Inclusive education is an evolution waiting in the wings. Implementation remains a significant challenge still. Continuous lobbying and education at the global and national level is resulting in moving the needle away from traditional notions of special schools and education. On a lighter note, the concept of ‘Frenemies’ applies here, as different systems and processes work together to make this revolutionary shift.
‘Three’ key highlights where we at Perkins are involved deeply in Inclusive Education, and why it is close to our hearts. We believe in stepping up through certain key steps that involve and create an ecosystem for inclusion.
Here are three key steps by which we aim to move the needle for change –
1. Be the Change: Globally in certain geographies, inclusive education has a remarkable effect on researches, policies, and execution on field. In India, Inclusive Education is emerging from the shadows of perception. A comprehensive interpretation of inclusive education will have great effect in revolutionizing the education system in India. We are on the threshold of this transformation and Perkins India is an integral part of this movement.
2. Model Schools and Model Programs: Collaboration, assessments and innovation committed to continuous revision of practices is needed to arrive at inclusive models and systems. This allows schools, teachers and caregivers to leverage each other’s strengths and capabilities, unlocking innovation for growth.
Perkins India is geared up to deploy the Perkins Model School approach. Our Model School approach relates to each school’s unique needs – contextual and in response to local needs.
A Model School in the Perkins context follows our core principles on children and education –
3. Advocacy: We begin unfolding this new landscape with education and counselling of parents with the help of state governments and support systems. Our intent is to make parents recognize the need to provide their children with education, nutritional meals and other support systems. They will be encouraged to enroll their children at the recommended age of ‘four years’ in inclusive schools so that they live their childhood, learn and grow with peers.
Perkins India’s bootcamp for Model Programs, supported by our Partners – Blind People’s Association (BPA) and Pratham was held on 4th and 5th July, 2023. Highlights in the next newsletter.
Along with my colleagues, I took part in # C20’s National Conference for Education and Digital Transformation for Disability held from May 20 – 21, 2023. It was wonderful to be part of a system that believed in championing the cause for Inclusive Education and Empowerment of Children with Disabilities. My idea of ‘inclusion’ that makes me smile is the journey of little Julie from UP. She used to sit at home, watch other children play or listen to their stories from school. She longed to be a part of their world, wear a uniform and sit in a classroom. Julie’s world changed when Perkins India’s local team stepped in. Post assessment, they enabled Julie to go to the local school in her own wheelchair.
Corner to the Centerstage
Suddenly Julie’s world changed – from the confines of her small house to a young and confident young girl who goes to school in her own wheelchair, sits with her classmates in a regular school, learns, laughs, smiles, chitchats and plays with her friends. This transition has brought about a seachange in her attitude to the world and her learning capabilities. Her happy face and the new cloak of confidence she wears is a tribute to her efforts at integration and inclusion. Julie and the ecosystem around her debunks beliefs that only special education can be applied to children with disabilities. Yes, Julie going to school is a game changer in Perkins India’s narrative.
This to me is the ‘Julie Effect’! Let’s replicate the Julie effect in many more classrooms across the country.
As we gear up to apply Perkin’s well-researched, tried and tested framework of PQI – Perkins Quality IMPROVEMENT PROCESS and our Model Programmes, I am optimistic of the social impact that this regenerative model will have. We believe that ‘Education’ should be applied locally and uniformly. The core principles should center around inclusion, human-centered innovations, diversity, local languages and narratives, cultural diversity and diverse learning abilities. A regular system of monitoring and feedback loops should be affordable and reach the last mile.
My call to all our readers and partners is to cluster together to usher in a ‘Julie’ effect in the life of every child with disability. Let’s learn more, share our learning and passion for promoting inclusive education, build resilience and be part of systemic change.
And, before I sign off, here’s a quote from Helen Keller which is in essence our motivator to sail the high seas.
“I was delighted to find that nearly all of my new friends could spell with their fingers. Oh, what happiness! To talk freely with other children! To feel at home in the great world!” Helen Keller when she arrived at Perkins.
The Perkins India team catches up with a busy, delighted Dr. Vijay Shankar Sharma as he soaks in the sunshine a new Educational Leadership Program (ELP) Scholar from Perkins International.
What does it mean to be an ELP Scholar at Perkins?
Just seems yesterday that I was with my class of 2023, rushing between classes, assignments, campuses, holding discussions and dreaming of making a difference to children with multiple disabilities in my country. As I look back on my career spanning 23 years, I feel a sense of pride at where I stand today.
What are your thoughts on the specialization you have received?
When I got selected for ELP-2023, I knew this was a chance to learn more about MDVI and DeafBlindness, from some of the best minds. In India, we have several recognized training institutes offering teachers training programs in single disability areas, but very few institutions offer training in multiple disability specializations. I am geared up to utilize my learning to train teachers in MDVI and DeafBlindness.
What did you learn by being a part of the global ELP pool?
The Perkins’s ELP program is 102 years old and the primary reason why the world over, we have many experts in MDVI and DB. I am an idealist and a dreamer – If all the ELP Scholars come together, we can change the World and make it more conducive for children with MDVI and DB. Despite difficult situations, many of us continue our good work. It would be wonderful if the same program can be made available in other countries/circumstances through global collaboration.
How are you forging your new pathways, applying all that you learned?
I learnt a lot about communication, assessment, family involvement, institutional collaboration, societal involvement etc. I will be incorporating such topics in the existing syllabi of teacher-training programs in single disability areas and also in proposed programs for preparing teachers for MDVI and DB.
What does it mean to you personally to be an ELP Scholar?
Perkins India has long been committed to working for children with disabilities. We will continue to drive programs, impacts and apply our expertise to address learning challenges for children with disabilities.