CEI’s current Wow! Ed Newsletter focuses on Global Competence. If you could visit schools in another country, which country would you chose and why? What would you like to see? What do you believe you might take back to your school? In the ’80s and ’90s, I visited over 10 schools in India. These were schools that served youth with disabilities. Some of them, like the State Institute on Mental Retardation, were operated by the state. Others were operated by NGOs (non-governmental organizations). The students with disabilities who received services were primarily youth with more serious cognitive or physical impairments. There were little to no specialized services for youth with learning disabilities. For the most part students with disabilities were not educated in inclusive environments.
During my last visit to India in 2009, I again visited several schools’”this time to look for the best practices in International Education. During the first visit I saw rural schools with dirt floors, no books, and truly schools without walls’”where only a thatched roof covered the heads of the students and teachers. In 2009, I saw what I call the “5 Star” schools’”schools in Delhi and elsewhere that were on manicured campuses with golf carts to travel between the gorgeous buildings. I also saw other schools where students were crowded 10 or more students on a bench and 40 students in a space the size of my dining room, and yet other schools operated by Yoga Institutes as “free schools” for students living in poverty.
During both of my visits I saw excellent instruction’”under all conditions. And I also saw education that could be improved. Sometimes students were taught with the best research-based practices’”this includes the instruction at the Institue of Mental Retardation, where they had modern libraries with some of the best journals of education and had had visits by renowned educational researchers. At other times, students were engaged in rote learning, copying verbatim what was written on the board. Having visited these schools first hand that I am more informed. It is hard to envision reading about these schools and learning as much. However, perhaps You Tube? Perhaps a global learning project? These are powerful ways to learn and share with others.