An inclusive school is a child-friendly school. Tarang is Sethu’s flagship program for the promotion of preschool inclusive education. Fired by the belief that inclusive education is good for everyone and with the cooperation of the management of Chubby Cheeks Preschool in Pilerne, Sethu started Goa’s first resource room for preschoolers with special needs. Our aim was simple – to prove that high quality preschool inclusive education is very possible.
We planned to run the best preschool resource room, a model for the state of Goa. Our robust launching platform was the use of research-proven structured teaching, based on a developmentally sequenced, functional curriculum. We believed we could train teachers to follow these methods. We imagined that once the training was done over a period of two years, we could hand over the responsibility of running the resource room and move to other preschools to repeat the process over and replicate our excellent model of inclusive education.
We did run the best preschool resource room in Goa, with a generous ratio of two teachers to five students, much needed to keep up with the high energy level of our pre-schoolers.
Over the years, 25 children with special needs received systematic training, together with their parents, who volunteered by rota, to do hands-on teaching in the resource room under the watchful eyes of the special educators. The children did very well, with many of them mainstreaming to regular primary school. The only problem was that 2 years stretched to 8 years without any prospect of handing over and no sign of replication. What we learned through hard experience is that many preschools are underfunded, constantly struggling to stay afloat. Hence they are often staffed by untrained teachers, who when trained move to greener pastures, leaving the school that invested in their training in the lurch. In short, our model, with its focus on highly specialised teaching, was too good to be replicated! In addition, those children with more severe disabilities were not able to continue inclusive education after turning six years old, as there were not enough primary schools with resource room facilities to accommodate them.
The program has currently being redesigned to offer itinerant teaching services and teacher training on site, in preschools where children with special needs are enrolled. Rather than expecting children to come to a specialized program, Sethu is going to where the children are. This promotes the philosophy of inclusion, emphasises ownership by the schools right at the start and benefits a larger number of children who are in need of special education services.