Social equity and inclusion in light of NEP 2020

NEP 2020 is in complete agreement with the provisions of the RPWD Act 2016 and acknowledges all its recommendations with regard to school education
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Education is the single greatest tool for achieving social justice and equality. Inclusive and equitable society is characterized by an opportunity to dream, thrive, and contribute to the nation without any inhibitions and fear.

The education system must aim to benefit Indian children so that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of circumstances of birth or background. This case study will help us to conceptualize social equity and inclusion.

Long back when I was an MPhil student in PG Department of Education we had a dedicated helper lady working on casual basis. She belonged to socio-economically disadvantaged group (SEDG). One day she was accompanied by her daughter.

My supervisor Late Professor N.A Nadeem told this girl “Beta, in which class do you read”. She was shy and did not answer. Her mother said she was a student of class 5th standard and had left her studies six months ago. My supervision was keen to know the reasons why she was a school dropout.

I was assigned the job to prepare a detailed case study of this girl with the objective she could be rehabilitated back to school. During that period one of my fellow  scholars Khalida was working on PhD programme on the topic “An Objective Based Evaluation of Primary Education in Kashmir”.

She had constructed standardized achievement tests for various grades. I administered a standardized achievement test meant for class 3rd students to this girl.

Post test analysis revealed that she was lacking foundational literacy and numeracy skills. She could not read the basic text and struggled in doing basic mathematical operations. Gradually I developed rapport with her.

One day she opened up and told the investigator why she does not like to join back the school. She said that the teachers working in the school labeled her from the occupational perspective of parents and caste; she was insulted in front of the whole class. Once during winter she had arrived school late. Without asking her the reasons for late coming she was made to stand outside the class bare footed for 3 hours in a harsh winter.

Back home she got critically ill and was admitted in a hospital; it was a nightmarish experience for her. After this ugly episode she never attended the school.

I discussed the whole case with my supervisor  who was also the chairman of Kashmir University Model High School. He decided to admit this girl in Kashmir University Model High School. I remember the day when I was sent to KU Model School to get the admission form for this girl.

When I got the admission form Prof Nadeem filled it. Next morning there was a meeting in the Dean Chamber of Education regarding the finalization of some research synopsis.

Prof Nilofar Khan from the Department of Home Science was one of the members there. When Prof Nadeem handed me the admission form I remember Prof Nilofar Khan handed over the admission-cum-annual fee from her own pocket and advised the girl to work hard.

Both the parents were counseled to show keen interest in the studies of their girl and attend parent-teacher meets regularly without any inhibitions.  Meanwhile I was assigned the job to provide remedial teaching to this girl.

We had such an accommodative organizational climate in our PG Department of Education, that I could use any PG classroom for providing remedial teaching to this girl. At times I had access to the Dean chamber to hold my classes.

My fellow scholars helped me in this noble endeavor. We maintained a close liaison with the class teachers of this girl, and monitored her growth trajectory which was showing an upward trend.

For almost two years I provided remedial teaching to this girl. She mastered the basic tools of learning. She received love and warmth from the teachers of KU Model High School.

During this process I found her mother a lady of great quality with seeds of gratitude deeply ingrained in her. This academic journey continued. On 10th of November a result notification vide No: CUS/RESULT/1/V1/22/102 was issued when the girl completed her graduation with distinction (83.80%) through Government College for Women MA Road.

Due to some domestic compulsions the girl has decided to continue her PG Education through Directorate of Distance Education University of Kashmir and aspire to qualify JRF NET and PhD. Hearing these successful stories is a real tribute to my supervisor Prof Nadeem.

A multiplicity of factors, including lack of access to quality schools, poverty, social mores & customs, and language have a detrimental effect on rates of enrollment and retention among the socio-economically disadvantaged groups.

Children from tribal communities often find their school education irrelevant and foreign to their lives, both culturally and academically; minorities are also relatively underrepresented in school and higher education this issue needs to be addressed on priority by chalking out tangible intervention strategies.

Scholars in PG Department of Education need to work on these critical and grey areas. Children with Special Needs (CWSN) or Divyang, need to be brought in the ambit of mainstream education by providing access to quality education as received by their normal counterparts.

Exclusion and discriminatory practices need to be demystified by attitudinal mobilization. Regarding Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), foundational literacy and numeracy, access, enrolment and attendance is a matter of serious concern among underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.

There has been various successful policies and schemes such as targeted scholarships, conditional cash transfers to incentivize parents to send their children to school, providing bicycles for transport that have significantly increased participation of socio-economically disadvantaged groups (SEDGs) in the schooling system.

One-on-one teachers and tutors, peer tutoring, open schooling, appropriate infrastructure, and suitable technological interventions to ensure access can be particularly effective for certain children with disabilities. These successful policies and schemes must be significantly strengthened across the UT of Jammu & Kashmir.

Schools providing quality ECCE reap the greatest dividends for children who come from families that are economically disadvantaged. Meanwhile, counselors and/or well-trained social workers that work with and connect with students, parents, schools, and teachers in order to improve attendance and learning outcomes have been found to be especially effective for children in urban poor areas.

Data shows that certain geographical areas contain significantly larger proportions of SEDGs. Also, there are geographical locations that have been identified as Aspirational Districts which require special interventions for promoting their educational development.

There is an urgent need to conduct survey research in our UT of Jammu & Kashmir to identify regions where there is a large population from educationally-disadvantaged groups. They should be declared as Special Education Zones (SEZs), where all the schemes and policies should be implemented to the maximum through strenuous efforts, in order to truly change their educational landscape.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 defines inclusive education as a ‘system of education wherein students with and without disabilities learn together and the system of teaching and learning is suitably adapted to meet the learning needs of different types of students with disabilities’.

NEP2020 Policy is in complete agreement with the provisions of the RPWD Act 2016 and acknowledges all its recommendations with regard to school education.

In-depth Research conducted in PG Department of Education University of Kashmir by Prof Mehmood Ahmad Khan by using standardized tools reveal there are significant category of students who are gifted underachievers, there is urgent need to establish pace setting institutions for them. 

To address the educational aspirations of gifted underachievers we need to have additional Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (pace setting institutions) and Kendriya Vidyalayas especially in aspirational districts, Special Education Zones, and other disadvantaged areas.

Pre-school sections covering at least one year of early childhood care and education should be added to Kendriya Vidyalayas and other primary schools in our UT of JK particularly in disadvantaged areas to strengthen foundational literacy and numeracy skills.

NEP 2020 lays stress on the capacity building and pedagogical skill upgradation of teachers working at the preprimary level.

In this context Directorate of Distance Education University of Kashmir is offering one year model pre-primary teacher training programme (DPPTT); the activity oriented curriculum of this programme is in consonance with NEP 2020 guidelines and has a  marked distinction in the country .

Directorate of School Education and University of Kashmir should sign a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) so that backlog  of untrained primary teachers working in schools  are enrolled for Diploma in  preprimary teacher training programme  offered by Distance education Kashmir university for their capacity building and skill enhancement.

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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