We have been lately talking about inclusive education in Bhutan and some of the schools have already been modified to accommodate children with varying abilities in the same learning environment. But no matter how accessible the general infrastructures of the school might be, or how well trained are the teachers dealing with students with special needs, I think the goal of inclusive education cannot be achieved if the school curriculum is not inclusive. When we talk about inclusive education, people mostly think about only accessible physical infrastructures within the school campus and disabled-friendly facilities and services. But we have never thought of the curriculum which is the backbone of formal education system in the country. I feel that our school curriculum is very rigid at the moment. We are expected to learn what is prescribed in the textbooks and not what we are good at or what we love doing. When the curriculum is developed, the needs of persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired children are never considered. As a result, the curriculum is largely visual-based and hence, the visually impaired children are deprived of the opportunity to participate equally in the classroom.
With the passage of time, I am glad to know that at least some people have now begun to realize the importance of inclusive education in Bhutan as a tool for integrating children with disabilities into the mainstream school environment to further their independence and enhance their capacity to live a meaningful life. I have studied in the mainstream school since grade 7 but with no teachers trained to deal with special need children, it was very challenging to be able to cope with sighted friends because we were literarily crippled by limited reading materials in accessible formats and lack of trained teachers. Nevertheless, I and my friends managed to find our way out and could successfully complete our studies. But if the inclusive education policy was already in place, we would have had a different story to share. Today, people have started talking about inclusive education and I am very grateful that they have started taking some interest in the subject. One of the lecturers of Paro College of Education, Mr. Rinchen Dorji is currently doing his PHD degree in Inclusive Education in Australia and a couple of months ago, I have had the opportunity to take part in his research study. Following is the transcript of that interview held in my office. I have named the interviewer as RD.