By: Zeenat Syed
The aim of an inclusive educational environment is to ensure that all students are treated fairly and get equal opportunities. Successful inclusive education primarily is accepting and understanding student differences and their physical, cognitive, academic, social, and emotional diversities.
From yesteryears we know the value of a good mentor and teacher in our lives. It is imperative that one has a good teacher as a mentor but not every child has access to one. With the invent of educational technology, this gets resolved and every child can get the benefit of being tutored by experts online. In our country, girls from remote areas are still not sent outside for higher studies. I see technology as a big relief for such learners. Now, distance is not a barrier for good education anywhere. Students are making use of open source educational courses from universities like Harvard, Yale and others at affordable costs. Using technology helps in making means to allow all students feel welcomed, yet appropriately challenged and supported in their efforts. It has a tremendous role to play in bridging the gap between learners and education by addressing their needs in a constantly changing world. This is a revolutionary approach to learning process.
Technology makes classroom environment more invigorating with the use of audio visual aids, talking calculators, modern software and apps helping children overcome challenges in a streamlined pattern without discrimination. Learners are more engaged and participate actively in the classroom. Technology helps by aiding different learning styles, improving collaboration, increasing our connect with students, and overall preparing students for the future.
In fact, inclusive education is an integral component of the Government of India’s flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) program for achieving universalisation of elementary education. Notwithstanding this good intent, many children with disabilities (CwD) continue to miss out on opportunities for learning and have difficulty in accessing even basic education. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) play a vital role in dismantling the traditional access barriers and promote equal opportunities to education.
We are emphasising the role of mother tongue and regional languages in the curriculum and therefore also making necessary changes in the software audio base. The rapid growth and expansion of ICTs is creating new learning channels and formats that can enable children with disabilities to access education with ease and effectiveness. Our country has the cheapest data availability compared to its global counterparts which we should effectively make the most of.
It is simplifying our tedious activities and help us to steer our learners effectively through differential teaching methodologies. Not just teach effectively but the teachers can assess the learners instantaneously using apps and mobile phones and also carry out regular follow ups through technology. Especially in these pandemic times, technology has widely impacted education through online mode wherein teachers like me could use virtual whiteboards, virtual chemistry labs, math labs, problem solving tools, digital tabs and pens to reach out to learners in every way possible beyond the realms of the real classrooms. Special mention to some brilliant devices developed by C-DAC in India like Tarang — a digital programmable hearing device; Acoustic Torch — a personal navigation tool for the visually challenged; a personal tutoring system for the hearing impaired, tactile devices, magnifiers and screen readers to name a few. New start-ups for indigenous production of assistive devices are helping economy as well.
Still, there are many barriers that currently hinder inclusion in the learning environment; like non-availability of inclusive educational facilities, poor availability of affordable and accessible technologies customised to local needs, and lack of awareness and support. With immense facilitation provided by this futuristic approach, now all we need is appropriate training and support for all teachers in technology-assisted inclusive practices as well as supportive school leadership to be able to achieve an all-inclusive vision for our schools in India.
Thus, technology reaching out to remote areas and all sections of society is motivating learners to dream big and achieve accolades they desire. Nothing is impossible now if you strive to work hard.