Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) Deemed to be University organized a two-day International Virtual Conference on Inclusive Education: Need and Challenges on 17th and 18th December 2021 under the Alliance of Universities to Reinforce Teacher Training Curricula to Outcast Radicalism and Promote Equality in Asian Societies (AURORA) Project funded by the ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Union. The Inaugural Session, Panel Discussion, Technical Session I(Inclusive Education) and II (Democratic Values and Active Citizenship, Multiculturalism and Global Citizenship, Policies and Practices in India) and the Valedictory Session received overwhelming responses from over five hundred registered participants across the globe including fifteen countries: Romania, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, Spain, Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ireland, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, United States and Greece.

Delivering the Keynote Address at the Inaugural Session, Dr. Jose Jesus Delgado Pena, Deputy Vice-Rector, International Cooperation, University of Malaga, Spain spoke on the topic: “Senior Social Entrepreneurship (SSE): a European educational Project that promotes the Social Economy in senior learners.” He brought to light some of the best practices and case studies that promote senior social entrepreneurship in European countries with special reference to Spain. The materials are designed to cater to the sixty to sixty-five age group. The needs and objectives are met through teaching-learning materials (TLMs), training and designing said Dr. Jose. Furthermore, he added that the TLMs play a pivotal role in bridging knowledge gaps. He spoke extensively about the use of smartphones and tablets in imparting modules to senior learners.

Speaking on the occasion, Professor Deepak Kumar Behera, Vice-Chancellor, KISS-DU welcomed the guests and participants attending the conference and said that the theme of Inclusion is very close to KISS’s heart. The topic is very relevant and the panel of speakers is very impressive. He shared the journey and growth story of KISS and cited how it is a unique model of empowerment wherein the students are excelling in sports, academics through the KISS Model of Holistic Education. Elaborating on the theme, he added that the concept of Inclusive has expanded and now it is beyond disability, it incorporates gender, culture, linguistic and the like. Professor Behera concluded his speech by sharing some of the recent initiatives taken up by KISS-DU in preserving, protecting and promoting indigenous culture to the virtual gathering.

Briefing about the theme and objectives of the AURORA project and the Conference, Dr. Snigdharani Panda, Project Manager of the AURORA Project and the Dean, School of Tribal Resource Management, KISS-DU said that it is a three-year project curated to focus on the issues of Inclusion, Diversity and Integration of Socio-economically disadvantaged participants. It strives to create a programme for Curricula Reform in India and Nepal that will promote inclusive education by empowering teachers through training U.G and P.G students. Talking about the objectives and outcomes of the Conference she said that it aims at developing best practices on Inclusive Education and promoting gender equality and it strives to develop readiness for practising Inclusion in classrooms and transaction strategies for Inclusive Education.

Addressing the enthusiastic participants from across the globe, Dr. Prashanta Kumar Routray, Registrar, KISS-DU said that KISS has been practising Inclusion since its inception in 1992-93 by creating a common learning environment and positive climate. Appreciating the efforts of Dr. Achyuta Samanta, the Founder of KISS & KIIT, Dr. Routray added that KISS has always advocated sustainable livelihood. He also added that this topic fits well in the context of KISS, as it is the right platform and we are honoured to host such a value-added Conference. Praising the talk of the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Routray said that it is meaningful productive dialogue and the very thought of company concept for people above sixty is commendable. He also offered Words of Thanks at the Inaugural Session.

Chairing the Panel Discussion on Day-one, Dr. Ajay Surana, the Project Coordinator of the AURORA Project and Associate Professor Banasthali Vidyapith Deemed to be University moderated discussion and Dr. Disha Bhatt, Deputy Coordinator Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC), KISS-DU introduced the panellists to the virtual participants. Initiating the discussion Dr. John Ravenscroft, Professor of Chair, Childhood Visual Impairment, The Scottish Sensory Centre, Moray House, School of Education, University of Edinburgh spoke from the perspective of additional support through curriculum design principles based on inclusion. He stressed the inclusionary practices, policies, strategies and frameworks adopted at the Scottish Centre. Professor S. Gregory, Former Dean. Faculty of Social Sciences, Kannur University presented some of the Indian case studies and posed a moot question that where does India stand in implementing inclusive practices. He opined that focus should be laid on quality rather than quantity. Developing the mindset of the youth is the need of the hour and education plays a vital role in helping to imbibe the concept. Professor Gregory concluded by talking about the role of informal education and the teacher-student relationship in creating an inclusive environment. Dr. Bharti Kaushik, Associate Professor, Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) presented the pedagogy adopted by NCERT in framing inclusive textbooks and touched upon the fact that the concept of Inclusion has broadened and now incorporates multi-lingual and various other aspects of inclusion. She concluded by talking about standardizing Sign Language convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Professor Bana Bihari Mishra, Professor Emeritus summed up the Panel Discussion and offered Words of Thanks to all the Panelists and the Chair. The Panel Discussion was followed by Technical Sessions wherein over hundred participants presented their research articles pertaining to various aspects of the theme and sub-theme. Both the technical sessions received overwhelming responses from Professors, Faculty Members and Research Scholars from national and international universities.

Chairing Technical Session – I was chaired by Dr. Andrea Hathazi, Associate Professor, Special Education Department, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences Babes Bolyai University presented on the topic: Development of Competencies of Teachers for a Successful Inclusive Education Through Project-based Training’ wherein she focused on education and rehabilitation. “The only way to improve results is to improve instruction”, said Dr. Hathazi. She advocated that developing the competencies of teachers is a key element for successful inclusive education which can be achieved through initial training and programmes such as projects, supervision and mentoring. She was elated to see such an overwhelming response. Technical Session – II was chaired by Professor Swarnamayee Tripathy, Professor Emerita, KISS-DU and moderated by Dr. Sujata Acharya, Principal, KISS.

Addressing the attendees at the Valedictory Session, the Chief Guest, Professor Ina Shastri, Vice-Chancellor of Banasthali Vidyapith Deemed to be University said that the objectives of KISS-DU and Banasthali Vidyapith are in sync with each other. She added that both the universities with their distinct educational programme are working towards social development. They are role models for Inclusive Education and setting up of AURORA Centres will take things a notch up. Professor Shastri concluded her talk by providing deep insights into the aims and objectives of the project and the implementation of the inclusive curricula in the days to come.  Dr. Andrea Hathazi shared some of her reflections and feedback on both the Technical Sessions.

Delivering the Valedictory Address, Professor Deepak Kumar Behera, Vice-Chancellor of KISS-DU spoke about the integration policy and thanked the collaborators for their active participation. Keeping in view the interest of the Institution, he expressed his desire of having long-term relations with the partners by inking MoUs and forming a consortium enabling Exchange Programmes for faculty and students and initiating strategic partnerships ensuing collective excellence.

Professor Jugal Kishore Mishra, Director, Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC), KISS-DU summed up the session and offered Words of Thanks at the Valedictory Session. The two-day mega Conference was organized and coordinated by Dr. Snigdharani Panda, Dr. Disha Bhatt, Mr. Bikram Kumar Bastia, Dr. Liji Panda, Ms. Saswati Jena, Dr. Sanjeeta Kumari Devi and Dr. Pragyan Mohanty.