Ed-Innovate I Innovate to Include

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Educational Innovations Series #2

(This article is a part of the Educational Innovation series, by Pukhraj Ranjan, which explores global innovations that are helping solve critical issues in K12 education with the hope to spread it to the Indian education landscape and beyond.)

“A lot of different flowers make a bouquet.” — Muslim Origin

As an Indian growing up, I have heard the phrase “unity in diversity” a million times. However, I am often surprised by the absence of it in practice, both in my country and worldwide. For me, the inclusivity of our society shows in how we treat our helpers, our drivers, our employees. It shows in the kind of empathy we hold people up to as well as what reactions or judgments we presume by someone’s looks or CV alone. Additionally, how do we react and what do we say when our sons want to become fashion designers instead of engineers and when our daughters want to become radio jockeys rather than gynaecologists?

Inclusion in education is highly influenced by what is considered the safe-track. Any child who is doing well in school and getting good grades — while maintaining a positive behaviour — is considered aspirational by teachers and parents alike. A child not fitting that box can automatically feel the exclusion and the talk of unity in diversity is immediately forgotten. If we, as educators, promise to value diversity and practice inclusion, it must be demonstrated in the words we use with our kids, inside and outside the classroom. Further, it must show in how we treat our children with special educational needs and disabilities, with un-gendered sexualities, with varied socio-economic backgrounds as well as from diverse geographical homes.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As per UNICEF (2010), Inclusion requires responding to the diversity of needs among all learners, through increasing participation in learning, cultures, and communities, and reducing exclusion from and within education. It involves changes in content, approaches, structures, and strategies, driven by a common vision that covers all children and the conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all of them.

Our research team at HundrED recently published an extensive report called Every Child to Flourish, where we identified and attempted to understand global perspectives on improving education. While exploring the scope of inclusion and diversity, I noticed myself majorly thinking about students with SEND (Special Educational Needs & Disabilities). But conversations around inclusion should include a broader spectrum of support for students at even the most minimal to extreme risk. At HundrED, we have split innovations meaning to include as innovations supporting causes around:

  • SEND
  • Gender
  • Rural, Distance, and Homeschooling
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Identity
  • Socioeconomic Equity
  • LGBTQIA+

Additionally, as educators it is crucial to address and assess barriers to equitable education, which can range from Social Factors (poverty, gender, migration/mobility, health/nutritional status, conflict), Sectoral Factors (lack of materials, legal and policy barriers, numbers and attrition rate of teachers, school safety) to Infrastructural Factors (lack of transport, long distance from/to school, speed of rural development, seasonal factors like flooding/rains) (UNICEF, 2010, p. 7)

Having laid out the breadth of what inclusion includes, as well as the difficulties in practicing it, there is value in celebrating diversity and supporting inclusion. To start off, children who know to be open and accepting will grow up to make the world a kinder, more loving place. In classrooms, inclusion and specified supporting strategies will help hold all children to high expectations (as they now will have their own goals and plans) while making learning and teaching fun and engaging. In school, an atmosphere of acceptance helps students to flourish and set goals they are excited about while supporting and encouraging their friends. An inclusive practice at home builds children’s confidence and self-esteem. In short, the list of benefits is long.

However, our teachers, schools and parents still struggle with practicing inclusion. As promised, I am here to share a few of my favourite innovations and resources which hopefully can help in starting everyone in this mission of loving, accepting and encouraging our children.

[mkdf_blockquote text=”It is not that innovative solutions and practices don’t exist. It is simply that we may not be aware of those who are changing the narrative.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

1. Interactive Diversity (USA): (Don’t) Guess My Race makes learning about race and identity fun, educational and meaningful to everyday life while.

2. Equal Opportunities (Russia): This project involves participation for everyone. Be it teacher or student, no matter what their qualification is.

3. Speed School(Ethiopia): The Speed School program employs an intensive, child-centered approach to reach the most marginalized populations.

4. BRAC Boat Schools (Bangladesh): BRAC Boat Schools are the product of a simple yet powerful idea: if underserved children living in isolated areas.

5. Lexplore (Sweden): Through eye-tracking and artificial intelligence, Lexplore makes it possible to identify children with dyslexia in time.

6. Initiative for Peace (Singapore): An initiative to train young people to become peace-builders, with the aim of facilitating peace conferences for youth.

7. Afghanistan National Institute of Music (Afghanistan): Afghanistan’s first institute of music train children in traditional Afghan and classical Western music, while providing a high-quality academic education, regardless of gender, social circumstances and ethnic background.

