Book universalization of educational services to the children

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Last updated: September 9, 2019

BookReview on: Special Education Scenario in Britain and India By N. K. Jangira The Academic Press, India141 PagesAboutthe author: N. K. Jangira was Head ofthe Department of Teacher Education and Special Education at the NationalCouncil of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in New Delhi. Presently,he is an educational consultant to the World Bank, Delhi Office.

His main areasof research have been research, development and training in the areas of teachereducation and special education. He has been associated with several internationalagencies (UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, SIDA and ODA) as a consultantfor development and training programs in India and other developing countries. IntroductionEducatingthe children with special needs is a multidimensional issue that needs recognition,attention and conscious efforts from all fronts- be it the state, policymakers, educationalists, curriculum designers, teachers or parents. The book examines the impact of theefforts for universalization of educational services to the children withspecial need and recognizes the variable difference required and available indifferent countries and in different regions within the same country.

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Britainand India take the main focus of the study.Thebook is a collaborative work on the development of special education in generaland education the children with special needs in ordinary school in particular.It aims at identifying the developmental problems in widening the base of specialeducation, however, it should be kept in mind that the study and the policydiscussed within the papers presented are limited to the year 1985 or before. Yes,this points towards an outdated content when it comes to understanding the baseof education for special needs in its entirety but at the same time, itprovides a more informed and elaborated view about the foundation of specialeducation in the post independent India and the attempts to work out anoperating model for the new born country. This book has beendivided into four papers that were developed during the study visit of theauthor with the University of London, Institute of Education at London.

Thepapers cumulatively start with the conceptualization of operating model forspecial education in India post-independence followed by an intention to sparka serious debate in the direction of SE in the country. In my review of the book,I have restricted my analysis to the Indian context, not focusing on the statusof SE in Britain. This has been done consciously since; a) the data of thesurvey goes back to1950s with a local study of a school comprising of 3 teachersand 100 students, and b) it offers no insight in terms of comparison of therealities between the two countries.  ShortcomingsWhile mapping out the Indian scenario, the book includes asurvey by National Sample Survey Organization of the estimates of disabledpersons in India dating back to the early decades of Twentieth century and thearguments has been built upon the same. Neither the author has kept in mind theage group distribution of the disabled population that is missing from thedata. This results in a serious gap when it comes to the identification andintervention at different age levels.

Secondly, the authorpresents his views that “there is no policy document on special education” or “legislation”which doesn’t stand true to the present scenario thus adding to the gap for thepresent-day reader.  Status in India and challenges for thefuture growthWhile the awareness oninclusive education in schools throughout the country is still at an infancystage, the author comments on how the educational institutions are somewhatskeptical about having both special children and “able-bodied” studentsstudying in the same classroom. Highlighting a few concerns, he scraps out thevery basic problems that are being encountered. The lack of flexibility incurriculum, inability to fend for themselves and thus bullied by others in theclass, not getting enough attention by the peers or teachers, as well as beingvictimized by the insensitive attitudes of the school authorities are commonissues. Even today when, in policies, we have come a long way to the humanrights model of education, in practice, we still seem to be clung to thecharity, medical and the segregationist models in India.

That is why we have aminuscule population of the special needs students receiving higher education.Even in the primary and secondary education, the number is not very appealing.One cannot even start to talk about the conditions in rural India whichdisability continues to be associated to social stigma. This book attempts to analyzethe inclusive education in the Indian context with an aim to elucidate thedifferent perspectives in its understandings and various conflicts in itsconceptualization, while identifying significant gaps.

Inclusiveeducation, simply said, refers to all learners, young people-with or withoutdisability- being able to learn together in ordinary schools and educationalsettings with appropriate support services. However, the goal ofproviding quality education would remain elusive so long as the concept ofinclusion is not linked to the broader discussions on pedagogy, curriculum,participation of the children with special need in the classroom interactionand the attitudes of peers and teachers towards them.An inclusive curriculumrecognizes the need of schools to be more organized with the individualdifferences of the students and is flexible enough to enable students achievetheir goals. Implementation of an inclusive curriculum would require a numberof changes in the teaching practices, curriculum content, evaluation processes,teaching learning resources etc. It is important to take peers, parents,community and special schools into the ambit of education. In India, theconcept of inclusive education has a very reductionist and compromisedunderstanding, it is to integrate the learners or to send them to the sameschools as others. First of all, most of the schools, lack the basicinfrastructural facility to support the students, especially students withphysical handicap.

This discourages and pushes out the SEN learners from theschool. Secondly, there have beenno significant changes in the pedagogy; teachers argue that there are manybarriers and constraints- like larger class size, the task of maintainingdiscipline, the humungous task of completing the syllabus in time etc.- whichdoes not allow them to make significant changes to their teaching. Teachersalso feel an inertia for changing their teaching style as they feel that theincluded student is just one of the many in the class. Why would she change herpedagogy for only one child? There is hardly any scope for strategies-peertutoring, group activities, speaking slowly, lip reading, use of braille forvisually impaired students, clear and bold writing on the blackboards- whichwould make that one child feel comfortable with the peers, subject and theteacher.

Even in the inclusive set up, there is a hierarchy. One can still findvisually impaired or a few physically handicapped students in schools butlocating a speech impaired student or one suffering from cerebral palsy, autismetc. is to find a needle in the hay. The schools lackresources to cater to the special needs of these children. The child’seducation needs a whole school approach in which all members of the staff areinvolved in the development and problem-solving strategies.Other factors contributing to this situation are lack ofaffordability and awareness on the kind of educational choices available tochildren with special needs.

This includes having a curriculum that isappropriate for all categories of children, representation of these childreninto text books, teachers who have the ability to handle individual needs withinclassroom and thereby promote an environment where personal development, socialskills and student participation are strongly encourages.Theneglect on the part of the government could only be explained in terms of theexcessive commercialization and corporatization of education, as is exemplifiedeven more in the present day, where Indian is withdrawing from its role of awelfare society and becoming a market-oriented nation. Given the situation, itshouldn’t come as a surprise that the binaries between able-bodied, well-suitedfor the market and the people with special needs exists. One needs to answer whois included, into what they are included and why they are included? Are these children on the priority list of the nation?Had they been on the priority list, their condition would not be so deplorable,particularly in rural areas and among the lower socio-economic population,despite such policies, their insistence on inclusion, improvement in the healthcare system in the country.One important area whichneeds to go a long way is the role that training at both pre-service andpost-service levels has in the development of teachers’ support for inclusion. Theauthor calls such teachers as the “center of the scheme of SE” Teachers are notprepared in our country to understand the conditions of the students withspecial needs which results in an attitudinal rigidity.

It’s not about a sixmonth or one-year course that will enable the teachers to look at inclusion ina comprehensive way. Thus, when taken a bird’s eye view, one can find severalobvious loopholes in the way this entire inclusive education is taken forwardin Rashi Chauhan B.

Ed II YearRoll No. 81Inclusive Education

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