Inclusive Education

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THE JOURNEY TOWARDS INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN INDIA
PRESENTED AT SEISA UNIVERSITY.
ASHIBETSU SHI, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN 9TH JULY 2005
By
Pramila Balasundaram
Founder-Director.
SAMADHAN .NEW DELHI. INDIA

EDUCATION IN ANCIENT INDIA
In tracing the evolution of education in India one needs must begin with the system of general education and its beginnings of what today we loosely term “education” as it was understood and practiced in ancient India. The earliest recorded system of education per se is found in the Rig Veda, which broadly deals with the philosophy of life and the practices in learning (generally speaking, the word Veda means” to know.”) It is called the Vedic Era in the history of education in India and is thought to be almost 5000 years old.

During this period education revolved around the system of Gurukuls. These Gurukuls or Rishikulas were the seats of learning and students were required to live with their “guru” or teacher and learn by precept as much as by actual study and debates. In this ancient system of education (the guru-shishya parampara) all children were taught together, be it under a shady tree or in the Gurukul (school ) ,whether normal, gifted or physically or intellectually disabled and were seen as worthy of the benefits of education, each according to her or his abilities. It was inclusive education in the truest sense. There were no special schools catering exclusively to specific disabilities or learning difficulties. Students found incapable of academic learning were given options to learn other occupations, which they could do easily, such as tending cattle, gardening or housework. This was rightly seen as an opportunity to be usefully employed and was not thought derogatory but prevented the hierarchy of the educated and the uneducated. It is argued that providing for persons with disability was based on the theory of Karma and a way towards a better life in the next birth .Whatever the motivation the fact remains that even as far back as 187 BC mention has been made of mental retardation (Garba Upanishad) ,Patanjali included disabled persons for yoga therapy, and in the 4th

and 5th
C BC .during the Maurya Dynasty, Kautilya
passed an edict banning both verbal and behavioral abuse of persons with disabilities recognizing their right to property and employment . Later King Ashoka established hospitals and asylums .But a significant milestone was around the 1st

C B.C according to a legend which tells us the story of a king who was told that his three sons were “dull witted”. The crucial question now was “Who would look after his kingdom after the king was no more?” So, he began a nation wide hunt for someone who would be able to tutor his dull witted sons. The search ended, we are told , with Visnusarman a courtier who assured the king that he would devise special ways of teaching the royal pupils .The legend goes on to tell us of how Visnusarman developed his strategy for education using a collection of animal fables , which taught the princes matters related to diplomacy and values honored universally This resulted in “The Panchatantra ”, the ancient Indian collection of animal fables from around 1000 BC, and is perhaps the first book on special education.

So, in India, we have a rich cultural legacy for inclusive education and India has always been and is still today an inclusive society in the sense that a very wide variety of cultural and religious beliefs exist side by side. Even today, small rural schools provide education for all children under one roof, little realizing that they are following a system of education newly rediscovered in the West termed “Inclusive Education”. The tragic fact seems to be that somewhere on our way towards modernization we have lost this unique system of education.

The Vedic Period was followed by a period when Brahmanic influences took gradual control and the...
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