What is inclusive education? What do these words mean? Does it mean getting all children to school? Or does it mean ensuring that all the children are learning at the same pace? Maybe it might mean making accommodations to give an equitable opportunity to children with special needs... There actually not seem to be a clear understanding on the meaning of these words.
“Inclusive Education”-This phrase seems like a contradiction in itself!! How is it possible to impart even basic literacy skills to all children which includes the marginalised?? Children who are geographically, physically, intellectually, socially, economically…marginalised are all supposed to learn the same way? Under one roof? How is it even possible? Is it not better to have different sets institutions for each group? They will be comfortable there among their own… These are some of the arguments that we get to hear when we start talking of inclusive education. But these arguments do not make any sense.
Inclusion is not a choice. It is a necessity. Isn’t society supposed to be inclusive? How can we hope to have an inclusive society when children while growing up are not exposed to diversity? Diversity in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, abilities and all the other colours of diversity in all its glory. Children exposed to this rich diversity will learn to appreciate and celebrate the differences! They will grow and expand their horizons and fit in easily into this beautiful multi-hued world of ours.
How to make inclusion possible? One of the primary ways to make this possible is to use the Universal Design of Learning. Universal Design of Learning is a way of thinking about teaching and learning in such a way that it gives all learners an equal opportunity to succeed. This design offers flexibility in how students access the instructional materials, engage with it, and are able to learn effectively. Before understanding what UDL is, it is better to be able to understand what it is not. The word “universal” might imply that the teacher has to find one way to teach all kids. But it means exactly the opposite!
The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to make learning available for all students, helping them overcome their barriers to learning while giving all students equal opportunities to succeed. It is about making teaching and learning flexible so that it can be adjusted to every student’s strengths and needs. UDL benefits all children.
UDL may change how we think about what prevents students from learning. Instead of thinking that something needs to change about the students, UDL looks at the learning environment. The learning environment can include barriers to learning that include the design of the curricular goals, assessments, methods, and materials. In this way, the learning environment itself can be “abled” rather than “dis-abled”.
This should be the most important concept that needs to be imparted to all educators so that education can be truly inclusive!
- Lakshmi Narsimhan, she has been a special educator for over 20 years. She has worked in mainstream schools across Delhi and Bangalore. She is currently working as a freelance consultant and a remedial teacher.
Note - This article was originally published in The PolicyFide