Crossing the final hurdle

Tutors should always be available to offer support and advice as students approach the final hurdle of the MA dissertation.

Tutors should always be available to offer support and advice as students approach the final hurdle of the MA dissertation.

All that stands between you and a Master of Arts Degree in Special and Inclusive Education now is the dissertation. I have heard myself saying this a few times over the past few days as our dedicated and hardworking students enter the final straight towards gaining their degrees. If the degree was awarded solely on the grounds of commitment towards children we could make the award today. But it is rather more complicated than that.

The good news is that this week we are working here in Bangalore with our second cohort of students on this programme. The third cohort will be with us again next Monday and we are already attracting potential candidates for the fourth group. Today each one of our students can look to the achievements of our first cohort who have completed their studies and gained their degrees.

This final hurdle, the dissertation, inevitably seems larger than those that have gone before, but we are confident that we have a group of students working with us who will stay the course. Our work with them to date has already provided plenty of evidence that they have the professional skills and attitudes to succeed. Conducting a piece of original research in the area of inclusive education affords opportunities for these dedicated individuals to extend their own learning to new levels and become leading professionals in the field.

Just as with the first group of students, these colleagues are not only developing new ideas, but are putting these into practice in their classrooms. Their expectations of all learners have risen and they are questioning and challenging pre-conceived ideas about children who have previously been seen as “problems” in their schools.

Mary is an excellent tutor, always there to allay the worries of students as they progress through the course.

Mary is an excellent tutor, always there to allay the worries of students as they progress through the course.

Each time we come here to Bangalore we are met by students eager to tell us of the impact that their work is having. New child friendly approaches to assessment, changes in lesson planning, developments in individual education plans and differentiated learning have all been identified as progress made in schools. As this current group prepare their dissertation topics, examining the research methods they will use and discussing the samples with which we will work, we grow ever more excited by their ideas and focus.

The impact of dance on children’s well-being in a special school, the effects  of the 25% quota under the Right to Education Act in two contrasting schools, inclusion in a Montessori environment, parental attitudes towards children with special educational needs, and the impact of participation in a running club on the self-esteem of children with disabilities gives just a brief flavour of the variety of research interests being pursued. The students on this course are surely at the cutting edge of developments in this field here in South India.

As the numbers completing this course increase we will have a strong community of teachers all working towards a more equitable approach to teaching and learning. Keeping them together and maintaining the momentum will be a critical part of ensuring that all of their hard work benefits the maximum number of children. Already we have students who are preparing for further research as PhD students either with us in Northampton or in Indian universities. Their research will undoubtedly add considerably to the increasing efforts to make inclusion a reality within this country.

For those of us fortunate enough to teach on this course, the prospect of having a fine group of alumni who will assume leadership roles in promoting inclusive schooling, is one that we cherish. I am sure that in years to come we will be celebrating further successes achieved by both these colleagues and the children who they teach. They may be slightly apprehensive about their dissertations at present, but we have every faith in their ability and motivation to succeed.

If you think you are up to the challenge and want to join the course, we are recruiting now for September 2015. Do get in touch.