8. NaTakallam (Lebanon): NaTakallam connects displaced people — primarily Syrian refugees — with students around the world, to provide affordable, flexible and tailored language practice, intercultural exchange, and experiential learning opportunities over Skype.

9. Worldreader (USA): Worldreader champions digital reading in under-served communities to create a world where everyone can be a reader. They feature over 40,000 digital books, stories, and teaching materials in 43 languages to use, for free and through a mobile app.

10. Microcampus(China): A fully immersive travel programme to connect young people growing up as expatriates in Shanghai with the local, rural community.

It is important to clarify that innovations that support inclusion are ones to celebrate as they propel the education system towards a society that accepts and supports differences and variety of students, teachers, and communities while grounding the work in the needs and aspirations of the students.

Please note: These are some of my favourite innovations that also have the official endorsement of HundrED as they have been interviewed, researched and recognised in their Global 2018 collection. However, these are only some examples from around the world that are working in the Diversity and Inclusion space.


Pukhraj Ranjan is an Indian educator based out of Helsinki, Finland. She is a Teach for India 2010 cohort and staff alumni. An Educational Leadership graduate from the University of Jyväskylä, she is currently working with a not-for-profit educational organization, HundrED.org as their Global Community Manager. She believes in education as a means of understanding self and reaching one’s true potential, in edu-connections and collective power. She is also a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective.

Additional Resources

5 Benefits of Inclusion Classrooms Studies show that all students benefit from the resources available in an inclusion classroom. Here are five of many.
How Can We Make Education A Rich Experience For Everyone – Not Just The Privileged? Education can help in one of the biggest issues of our time – the fact that we are quickly becoming once more a polarized global society between those who have and the ones who do not.
Here’s How to Help Your Kids Be Kind and Inclusive People Six questions that will help you raise kind and inclusive kids.
Want Kids To Be Happy? Teach Them How To Communicate What can we learn from the longest study in happiness in order to help our young people stay happy.
Why Should Dyslexia Be Difficult? Sharing new technologies that present opportunities to quickly diagnose children and provide useful information about children’s reading abilities and practices.

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An Introductory Course in Public Policy (Sneak Peek)

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A message from Vandita Morarka, Founder and CEO:

This is a very exciting month for us at One Future Collective! We’re launching our first introductory course in Public Policy, in collaboration with St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and Forum for Research on Civic Affairs.

Every aspect of life, from the boardroom to the bedroom, is a result of policy action. This course helps participants gain an introductory understanding of public policy. It will inform participants on how they can engage with policy, either to increase or amplify the impact of their own work — whatever the arena may be — or to explore public policy as a career path. We will examine basic concepts of policy, its evolution, social policy, technology and governance, and so on.

The course also involves active experiential and practice-based components, so that participants learn about the subject through a practical, real-world approach. It will also give participants a chance to gain exposure to networking and mentoring opportunities from industry leaders. You will get the chance to interact with a variety of speakers and mentors, ranging from an ex-Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, lawyers, directors of not-for-profits, academicians, to practitioners from leading social impact consultancies.

 

Takeaways from the Public Policy Institute, running on 4-5th and 11-12th August 2018.

 

Course Details

The classes will be held over two weekends, with over 20 contact hours. Participants will be provided with a certificate at their successful completion of the program. The fees for the program is 2000 INR for students and 5000 INR for others. Those interested can sign up here.

Dates: 4, 5, 11 and 12 August 2018

Timings: Saturdays: 1pm to 7pm; Sundays: 9am to 7pm

Venue: St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai

For queries, please write to us at info@onefuturecollective.org or call / WhatsApp at +91 9082301339.

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One Future Collective at the Urban Thinkers Campus (Mumbai)

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Safecity hosted the Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) on June 21st, 2018 at ISDI Parsons, Mumbai in partnership with Developmatrix, The Urban Vision, Tata Capital, ISDI Mumbai, the US Consulate Mumbai and the BMW Foundation. Jessica Xalxo from One Future Collective reports:

The UTC is meant to be a place of sharing, learning and defining the way forward through individual and joint commitments to an action plan for cities which are hyper localised, community-driven, practical and implementable. The highly interactive sessions of the day achieved this as representative voices from the city – citizens and students – as well as voices from the authorities – government officials, CSR persons and NGOs – brought their thoughts, opinions and ideas to the UTC platform on ‘Creating a Resilient and Inclusive Mumbai– the topic of action and discussion.

