January 11, 2017
This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Christina Singh who is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education at the City College of New York.
The Step by Step school is a private inclusive school welcoming to all children who need support. The school is made up about 50 professionals who are all committed to inclusion. One core belief of the Step by Step school is that "students learn best in a respectful, supportive community of trust where each student's learning needs and abilities are understood and accommodated as fully as possible." At the Step by Step school, inclusion is well executed - inclusion of children as well as inclusion of communities.
As we entered the gates of the Step by Step school, I could tell what we were about to see was going to be different than the Pratham community-based centers. The grounds of the school were well groomed and lined with pots of plants. Children's art work hung on the pillars leading the way into the school. Upon arrival, an image of Mother Saraswati greeted us at the door. Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, musi c, arts, wisdom and learning. As we walked through the school children's art work was displayed on the hallway walls. The hallways were long and extending into different directions. As we peeked into one classroom, we saw children engaged in story time. We passed by the computer room where children were playing mathematical games. In the art room, children were painting pottery they had made from clay. We entered a special education classroom specifically designed for autistic children. The classroom teacher told us that he set up his classroom in a way that would support the children and allow them to complete classwork without verbal instruction. He told us that the reward for the children was completing the actual task. This made me think about the extrinsic reward system in America where a child would get a sticker or star for completion of a task.
Tagore's Theory of Inclusive Education promotes the idea that "education is a relational process between the child, teacher peers and nature (environment)" (Mukherjee, 2013). At the Step by Step school, this is well represented as we saw the school and parents sensitize and raise awareness about children with special needs. Professionals at the Step by Step school help students to reach their full potential academically as well as holistically, along with the help of parents and communities near and far.