Friday, Mar. 24, 2017

English as a Second Language ( ESL) for Inclusive Education

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March 9, 2017


Language development should be a shared responsibility and not only of bilingual and ESL classes. It means that teachers teaching other subjects too can do the needful to improve the language skills wherever it is possible. It is in fact a collaborative effort of the teachers and the parents. Parents should also provide a conducive atmosphere to the learners to improve their language skills.

As per the Directive Principles of our constitution, every child has the right to education. But in earlier times children with special needs or disabilities were not admitted to regular schools. The system that was followed at that time, probably had its own reasons, viz

1. It was a belief that learners with disabilities could not match the pace of other learners.

2. These learners had to be taught by teachers who were specially trained to do so.

3. Separate schools had been established to meet the needs of these learners.

4. There was a belief among the teachers and peers that if these special learners were taught separately, the outcomes would be better.

5. Many times the parents were not ready to support the inclusion of these special learners with the normal learners.

Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education means that the learners are admitted to the institution irrespective of being able or disable. The learners are given the same activities without discrimination or being biased. The learners are included among the non-disabled peers. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which came into force in 2008 recognized that children with disabilities have the right to the full range of educational opportunities. It was then a rule that all the learners be treated equal and that they should be given equal and same opportunities. Moreover, it is the special learners’ right to be included in the same group as the normal learners. It is very well said that every learner is unique, everyone learns in different ways.

The disabilities normally found in learners are –

1. Vision Impairment implies that there is difficulty in developing reading and writing skills.

2. Hearing Impairment means the learner with auditory difficulties will have problem developing listening and speaking skills.

3. Physical Disability refers to the problems related to developing motor skills.

4. Learning Disability refers to difficulties in paying attention to the teacher and will have problem in memory retention and reproduction.

5. Intellectual Disability refers to a lower IQ in these learners than expected of their age.

But the peers/scholars advocating Inclusive Education feel that if some good practices are implemented then these difficulties can be overcome.

Teaching ESL– Hindrances in normal course

Let us look at some of the hindrances encountered while teaching ESL to normal learners.

1. Most of the acquaintances are speaking the local language or First Language resulting in a hostile environment in the schools or educational institutions that keeps them away from making any effort. Hence, they lack the ability to interact in social settings.

2. They are always under the threat that someone may laugh at their faulty language.

3. The learners have difficulty in learning the ‘slang’ and social English because there are hardly any teachers qualified to do so.

4. It is also found that the learners are more dependent on teachers. This may be because the teachers rarely make any effort to remove the scaffolding at the right time.

5. There is a possibility that the instructions by the teacher may not be clear which makes it difficult for the learner to comprehend the same and act accordingly.

6. There are anxieties of speech, viz fear of failure, fear of audience, fear of breaking the rules and many more.

7. The non native speakers have the tendency to pronounce the English words as they are spelled. This results in faulty pronunciation.

8. It is also a fact that language has a cultural imprint, and so English often cannot take care of the entire vocabulary of non-native culture.

Areas to be focused while teaching ESL as Inclusive Education – L,S,R

Similarly there are hindrances in teaching ESL as Inclusive Education. Actually it is an acid test of the teacher to merge the disabled learners with regular class and do ESL teaching. In the light of this, there is a need to be clear about the areas to be focused while teaching ESL as Inclusive Education. With this group it would be better if the teacher could take care of – L,S,R; ‘W’ can be taught at a later stage.

Listening Skills

The teacher can show flash cards or objects used in day to day life and speak the words. Here the teacher will have to be careful about the pronunciation for, if faulty, the learners will pick up the same. The teacher may recite short poems in simple language explaining the meaning of it. Effort can also be made by the teacher to converse with the learners in English so that the learners pick up the words used in day to day living. It is observed that a child picks up the mother tongue without grammatical errors through listening. If a similar atmosphere is created for ESL teaching, the learners can do well.

Speaking Skills

The learner must be encouraged to speak a few words every day. The teacher before teaching new words must recapitulate the old words using flash cards or real life objects so as to reinforce the learning. This will gradually improve the vocabulary of the learner and provide a conducive atmosphere for the learner to learn the language. The teacher can ask the learners simple questions which will motivate the learners to speak in English. This drill, if done regularly, will help the learners to learn the language. All can speak their mother tongue faultlessly without having learnt the fundamentals of grammar. Most of us learn to speak after listening.

Reading Skills

Initially the learner can be shown flash cards which may have a picture of an object, person, animal, etc. The learners can be motivated to speak a few words about it. Later the learners can be given small paragraphs to read. It can be a guided activity wherein the teacher can be a facilitator. This activity will make the learners aware about the usage of punctuation marks. Once the learner picks up the language, the teacher can arrange conversation among the learners on any topic that is easy to understand. This will build their confidence in using English as a language for conversation.

Approach to teaching ESL as Inclusive Education

The following classroom strategies could be used:

1. The teacher should create positive learning environment by not discriminating the learners. The teacher should focus on developing the areas that the learners are strong at rather than focusing on things that they are struggling to learn. This will boost the confidence of the slow learners.

2. The teacher should structure the activities so that the disabled learners can also take part in it. This will make the learners feel that they are not out of place.

3. The teacher can have a set of positive rules i.e not to use verbal or non-verbal communication that will have a negative effect on the disabled learners. Effort should be made that the corrective measures too should be worded in optimistic tone.

4. ‘Time up’ activity should be used effectively keeping in mind the performers of the activity. Extra time may be given to the learners with special needs. This will encourage the learners to complete the task assigned to them rather than leaving it incomplete.

Remedies if any

How can the teacher equip the classroom for handling inclusive education

1. Care should be taken to match the needs of the learner with classroom structure. In other words seating arrangement should be made in such a way that maximum learners are comfortable during the teaching learning sessions. An able learner can be placed near a disabled learner, so that the weaker one can learn from the other.

2. If possible the teacher should prepare an individualized or tailored approach to learning. Hence, the worksheet preparation will need meticulous planning by the teacher.

3. Assessment of these worksheets by learners with disabilities is a challenge for the teacher. The teacher should remember that learners need to demonstrate competence on a number of occasions during assessment, not just once.


Language development should be a shared responsibility and not only of bilingual and ESL classes. It means that teachers teaching other subjects too can do the needful to improve the language skills wherever it is possible. It is in fact a collaborative effort of the teachers and the parents. Parents should also provide a conducive atmosphere to the learners to improve their language skills. It may be necessary to have Early Intervention meaning giving supplementary instruction to the learners at an early stage. It may be in the form of Tutorial or Remedial instruction in the context of the subject. The teacher may adopt the method of Clinical Teaching. In this method the skills or subjects or concepts are taught again using different strategies or approaches in the interest of the learners.

This situation needs to be addressed seriously because English is now a global language and because it is the need of the hour. Learners with disabilities can be motivated to develop at least such language skills that can be termed as ‘working knowledge of English’.

References :

A Joycilin Shermila & J. Divya– Impact of Intervention to Reduce Stage Fear and to Enhance the Speaking Skills of Prospective Teachers

Priya Salonee– English : The Melting Pot
Shanon L Berg– The Advantages and Disadvantages of Inclusion of Students with Disabilities into Regular Education Classrooms mainstreamed-esl-class/

Ajit P Thosar teaches English at St Joseph ET High School, Bilimora, Gujarat. He has been working as key resource person (KRP) in several workshops on different subjects arranged by different government agencies. He is a writer, reviewer and translator of several projects by Gujarat State School Textbook Board and a member of ELTAI and IATFL. He was awarded Best Teacher Award 2010 by Knowledge Olympiad Society, Hyderabad.

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