Overcoming Classroom-Based Discrimination

Overcoming Classroom-Based Discrimination
The Single National Curriculum has been adopted in a couple of federating units to help bridge class differences. But how can we embed uniformity in young minds studying in the same class and help them in developing the same level of academic understanding? How can teachers help mitigate such disproportions?

For decades, educationists and learning centres from both public and private education sectors have been propagating a student-centric learning model. But unfortunately, only a few from the private sector have succeeded in embodying it in true spirit. Ever since the educational systems of Finland, Singapore, and Britain have made inroads into educational stream in Pakistan, schools have been utilizing names of learning models as marketing tools to maximize their enrolments. However, these learning centres fail to abide by their commitments and adopt traditional teaching practices e.g. selective study, rote learning, un-empathic teaching styles, uniform lesson plan etc.

Further, instead of developing inclusive teaching strategies, schools and colleges put more focus on brighter students to secure board positions, which help attract more admissions the following year.

It is an established fact that children experience mental health issues because of family problems that impede their comprehension abilities as well as inhibit their overall cognitive development. Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan requires school educators to focus on internalising all types of students and let them feel equally important. Teachers need to establish an empathetic relationship with pupils, especially the socially-fixed ones, and engage them in some interesting and entertaining activities before starting formal lessons.

Assimilation, integration, and synchronisation of every student in class activities may only serve this purpose.

Differentiated task is found to be an accommodating technique in meeting the learning needs of students. Three separate strategies should be employed on the three types of students i.e. high achievers, average and slow learners. These methods are differentiating by content, differentiating by process, and differentiating by model.

In the first type, a teacher can prepare a lesson plan equipped with an increasing level of difficulty or challenge from slow learners to average and high achievers e.g. filling incomplete sentences, writing with help of important words or hints, and simple question statements. In the second, teachers can use different modes of teaching, such as computer, library-aided lessons, board usage, and simple reading to cope with the particular learning needs of three types of learners. And in the third, teachers will make use of different products or projects with resources or experiments to help understand different levels of concepts, specifically of scientific nature, because it is believed that visual memories are easy to remember and possess lasting impacts.

Peer-mentoring is another constructive strategy to prepare and encourage students to tutor and mentor other students having special needs. It eases and simplifies relatively difficult topics. Then comes the ‘'I do, We do, You do'' technique which further instills in students a sense of responsibility, accommodation, and accomplishment. It is especially beneficial to children with individual needs. It gives them the support they need to keep up with traditional classroom activities.

Respect-based mutual interactions among classmates are useful in making classrooms all-encompassing. These relationships must be based on respect and goodwill. Basic moral conventions should be set, enforced, and promoted throughout the academic year. The students should demonstrate these traits not only in real-time conduct but in overall outlook. They should be taught to honour ideas and feedback of other students. Finding a student unusually domineering, the teacher must remind the class of the set rules and have an individual talk with the student about the potential impact of his/her impolite behaviour. The teacher's inattention to such a critical point is as an endorsement by fellow students. Timely response from teachers is productive in establishing a peaceful and caring environment in class.

The teacher should not signal that intelligence and ability are natural, fixed, and inbuilt traits. They are fostered through continuous guidance. When talking to students about their assessment results, it must not indicate that such manifestation of their exam is linked with their natural ability (or inability). Making such unnatural verdicts and analogies may term students' inabilities as incompetence or failure and can result in depressed performance both in academic and social fields.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner explains that human beings have eight different types of intelligence that push them towards their respective interests. It is said, “motivated, verdict-free, and learning-conducive environment can create an inclusive classroom atmosphere for all students”.

According to the UNESCO’s Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the teachers must value and embrace diversity – not just diverse aptitude, but diversity in ethnicity, religion, gender, language, socioeconomic backgrounds, and even academic readiness. So, their alteration of activities in ways makes them more useful in safeguarding honor of the class. Based on such evaluations, they should prepare need-based lessons and must make use of different visual and auditory aids. Depending on the circumstances, this may mean that teachers need to set different standards and parameters for each student in classroom. The teacher needs to involve all his/her students in an activity or lesson when possible, but consider altering the way that lessons must be completed for students whose disabilities would prevent them from completing it in the same way the rest of the class does. In this way, a teacher can adequately challenge and encourage all his/her students, based on their abilities.

Integration and participation are key elements for increasing student retention and encouraging success. The type of classroom environment we seek to create and the teaching techniques we use can produce a setting that either supports or obstructs diverse students. Studies continue to confirm the positive impact of open and inclusive classroom environments and the improved learning that comes with it. This has a direct effect on students' sense of fulfilment and their perseverance and preservation.

Therefore, it is the time for teaching practitioners to realign their resolves and pledges to incorporate inclusiveness in classrooms.

The writer currently works for Beaconhouse School System and can be reached at khaliq.nawaz.awan@gmail.com