Photo by Safecity @pinthecreep

The UTC started with a panel that discussed how cities could be better designed for women. Nappinai N.S. (Advocate, Supreme Court of India), Shalaka Joshi (Gender Lead, South Asia – IFC), Sia Nowrojee (Program Director, UN Foundation) and Harshad Bhatia (urban designer and architect) weighed in on this panel moderated by Meghna Pant. “Both the physical as well as online space is equally important, both need to be safe and inclusive“, said Nappinai N.S., emphasising how harmful constructs of the digital space mirror the cities and spaces we live in, often leading to acts of violence against women, transpersons and other marginalised identities. A member of the audience suggested that the media could play a role of aid and change by practising sensitivity and responsibility in their portrayals of the city and its citizens. Citizens also opined that better public and open spaces such as parks also play a crucial role in making a city women and child-friendly. “We need regulations for making places safe for women. Have judicial intervention while planning urban spaces. We need to create awareness of rights, needs and wants. Give legal backing for implementation,” said Advocate Nappinai N.S.

One Future Collective participated in 2 of the 8 innovation labs at the UTC: Lab 4 – Impact of Pop Culture on Gender led by Paromita Vohra of Agents of Ishq and Lab 5 – Creating Inclusive Cities for All led by Harish Iyer.

Photo by Jessica Xalxo. Pictured: Paromita Vohra from Agents of Ishq.

Breaking down gender and its influence on pop culture, Paromita Vohra said, “You never get a perfect piece of popular culture – just the way you don’t get a perfect piece of life.” Everyone in the room had a different opinion about the art that Paromita flipped through on screen, much like the way we perceive the city quite differently from one another. While watching old Bollywood songs set in the city of Mumbai and how men and women behaved and lived within the cinematic frame, participants began to think about how liberated portrayals could exist in cinema alongside regressive and domineering ones. Vohra encouraged us to “stop using stereotypical responses to pop culture,” and to “resist from saying there’s only one way in which things happen”. This struck most in the room since we had expected to critique pop culture.

We had the tables turned on us with the question – How would you make the city better for lovers? Tell us.

Photo by Jessica Xalxo. Pictured: Harish Iyer.

Innovation Lab 5 had Harish Iyer asking participants to step into the shoes of a person with a disability, and to make a list of what they see, feel and hear on a daily basis. The equal rights activist further encouraged all in the room to inspect the intersection between genders and the city too by posing the question: “Are cities only inclusive of genders which can procreate?” 

We set about to find ways in which the city and all its people could grow, exist and thrive in peace with its infrastructure because, as Harish Iyer said, “The onus of inclusion is on those who are already included and not on those who are excluded.”

Photo by Safecity @pinthecreep

The panel discussion on building inclusion and resilience in a city saw Anju Pandey (Program Specialist – UN Women), Harini Calamur (filmmaker and writer), Pearl Tiwari (Director & CEO – Ambuja Cement Foundation) and Brijesh Singh (Special Inspector General – Women Atrocity Prevention and Cybercrime) engage with the audience with Faye D’souza (Executive Editor – Mirror Now) as the moderator.

Photo by Jessica Xalxo

The audience said that they would feel safer if their neighbourhoods were to be carpeted in CCTV cameras. The panel discussed how safety and accessibility vary with each city and how there must be an intersectional standard of both for all – each and every citizen pays taxes after all. Faye D’souza recommended that “50 per cent of the Government should be women”.

The final panel of the day reimagined the city from a youth and gender perspective – a narrative that often lacks in the decision making process. Ayushi Banerji (CEO, The Gender Lab), Richa Pant (Group CSR, L & T Finance), Nirmika Singh (Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India) and Sonal Giani (Activist & Actor) spoke about their experiences of work and life in the city with ElsaMarie D’silva (Founder & CEO, Safecity) as the moderator.

Photo by Safecity @pinthecreep

Sonal Giani rightly questioned privilege and the access it provides to people in a city. This was significant as marginalised identities – such as people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community – are often invisible to those who plan and govern cities. There is a need for greater gender and sexuality awareness and sensitisation. A city that accounts for all, caters to all.

The Urban Thinkers Campus brought citizens together to introspect and really look at their city, encouraging all present in the room to ideate on actionable solutions while keeping all of the city’s citizens in mind. And that’s where the strength of a city lies after – in inclusivity, unity, equity mechanisms and peace.

Jessica Xalxo is a volunteer at One Future Collective. She tweets @IriscopeX

Feature Image Credit: Safecity (Red Dot Foundation)

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