History of Education System
If we truly acknowledge the history of the education system, it will be amply clear that historically the system was created to manufacture factory workers for the ever-increasing industrial world. The system effectively was created to segregate based on a capitalist notion of “skills” and “functionality” in a society. The education system worked over the centuries precisely to create more workers and feed into the growing industrial era.
This system therefore would not ever consider any human being that does not fit into the working class or was not effectively creating more capital for the owners of the industries. This meant systemic ouster of human beings born with different abilities or born with disabilities. Over the past few years while the discourse has begun on the needs of students with disabilities. It has laid down the massive scale of problems that exist for the students living with disabilities. Right from entry to the system to finding methods to manoeuvre the system the problems are varied.
Students with disabilities still do not find reading materials that are accessible or any means to keep up with the non-disabled students. The Persons with Disabilities Act in India clearly laid down that most children living with disabilities will not have access to any earning opportunities because of the non-existence of the same level of infrastructure.
Globally the discourse on making learning systems equitably accessible to all young person has led to the conversation on inclusive education. Inclusive education lays down that every education space should consist of all students and not limit to students with no disabilities. It lays down fundamental responsibility with the state to provide the same opportunities of learning to children with disabilities as to children with no disabilities. It aims to remove the barriers that students with disabilities face to ensure that they become part of the mainstream. One of the primary pillars of inclusive education is effective integration of students because they all have to live in the same world. When children without disabilities grow up without peers who have visible and non-visible disabilities they don’t grow into empathetic adults and then don’t pave the way for further inclusion.
Integrating students allows for building compassion, empathy, peer bond for them to learn about each other and the ability to fight challenges together. Solutions that are built for students with disabilities are created without any relevant data sets of their lived experiences in schools/universities and thus it becomes that much more important to integrate them into the mainstream system.
When students with disabilities build their own learning journeys along with their peers, they create more knowledge about living with disabilities and help create more effective solutions in the world. Mainstreaming education choices for students with disabilities is a long journey, one that starts with acknowledging them as an integral part of the society and not a burden on their families and larger society. Formal places of education like schools and universities bear an enormous responsibility of making the spaces physically, emotionally, psychologically, technologically accessible to ensure that students with disabilities find everything they need to thrive. Students at a young age do not necessarily learn to discriminate until they are shown so by adults and therefore integrating students with disabilities early on provides an opportunity to do much more.
While physical accessibility is a key component of ensuring that students with disabilities can at least enter spaces of education the next level of integration requires changes in the learning plans and pedagogy which is more inclusive and takes into account the needs of all the students. Education spaces have always been built by adults for students not taking into account their individual needs because education is standardized factory model and for integration of students with disabilities it will require more than just broad strokes of braille, sign language, audio books; infact it will mean re-imagining the spaces keeping into account visible and also non-visible disabilities.
Dispelling the myths around disabilities and the abilities of individuals is a critical aspect of ensuring that students are not discriminated against. The pivotal step is to see them as self-fulfilling individuals who don’t need alms or help and rather create a space of acceptance and dignity. Technology today has made impressive strides and making technology work for integrating students with disabilities doesn’t require much ingenuity as much as state will and community persistence.
Our education system has never been geared for inclusion by design and for it to make a change in its key foundations requires determination, imagination and radical grit.
What We Do
Project DEFY, a holistic education organisation in Bengaluru don’t think any human beings, young or old, are “empty vessels”. They believe that everyone has their own skills, talents and dreams that are waiting to be unleashed. Based on the principles of experiential learning and a self designed education, their “Nook” learning spaces enable everyone to find their calling and chase their dreams.