The UN-LEARN Workshop on Difference Learning for Instructors (09-10 April 2016, IIT Delhi)

UNESCO MGIEP, in partnership with Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT D) organized a workshop on Difference Learning for instructors from Saturday, 09 April 2016 to Sunday, 10 April 2016 at IIT Delhi.

Difference Learning applies to the 1 in 6 people worldwide who require their educational materials, teacher delivery, and learning assessment to be different from standard education models and practices.

Dr. Nandini Singh of the National Brain Research Centre of India defined different learners as those who have specific problems with the content and structure of learning materials such as:


  • language-based learning disability and the most common cause of reading difficulties.
  • affects reading and related language-based processing skills.
  • common condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language.


Young kids with Dyscalculia may have trouble:

  • sorting objects,
  • recognizing patterns,
  • doing puzzles,
  • understanding proportions (taller/shorter, bigger/smaller),
  • learning to count,
  • recognizing numbers
  • matching numbers with amounts


  • Children with Dysgraphia typically have motor and processing weaknesses that make it hard for them to get their thoughts down on paper — even when they understand the subject matter.
  • Signs include poor handwriting, difficulty sizing letters or keeping them in line, an awkward pencil grip, twisting the body uncomfortably or getting extremely tired when writing or drawing, rushing to get writing over with quickly and actively avoiding writing.

Sensory Integration disorder (SID) / Dyspraxia:

  • problems with hand–eye coordination, balance, manual dexterity.
  • can be as simple as difficulty in holding a pencil or ball.


Dr. Nandini Singh, National Brain Research Centre, India

Nearly 400 participants including 300 teachers, special educators and administrators from public and private schools in Delhi region attended the 2-day workshop and actively participated in the sessions.

International and national experts were invited to present on definitions,  symptoms, the technological interventions of screening, assessment and diagnostics including:

  • Australian Dyslexia Association,
  • Maharashtra Dyslexia Association,
  • AIM Institute of Learning and Research,
  • National Brain Research Centre,
  • Alpha to Omega Centre
  • Decoding Dyslexia

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. generate awareness on the different types of difference learning;
  2. create a support network of schools and organizations;
  3. create a toolkit with resources, points of contact, diagnosis and improvement; and
  4. encourage inclusive education

There were intensive discussions around the myths and facts related to the issues, evaluation and assessment models, leveraging the available support system and tips to handle a wide variety of children needs in classrooms.

All the participants of the workshop were given a set of two activity books—MakeSpace Theory Book and MakeSpace Practical Book—developed by Devesh Kumar of The Balloon Project. Apart from exploring definitions, these activity workbooks include innovative teaching methodologies and comprehensive exercises for the teachers.


Key findings from the workshop included:

  1. An alarming disconnect between extensive evidence-based research and existing practices in the area of difference learning and in literacy in general;
  2. Urgent need for universal screening for K 2 to not only address the students with learning differences, but also improve literacy of all students;
  3. A vacuum in the support systems, relevant products, and enabling frameworks for parents, teachers, policy makers, and the individual learners


Dr. Michael Hart, child Psychologist delivering the Keynote Address at the workshop

Taking the discussions forward, the necessary next steps that we need to take as a society are:

  1. Developing an enabling legislative or Policy Framework that would recognize that to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals on Education, transformative education systems measures inspired by Difference Learning would need to be applied to all learners;
  2. Building a global community SixthSpace platform of stakeholders for information, support and sharing of best practices
  3. support networks for schools, experts and parents;
  4. Expanding the reach of local language/mother tongue, multi-format assessment tools such as the Government of India Dyslexia Assessment for Languages of India (DALI) that been developed by scientific research organizations
  5. Producing resource toolkits and programmes for the extensive capacity building of pre-service and in-service teachers, standards development and certification of screening/testing organizations, and the private sector-led development of reading materials;


Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director UNESCO MGIEP

Dr. Anantha K Duraiappah, Director UNESO MGIEP remarked “To be the change we wish to see in the world, and to have every human to be functionally literate by the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, we must effectively reach out to every ‘1 in 5’ person who is a different learner and provide them with a dignified, high-quality, relevant, fun set of educational materials that allows them to reach their full potential.


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