It’s amusing how many of us believe that technology or teachers alone can make inclusive education possible. In pedagogy, these tools can be: play-based, project-based, constructive, hands-on, application-based, personalised, and so on.
And in the case of technology, the tools are: edtech tools for LMS, curriculum development, pedagogy, tools for disability, and so on.
While pedagogy and technology are important instruments, I think we miss the most basic/fundamental instrument of inclusive education, that is, the students themselves. Out of all the international/national schools I have visited, there’s only one school that I found in the midst of a forest in Tamil Nadu that showed how to envision inclusive education.
Students, with or without physical/intellectual disability, sit together in the same classroom and are taught by the same teacher. After all, how do you find special schools in a forest? Intriguingly, unlike in modern classrooms, here, I observed that the sole responsibility of making every student understand a concept lied with the teacher.
The teachers didn’t use ‘personalised pedagogy’ or ‘differentiated instruction’ in the classroom. In fact, after they are done explaining a certain concept, students take it upon themselves to ensure that each student learns the concept. In order to do so, they have discussions in their local language and explain to each other in their own ways.
Students have their own conversation mechanisms. They are not afraid of explaining a certain concept to fellow mates n number of times. They believe in each other and don’t care if other students have any disabilities. I saw them playing together, celebrating together and getting involved with each other on their own. Teachers didn’t have to be on top of them to teach them humanity and a feeling of community.
I usually come across schools where students compete with one another to get higher marks or higher positions. And then we advocate for better pedagogy and advanced technology as if that is the problem!
But this school in the forest doesn’t have the technology or an out-of-the-box pedagogy. All it has is trust and a sense of community; and it performs its part without even knowing that it was something extraordinary.
PS: Next time you get into your class, don’t just praise the one who got 100%, instead, ask the class how they “as a class” let one of their fellow mates get 40%.