LAHORE: The number of out-of-school children is alarming in Pakistan. Some 22.6 million students have no access to schooling as the governmental policies are not addressing the issue seriously jeopardising their future. There is a dire need to impose education emergency in the country. These were the views that the speakers expressed in a two-day international conference on inclusive education held by the Department of Special Needs Education at University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore here on Tuesday.
On the occasion, the speakers emphasised effective policies and their implementation with the concept of inclusive education, which according to them has become a popular theme for the improvement of schools across the globe. Education departments are planning to introduce inclusive education at primary and secondary levels and HEC is also actively working on inclusive education policy, but the official patronage is needed at all levels.
UMT’s International Conference on Inclusive Education is the second international conference of its kind in Pakistan. This year’s theme for the conference was “Accommodating Diversity: Creating Educational Environment.” The conference offered the opportunity to explore what it takes to be inclusive in education and how we could include all in order to improve the quality of education. A good number of research papers were presented in the conference on a number of themes like children’s rights in education, access and equity, diversity and inclusion, challenges in equal participations in education, pedagogy for inclusive classrooms, and reforming teacher education for inclusive education.
Addressing the conference, UMT Chairman Dr Hasan Sohaib Murad said that inclusive education means more inclusiveness in the process of schooling, mentoring and pupils grooming intellectually. He said it is the responsibility of the state to provide access to education to every member of society regardless of caster, color, gender, geography, race and religion. He said that due to a number of social factors like stereotypes found in people, poor law and order situation and terrible economic crisis people are not sending their children to schools, which is resulting in no-inclusiveness not only in education, but also in social development.
School of Social Sciences Dean and Humanities and ambassador of Inclusive Education in Pakistan Dr Abdul Hameed said that the conference on inclusive education is the need of the hour. He said that in order to achieve the best results regarding inclusive education, the participation of local communities and their willingness was very important without which the government alone couldn’t make a difference.
Dr Rebecca Kanak Fox, a professor of education from George Mason University, USA, gave a detailed presentation on the importance of inclusive education. She outlined a complete agenda of engaging government, community and universities to work together on inclusive education. She said in the western society, extraordinary attention is paid to special children and Pakistani educational institutions too can implement the same model in accordance with their cultural settings and social norms.
Later, Punjab Minister for Special Education Muhammad Shafiq and Akhwat Foundation Chairman Dr Amjad Saqib also spoke on the occasion. The minister appreciated UMT management for hosting the conference on inclusive education. He said that the government was trying its best to provide basic education to all children and was endeavoring for maximum literacy rate. The minister said that the government was serious in giving special attention to deaf, dumb and impaired students, but said that without public-private partnership the dream of inclusive education could not come true in the country.
Around 400 eminent scholars from all over Pakistan and abroad attended the conference and shared their knowledge and experiences on various aspects of inclusive education.