Toward Inclusive Education: Achieving our educational goals means understanding the needs of all children
To be called “lazy”, “stupid” or simply “difficult” by teachers, peers and parents at a young age can be devastating. Imagine giving your best and being judged like this. Even worse, you have no understanding why you don’t learn like the other children in class.
For children with difference learning, this is the reality of daily life. One that has nothing to do with intelligence, but rather the way cognitive connections are “wired” neurologically – in a way somewhat different from the majority.
One in every six people has some form of difference learning. The most common is dyslexia, a disorder involving language processing. Other forms include problems with mathematics and writing.
It is well-documented that children with learning differences do not do well in traditional educational systems. They require a different approach, which accommodates and adapts to the specific learning difference the child exhibits.
Unless special attention is paid to these children, the Sustainable Development Goal on education will be not achieved in a majority of countries. Equally important are the social consequences individual children with learning differences suffer under the present education systems. As highlighted earlier, these children are often categorized as “stupid”, “slow” or “lazy”. This leads to social exclusion, bullying and ostracizing by peers, family and society.
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
A 2008 study conducted by the Science Division of the British Government found that dyslexia and dyscalculia affect between 8 and 15 per cent of children in the United Kingdom, and can reduce lifetime earnings from between GBP 81,000 to 114,000. The irony of the situation is that many children with difference learning have higher-than-average intelligence. Some notable luminaries who suffered from difference learning include Galileo Galilei, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla. Children with difference learning can be invaluable members of society, if given the right tools and support in their early years.
MGIEP believes that addressing the needs of children with difference learning offers a unique opportunity to build the competency of understanding, respect and appreciation between the children and the rest of their peers in school. It provides the Institute favorable conditions to put in practice how inclusive education is a necessary condition for building peaceful and sustainable societies. Many of the Information Technology pedagogical tools developed by the Institute lend themselves to children with difference learning.
Transforming the education system in such a manner will allow mainstream schools to provide a learning platform that breaks down barriers across learning types and provide the equitable access to education that is a fundamental Sustainable Development Goal.
We are, in this issue of The Blue Dot, privileged to read from some of the world’s best experts on the subject describing the challenges at hand and suggesting ways and means of addressing the lacuna present in curricula and policy. As always, we dedicate a special section to reflecting the voices of young people in our discussion. I am especially honoured and delighted to present a foreword from a young entrepreneur who has not allowed his neurobiological dyslexic condition to prevent him from pursuing his dreams to help others.
Please do not hesitate to share your feedback and new ideas for The Blue Dot.
Anantha Kumar Duraiappah
Director, UNESCO MGIEP