The word blue besides the colour it represents has many other connotations. If you are blue-blooded, you are a lofty royal, if you watch blue movies, it is not exactly decent but if you are feeling blue, you are sad, dejected and not happy at all.
So can we name a lot of our schools blue? I would think so, as a lot of these schools cause a lot of our children and their parents to feel blue. And blue is a dark and depressing feeling.
We have been working with a lot of schools who have clearly laid-out policies that are supposed to foster children who are struggling with various deficits. They even have a school counselor to help children with emotional issues. The national policy of inclusion also clearly states that every child has a right to be in a school despite low- average academic skills. Then why is it that schools have no patience for children with poor grades? Why is it that every Parent-Teacher meeting is the source of so much tension for the parents? As a learning disability professional, I receive a lot of calls from parents who prior to a meeting prepare themselves for any eventuality, namely the school asking the child to go, as he will be unable to cope with school. They also ask for advice. But the reality check is that the schools are so focused on 100% results that all know that no appeal will be received. If a child fails especially at the secondary level, then the school does not care whether the child has a school in the future or not. They are asked to leave.
Why is it that the schools do not feel protective about their students whom they have admitted in their family fold? Does one throw out a weaker child away?
In the Indian school system, we do have a lot of provisions for children who have learning disorders and behavioral difficulties. By law all schools are required to have special educators and facilities for the academically weaker child but usually it is in print. It is a rare school that deals with it. I know of one school in Koramangala and I call it the good-hearted school. It has an open school and a remedial centre and strives to work in the interest of the child. But sadly, a lot of children are ignored, as there is always a teacher who is not sensitized towards learning disorders.
The solution for the schools lies in being totally transparent about the students’ profiles on their website. If they do not have a 100% result, it would be visible to the new applicant that there are some children who are dyslexic or have specific learning difficulties.
Alternatively, the school can have an NIOS department where open schooling is available to the child or there are lists of centres in the city where the child gets more personalized instruction which is sometimes essential as the child has a lot of deficits in terms of comprehension, reading skills, writing skills and speed of processing.
I have long been dreaming of running a centre, a so-called bridge school where we train children to be better readers, thinkers and writers. In this centre for a fixed duration, the focus could be on literacy skills and learning to read and write successfully. But the important element in this set-up would be an agreement with the school that once the child has attained literacy skills, he should be taken back to his class.
Is this a pipe dream? Perhaps it is. Because this idea requires cooperation from the school and a promise that the child could be readmitted once he has attained literacy skills. It also requires understanding from the school and parents that the child may not achieve the required target to come back to school in which case, he can continue to be in at the bridge school where the National Open Schooling system would continue to educate them with the allowances prescribed for the child.
Presently, the school results are like a corporate balance sheet where their reputation hinges on their 100% results
Would it not be a better annual report that also speaks about the number of students who overcame their reading and comprehension difficulties every year?
Would it not be heartening for the schools to declare how many differently abled children they have helped?
I admit that the concept is difficult to achieve but it is not impossible at all so long as we do not look at learning-disabled children differently. After all, in the garden of life, don’t we pick up the weaker plant and shower it with more manure and place it in a different spot so that it receives more sunlight and water to thrive?