate and educate on issues like policy and the lack of systems, inclusion in secondary schools, differentiation of needs, parents and attitudinal disability, and media sensitivity and awareness.

The debate on inclusive education has reached new levels with researchers discovering that inclusive schools cater mainly, to what they call, soft disabilities. After completing a survey of 11 inclusive schools in Delhi, Dr Nidhi Singal, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, observed, The very concept of inclusion here is flawed. It is selective and whether or not a special kid will be made a part of the mainstream depends largely on whether the kid looks normal. Thus, the most number of special kids one encounters in these schools are the visually or hearing impaired because these are soft disabilities. Teachers do not consider themselves accountable the same way they do for regular kids.

Statistics reveal that there are about 2,500 special schools in India, capable of accommodating about 100,000 children annually. However, the total number of disabled children in the country is estimated to be anywhere between 6 million to 30 million. If mainstream schools do not practice inclusion as a priority, then chances of bridging this gap are very bleak.