One of the motivations for the adoption of the Single National Curriculum in the country’s federating units was to help bridge class difference across different streams in the education sector, but questions remain about classroom-based discriminations and inequalities. How can we embed uniformity in the young minds studying in the same classroom and help them in developing a similar level of understanding in their academics? How can teachers help mitigate such disproportionality?
For decades, educationists and learning centers from both the public and private sectors have been propagating the student-centric learning model but unfortunately, only a few from the private sector have so far succeeded in embodying it in its true spirit. Ever since the educational systems of Finland, Singapore, and Britain have made inroads in the Pakistani educational stream, our schools have been utilizing the names of these learning models primarily as marketing tools, to maximize their enrolments; however, in times of practice, these learning centers fail to abide by their earlier-made commitments and opt for traditional teaching practices such as selective study, rote learning, unempathetic teaching styles, uniform lesson plans – to name a few.
Further, instead of developing inclusive teaching strategies, schools and colleges put more focus on brighter students, to maximize their chances of securing board positions, which they consider helpful in attracting more admissions in the following years.
It is an established fact that children too experience mental disturbance because of their family problems and when they are in school, their social or behavioral fixations not only impede their comprehension abilities but also inhibit their overall cognitive development. Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan requires school educators to focus on internalizing all types of students and let them feel equally important. The teachers, in this regard, need to establish an empathetic relationship with their pupils especially, with the socially-fixed ones and engage them in some interesting and entertaining activities before starting their formal lessons.
Dealing with the psychological needs of every student of a class can give students an encouraging start in their day-to-day schooling. Assimilation, integration, and synchronization of every student of a class in class activities can serve that purpose.
Differentiated tasks are found to be a very accommodating technique in meeting the learning needs of all types of students in a class. In this method, three separate strategies should be employed on the three types of students – high achievers, average and slow learners. These methods are differentiating by content, differentiating by process, and differentiating by model. In the first type, a teacher can prepare a lesson plan equipped with an increasing level of difficulty or challenge from slow learners to average and high achievers such as filling incomplete sentences, writing with help of important words or hints, and simple question statements. In the second, teachers can use different modes of teaching such as computer and library-aided lessons, board usage, and simple reading to cope with the particular learning needs of all three types of learners. And in the third, teachers will make use of different products or projects with resources or experiments to help understand different levels of concepts, specifically of scientific nature, because it is believed that visual memories are easy to remember and possess lasting impacts.
Peer-mentoring is another constructive strategy to prepare and encourage students to tutor and mentor other students having special needs. It eases and simplifies relatively difficult topics. Then comes the ‘’I do, we do, you do” technique which further instills in students a sense of responsibility, accommodation, and accomplishment. It is especially beneficial to kids with individual needs; it gives them the support they need to keep up with traditional classroom activities.
Respect-based mutual interactions among the classmates are useful in making classrooms all-encompassing. These relationships must be based upon respect and goodwill and for the purpose; basic moral conventions should be set, enforced, and promoted throughout the academic year. The students should demonstrate these traits not only in their real-time conduct but in their overall outlook too. They should be taught to honor the ideas and feedbacks of other students.
Finding a student’s demeanor silencing or denigrating, the teacher must remind the set rules to the whole class and then also have an individual talk with the specific student about the potential impacts of their impolite behavior. The teacher’s silence or inattention at such a critical point often taken as an endorsement by the fellow students. Therefore, timely response from teachers can be very productive in establishing a peaceful and equally-caring environment for the whole class.
The teacher should not pass any message signaling intelligence and ability are natural, fixed, and inbuilt things. These traits are, rather, prepared, worked on, and fostered through continuous guidance and so holds a tendency to grow and change over time. When talking to students about their assessment results, it must not indicate that such manifestation of their exam is linked with their natural ability, or inability. Moreover, making such unnatural verdicts and analogies may term students’ inabilities as incompetence or failure and can result in depressed performance both in their academic and social fields. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner explains that human beings have eight different types of intelligence that push them towards their respective interests.
A motivated, verdict-free, and learning-conducive environment can create an inclusive classroom atmosphere for all students.
According to the UNESCO’s Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), teachers must value and embrace diversity – not just diverse aptitude, but diversity in ethnicity, religion, gender, language, socioeconomic backgrounds, and even academic readiness. So, their alteration of activities in ways makes them more useful in safeguarding the honor of the whole class. Based on such evaluations, they should prepare need-base lessons and must make use of different visual and auditory aids. Depending on the circumstances, this may mean that you’ll need to set different standards and parameters for each student in your classroom. The teacher needs to involve all their students in an activity or lesson when possible, but consider altering the way that lessons must be completed for students whose disabilities would prevent them from completing it in the same way the rest of the class do. In this way, a teacher can adequately challenge and encourage all his/her students, based on their abilities.
Integration and participation are key elements for increasing student retention and encouraging success. The type of classroom environment we seek to create and the teaching techniques we use can produce a setting that either supports or obstructs our diverse students. Studies continue to confirm the positive impact of open and inclusive classroom environments and the improved learning that comes with it. This has a direct effect on students’ sense of fulfillment and their perseverance and preservation.
It is the time for all teaching practitioners, whatever capacity they are in, to realign their resolves and pledges to incorporate inclusiveness in their classrooms.