Professor Emeritus, BRAC University, Dhaka and Vice Chair, Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Bangladesh
The writer, starting with the premise of critical importance of the inclusive classroom in adult education, explains the dimensions of inclusion and how adult educator can make teaching-learning inclusive by herself/himself being reflexive and self-aware.
Inclusion, in the sense of enabling learners, who bring their diversity and plural identities to the classroom, to be engaged effectively and meaningfully in learning, is central to good andragogy. It has assumed heightened importance, in part due to expanded education demands and opportunities, democratization of learning and education, because of greater awareness about lifelong learning, and increased mobility of people within and across countries under varying circumstances.
The writer emphasizes the multiple layers of diversity among adult educators, and presumably among adult learners, ranging from personality traits and individual attributes such as gender, ethnicity, etc, to social and economic circumstances, and the circumstance in one’s work environment. Citing Gardenswartz and Rove, the writer argues that on the first two layers of diversity, individuals have little control, while in the latter two layers, they may exercise some choices. One cannot change one’s gender or ethnicity, but to what extent can one change or exercise options about religious influence, education and work place, and the organizational circumstances of one’s work place? One can try to overcome the stereotypes associated with one’s personal traits and individual attributes by becoming more self-aware. With special effort and determination one can also try to change the circumstances of life experience and work-place conditions. It may be more appropriate to look at it is a matter of degree rather than an absolute dichotomy on all of the layers.
More important, perhaps, are the factors related to one’s socio-economic class status, one in which a person is born and the barriers that this places in on the individual to improve one’s status and fulfil one’s human potential – the ultimate aim of adult and lifelong learning. The class status and circumstances cut across the layers of diversity described by the writer and colours the perception, mindset, self-esteem, self-confidence and the expectations about one’s life.
Freirean critical reflection and praxis that the writer alludes to needs to be brought out to the forefront and creating critical awareness about the influence of the class society as well as the individual traits and attributes and the social and workplace conditions, not independent of the class character of society, need to be emphasized.
The writer discusses adult educator’s role in the abstract. The content, purpose, outputs, outcomes, the particular group of learners, and the theory of change underlying the educational initiative also must be considered, in being self-reflective on the part of the educators and encouraging the adult learners to be self-reflective.
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