Wherever we work in pursuit of a more equitable education system teachers talk about obstacles. The barriers to inclusion have been constantly listed, and mulled over for as long as I can remember. Negative attitudes from teachers, lack of professional training, poor resourcing, insufficient time, these are recurring themes that arise whenever we discuss the need for change in schools. Blame culture also has a significant presence in this field. Teachers in that school aren’t interested, the government doesn’t invest, parents object to having these children in schools. Each of these is cited as a reason not to progress.
Working with a group of dedicated students here in Bangalore is a tremendous antidote to the negative expressions that we often hear. Their enthusiasm is infectious and their ability to focus on a task and see it through makes our job as tutors relatively easy. Today began with them looking at how structured teaching approaches could be developed in classrooms to support pupils who experience difficulties with learning. They designed visual timetables, analysed classroom environments, developed positive approaches to visual structure and shaped plans for pupils with a range of individual needs. Such is their commitment to the tasks we set that getting them to break for lunch is all but impossible.
The afternoon was occupied with a consideration of how schools might best collaborate with families and the local community to enhance the inclusion of all children. Rights and responsibilities were at the core of the discussion with students considering how empathetic approaches could be developed for the benefit of all parties. The ability to decentre and see the perspectives of others is an important skill for any teacher who wishes to promote inclusive teaching and learning, and these were certainly in evidence throughout this afternoon’s class. A statement of actions to be taken for the support of families was written by each group and related back to the principles they established earlier in the week.
A key to successful inclusion is most certainly the development of partnerships based upon shared responsibility. In our current market driven education systems it is easy to lose sight of the reason why most of us entered the teaching profession, which was founded upon a commitment to children and their families. The principles that our students have devised for the development of inclusive schools need to be kept at the forefront of our thinking in all that we do. Once we sacrifice our principles for material gain or influence and forget our responsibilities or the motivations that originally set us on our paths within education we are destined to build failing systems and to let down those for whom we have a responsibility. There will be times for sure when we are called upon to make a decision to either do that which is expedient, or that which is right. Let’s hope we have the courage to follow the correct path.
Having seen the way in which our students have participated and shared in learning this week I am convinced that they will move forward with a high regard for the principles they have established. I only hope that we as tutors and organisers of this course can live up to their high expectations.
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.