The 21st century is witnessing huge change in terms of the way education is being imparted. Providing inclusive education in terms of access, equity and quality is one of the biggest challenges that we face today in India. With the RTE Act coming in, there is a need to provide inclusive education to all.
Talking about the need for inclusive education, Fatma Zakaria, chairman, Maulana Azad Educational Trust (Aurangabad) and juror, World Innovation Summit for Education Summit (WISE), says, “The three major factors of inclusive education are access, equity and quality. I feel we have not yet succeeded in providing even minimum access to education.”
The school dropout rate in the country continues to be alarming; the number of institutions that offer quality education is just a handful; and a large number of our graduating students — 7 million to be exact by 2020 as the Unesco report suggests — live outside their home countries in search of excellence.
“Inclusive education does not merely mean creating access; it also means a readiness to generate equitable access. Large sections of society, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, other backward class, minorities and women and the demographically underprivileged masses, who have not reached the national goal of 20% literacy even in 2011. I look at inclusiveness as an empowering strategy. Our policies must be directed towards the empowerment and selfsufficiency of the poor, the victims of caste, gender and ethnic bias,” stresses Zakaria.
In a diverse society such as India, social transformation through education isn’t easy. Elaborating on the challenges, Zakaria says, “We are a multi- pronged society; issues of ethnicity, caste, marginality and gender have somehow remained outside our policymaking framework. While marginal groups and women need special attention in the process of capacity building, we also need to generate awareness among the majority sections of society that contribute substantially to the making of the centre. The project of social transformation through education cannot be accomplished unless exclusion is systematically resisted against and inclusiveness is recognised as a national virtue.”
Providing education that bridges the gap between knowledge and skills is the way forward. Talking about how people from marginalised groups can be brought into the mainstream, Zakaria says, “I do not see how that goal could be achieved if minorities, women and people with special needs are either left out or simply ignored. Only awarding merit selectively or supporting the poorer sections of society indiscriminately cannot remove disparity. They could be brought into the national mainstream by creating equitable access. It would be a wise step to nationally identify centres and institutions that have a long and timetested history of educating these sections of society and create special endowments for them. Also educational institutions that are managed by minority groups should be given adequate infrastructure and knowledge resources.”