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It’s OK to Be Different!
By Anu Monga 22-Jul-15
Inclusive Education at Bangalore International School Bangalore International School (BIS) is a unique institution with a rich legacy, offering an education with a difference. BIS values each learner and provides opportunities for all students from diverse cultures with varied abilities to learn and grow together. Keeping the school’s Mission Statement in mind, learners with various abilities attend school alongside their typically developing peers, in a safe and happy environment. It’s OK to be different! Inclusive Education is a distinct feature of BIS. The Learning Centre (LC), or Special Needs Department, is one of the strongest departments at BIS. The LC team is made up of 11 special educators, a speech therapist, a developmental therapist, and an occupational therapist. Students from Early Years, Elementary, Middle, and High School sections are supported along a continuum based on their individual needs. These needs include visual impairment, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, along with emotional, behavioral, language, speech, and communication disorders. All students belong to a specific grade and they participate with their mainstream peers in academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities to the maximum extent possible. Academic inclusion varies with the extent of the students’ abilities and level of support required. Changes and adaptations at various levels are being made in the curriculum, but also in our community’s attitudes and values. Environmental modifications are also being made to ensure the full participation of students with special needs. It has been the school’s endeavor to provide maximum support to students in their own classrooms. Hence special educators work with students in a group in the mainstream classroom whenever possible. Remedial help is also provided in specific subject areas. Students who function at an academic level much lower than their mainstream peers attend small group instruction in the LC. Students with very severe needs follow a functional skills program. Group sessions on Social and Life Skills training are a part of their program. Some students also attend Pre-Vocational classes in Data Processing and Electronics Assembly. Students having difficulty with speech, language, and communication follow an intensive speech therapy program, while those with motor and movement difficulties are assisted by the occupational/developmental therapists. Experiential learning is a priority at BIS; students participate in hands-on activities, field trips, and educational visits. Assessments are done in BIS to establish students’ level of functioning and difficulty areas. Since the focus is on the individual, the special educators design a student-centered program flexible enough to meet each student’s academic, socio-emotional, and behavioral needs, thereby ensuring holistic development. An Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is prepared every semester for each student seeking support from the LC. Semester goals are set in all areas of academics and therapy is based on the student’s present level of functioning. Some students follow the grade curriculum, and some a modified/simplified one. The LC supports high school students by offering them guidance on subject choices and by making access arrangements for the Cambridge and IB exams. A few students follow an alternate Open School Curriculum, leading to a school completion certification. Students with varied abilities participate actively in the morning assembly, school events, competitions, and field trips. Periodic sessions on sensitization are conducted with teachers, parents, students, and support staff to help them gain insight into the realities of students with special needs. Therapists as well as mainstream and special education teachers attend workshops regularly to share professional experience and to gain more knowledge of prevalent practices. They have also delivered presentations on Inclusive Education at many conferences. Over the years, students have become independent learners and thinkers at BIS. They have developed wings and have flown to explore the world outside, while nurturing their creativity. It is the school’s belief in and commitment to Inclusive Education that has set BIS apart from most schools in India. The Head of School, teaching staff, administration staff, support staff, students, and parents of BIS are proud to belong to a school that “changes its rules of the game, so that all can play and all can win!” Anu Monga is Head of School at Bangalore International School.
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