In India, an estimated 10 percent of children in school -- sometimes as many as two or three per classroom -- struggle with a learning disability. Although recent efforts have focused on raising awareness of this critical issue, much work remains to be done. To this end, a new program pioneered by Don Bosco Egmore in Chennai seeks to prepare educators to better serve the needs of students with learning disabilities -- so they may successfully complete the education that is so crucial to their future.
“Learning disabilities such as dyslexia, attention-deficit disorder and even autism are often undiagnosed in India,” explains Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “As a result, such students face increasing disadvantages as they advance through the grades and into more challenging subject matter. Sadly, many of them end up dropping out -- effectively forfeiting what may have been their only chance to secure a decent job and a pathway out of poverty.”
“The instances of learning disabilities have been on the rise, but the acceptance of the situation, including among parents, is extremely low,” adds Indira Krishna Kumar, principal of Don Bosco Egmore.
Recently, in partnership with the CARE Institute of Behavioral Sciences, Kumar and her colleagues launched “Don Bosco Remedial Educational Services” as a way to begin addressing this challenge.
The program provides much-needed support for educators who struggle to effectively teach children with learning disabilities in their classrooms. Because the benefits of special education have only recently been recognized, a majority of teachers lack the knowledge and skills to adequately support learning-disabled students and ensure their success.
Coursework will raise teachers’ proficiency in identifying potential learning disabilities, and equip them to screen students and offer special education within the regular classroom when necessary. In fostering the idea of inclusive education -- and advocating its application -- the program aims also to reduce the burden on parents who might otherwise seek expensive remedial services outside their child’s school.
Starting soon, the program will become broadly available to teachers throughout Chennai.
“Ultimately,” adds Kumar, “this first-of-its-kind, school-based program will help students with learning disabilities overcome their difficulties in reading, writing and other subjects, which in turn will help them improve academically.”
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