Inclusive education is an approach that focuses on educating children with disabilities and learning disabilities along with typically developing children. As a policy it seeks to address the learning needs of all children with a specific focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion. It implies that all learners with or without disabilities must be able to learn together through access to common pre-school provisions, schools and community educational settings with an appropriate network of support services. This is possible only in a flexible education system that assimilates the needs of a diverse range of learners and adapts itself to meet those needs.
To fully adopt the inclusive education policy, there are certain responsibilities that must be fulfilled at various levels within the school. At each hierarchical level starting from the board of trustees of the school right up to the helping staff, members must take upon certain roles to ensure thorough fulfilment of the education needs of the students with special needs. This article aims to outline some of these roles and responsibilities with an objective of providing direction and awareness for adequate implementation.
Board of trustees –
The implementation of any policy within the structure of a school first begins from the board of trustees. They set out broad guidelines along with a structured budget that enable the staff to understand the focus areas of the school. Therefore, it is imperative that the board of trustees set up a separate fund that would enable the development of adequate infrastructure to accommodate special needs students within the school. Some examples would include making structural alterations like creating ramps near staircases, provision of bathroom facilities that accommodate special needs, salary allocation for a counsellor, special educator in the school and purchasing tool-kits, games that focus on the holistic development of students.
Perhaps the most critical role in successful inclusive schools is the role of the principal. The school principal’s active participation is the single most important predictor of success in implementing change, improving services, or setting a new course. The school principal is central to facilitating systemic change and leading faculty to adopt new attitudes and new practices. Some of the changes that can be incorporated by the principal are – provision of teacher trainings to ensure that they are trained to adopt strategies in teaching that can cater to all students, hosting regular awareness seminars for parents and teachers on related topics, ensuring a fair school admission policy, assigning special education staff to grade level or department teams, conduct regular meetings to review individual student needs, providing teachers with adequate planning time for their classes and ensuring students receive appropriate concessions in the classroom and exams based on their needs.
The responsibilities of a teacher in the implementation of an inclusive education policy are diverse. Teachers must ensure that they remain vigilant towards any discrimination or bullying that might prevail in the classroom towards students. Strict action must be taken against such behaviours. Teachers must utilise various learning materials in the class to ensure learning for all the students. They must encourage the participation of students that might require added support to ensure the confident development of each child. The implementation of buddy systems is another strategy that can enable students to form friendships and empathise with one another’s weaknesses and strengths.
Helping Staff –
The role of the helping staff in the school is also crucial for inclusion. Some of the responsibilities of the helping staff would involve guiding special needs students to their respective classrooms, assisting them to their buses or vans, assisting them in the washroom, ensuring that no student is bullied and being present on the playgrounds to help any student that might fall or get hurt.
Implementing an inclusive policy requires a united effort from every level of the organisation. However, with rigorous planning, a thoughtful approach and clear objectives it is possible to ensure that this policy can be adequately implemented through the school. Members in the school must independently take up their responsibilities and ensure that the needs of each student can be individually catered to so that no student gets left behind in the learning process.
– By Munira Patni
Munira Patni is a psychologist, graduated with a Master’s in Psychology (Clinical Specialisation) from Maniben Nanawati Women’s College. She is currently working as the school Counsellor for Podar International School through Drishti. She has been an active participant in raising mental health awareness through her blogs and videos on social media. She aspires to play an integral role in improving the approach towards mental health for citizens in India.