Dr. Nidhi Singal

The possibilities and challenges of inclusive learning and teaching in Indian classrooms: critical reflections from government schools in two states

Dr. Nidhi Singal
In recent years, there have been growing emphasis on educating children with disabilities in mainstream schools in India. While issues of equity are paramount in the access debates, little consideration has been given to issues around quality of learning. In this paper, drawing on data collected from mainstream government schools in Haryana and Karnataka, the emphasis will be on examining how teachers make sense of changing learner diversity in their school settings. In both states, data were collected through semi-structured interviews with primary school teachers, narrative classroom observations and researcher reflective notes. Findings emerging from the analysis are interrogated through Martha Minow’s (1985) notion of ‘dilemma of difference’. Adopting a dilemmatic perspective enables one to adopt a nuanced reflection on how teachers are working in spaces fraught with tensions around normative assumptions about learners, pressures of completing the syllabus and lack of professional development opportunities. While teachers articulate with considerable conviction the purposes and values of inclusive education, they struggle to make sense of these in the realities of their classrooms. The paper concludes by outlining ways in which dilemmas around ‘location’ and ‘curriculum’ might be resolved with actions taken at various levels in the policy arena.