Monday, 27 March, 2023

Why Creating Inclusive Education Is Vital for Bangladesh?

Drs. Mira van der Wielen

Let me introduce Mahmood to you. He is a cute little 9-year old kid who loves cricket and enjoys playing football with his cousins. He is a happy boy at home, but his parents are shocked to learn that he is facing difficulties at school. Mahmood is far behind in ‘the syllabus,’ and the teacher is unsure how to work with him. Moreover, other children in the school avoid him. 

 There are hundreds to thousands of students in Bangladesh who are like Mahmood. These children learn differently; thus, they are often unsuccessful in a traditional classroom setting for several reasons. Usually, they are stuck in the back of a classroom, a few grade levels lower than their peers, and sometimes ignored. Most of the time, children with special abilities require individual attention; however, traditional classroom teachers cannot provide it due to the high number of students. Moreover, staff need to know specific methods and strategies to teach diverse students, but most teachers nationwide don’t know the best practices for handling children with special abilities.

And it breaks my heart to hear or witness such scenarios where these beautiful children have to tackle problems or be treated differently. I believe that we can do better! It is time that we, here in Bangladesh, start working on inclusion in education. The driving principle of inclusion is to make all students feel welcomed, appropriately challenged, and supported in their efforts. Inclusive education can take place when all students, regardless of their challenges, are placed in age-appropriate general education classes to receive high-quality instruction, interventions, and support that will enable them to feel successful. Moreover, according to UNICEF, no institution can omit admission of any student with disabilities for any reason in Bangladesh.

But it will not be easy to implement inclusive practices in school systems where academic success is the driving force and key performance indicator. As a result, we must tackle numerous roadblocks before creating an inclusive educational system.

Firstly, teachers and administrators need to learn strategies and methods to cater to the needs of diverse learners in the classroom. These varied methods include multiple ways of representing content to students and vice versa. Teachers must understand adequate teaching procedures, adapt instructions, and positively approach inclusion. Additionally, due to a lack of information, many parents are unaware of the benefits for neurotypical children and might oppose the idea of inclusive classrooms.

Now, I will highlight three benefits of why inclusive education is necessary for learners in Bangladesh. The first benefit is an enhanced educational experience. Students exposed to diversity in education are introduced to new people, languages, perspectives, cultures, and more. While this ultimately makes them more knowledgeable about the world around them, it also teaches them fundamental life lessons. The second benefit is that it prepares learners better for the workforce they will enter later in life. Several studies have shown that students’ exposure to other diverse learners substantially impacts their cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Additionally, 96% of employers from international companies deem employees to be comfortable working with colleagues, customers, or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. As we have dreams of our children growing beyond us, it would be a worthy goal for them to work at or even lead a big international company!

We have a team of professionals called ‘The Advancement Center,’ working with our diverse learners and supporting teachers daily. The unit supports teachers and learners to feel successful in inclusion. To help other educators to learn more about inclusion, we are organizing an ‘Inclusion Symposium’ on March 3, 2023. Teachers and administrators, experts and professionals working with children, and those interested in learning more about inclusion are invited to join. On the day, an inclusion expert from the UK, Daniel Sobel, will be our keynote speaker to inspire us further, as well as multiple workshops from different organizations to help master and learn more about how to work on inclusion in our schools in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I hope the symposium ignites a spark in education in Bangladesh that will set off initiatives to include more diverse learners in everyday classrooms around the country so that every child can have ambitions and dreams for their future and receive quality education to develop their skills and realize their full potential.

**The individual’s name mentioned in the article has been changed to protect privacy.


The writer is Advancement Centre Leader, International School Dhaka (ISD)