Special schools or inclusive education?
Great expectations are for everyone. Children with disabilities and their families have dreams, visions and anticipations as anybody else would have.
Each tower has a foundation and for the tower of aspirations to be strong, the right foundation is laid at school. Recently a number of mainstream schools across the country have begun opening up their doors to disabled children. With more and more disabled children finding their way into mainstream schools, people have begun to wonder if special schools would soon become an entity of the past. With inclusive education becoming the order of the day, will special schools have a role to play?
The situation is very much like what happened when the government first talked of computerisation in the Indian railways and banks, people had wondered whether the computers would displace the current employees and systems. Nothing of the kind happened, computers have only made the railways and the banking services more efficient and there was no unemployment created.
It has been the special schools that have helped disabled persons break out into the world and embark on the path of self-realisation and self-expression. Now it is hoped that the inclusive schools will trigger off the process that will help disabled persons merge into mainstream life and empower them to be integral part of it.
Inclusive education must be viewed as a logical step forward in the evolution of education of persons with disability. It must not be viewed as a threat to special education. On the other hand Special Schools and special educators should seek to build on this positive development, they with their expertise and experience could strengthen the inclusion efforts by helping mainstream schools in addressing the special needs and challenges posed by the presence of disabled children. This could very well lead to a wi-n win situation.
Organisations like National Association for the Blind, Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (AADI, formerly Spastic Society of Northern India), Vidya Sagar and few others have reorganised their set ups. They have realigned themselves with mainstream schools, helping them with inputs like training of teachers, provision of learning material, support in the classroom, curriculum adaptation, development of teaching aids, evaluation process etc. This emerging partnership promises a great deal and appears to be heading in the right direction.
(Excerpted from Within Walls, Without Boundaries: A handbook of inclusive education for educators, administrators and planners, by Madhumita Puri and George Abraham , published by)