Inclusive Education For the Disabled & NEP 2020


The quest for equal rights and inclusive education for children with different types of disabilities was flagged by the UN Convention on Rights of Children with Disabilities (UNCRPD) 2008. It calls upon all countries to ensure equality and non-discrimination in the matter of access to education for disabled children, full and effective participation, and protection from all forms of abuse. Most importantly it changes the discourse from charity to human rights. India enacted a robust RPWD Act of 2016 which provides full and equal enjoyment of all rights as normal children, equal opportunity in access to facilities, support for academic and social development, and transportation facilities.  The NEP 2020 has gone a step further by calling upon the Centre and the states to hire special educators and render assistive equipment and necessary technology-based tools, barrier-free access, and long-term rehabilitation.

2 Scope of the Study

A study was made by the two authors in the district of Khurda (Odisha) to find out from general and special schools how disabled students experience inclusive education, what type of learning barriers, access barriers, and discrimination they face, and most importantly the attitude of teachers towards inclusive education. A mixed method approach was adapted with quantitative data through questionnaires followed up with qualitative study through interviews.

2 Major Findings

2.1 The major finding is that special educators are relentlessly working to provide inclusive education to Children with Special Needs (CWSNs), while the educators in general schools, due to lack of formal training are ill-equipped to achieve inclusive education, though they are well disposed to these children. However, several logistical deficiencies were noticed, largely due to paucity of funding and budget allocation. Assistive devices and technological tools of which NEP buttonholes as a major primer to facilitate learning are conspicuous by their absence. As regards classroom facilities, 92% of students do not have desks with adequate space, and 49% did not find classrooms to be accessible in wheelchairs. Counselors are not readily available (95%) and writers for students are conspicuous by their absence. Further nearly two-thirds of children reported that they do not get all books and materials on time from the school library.  Though washrooms are easy to operate wheelchairs are not accessible. Classrooms are not fully equipped to cater varied needs of (Children with Special Needs) CWSN. The present curriculum appears to be a roadblock for CWSN in general classrooms.  There is a definite need to make the classrooms’ teaching and learning environment more accommodative and helpful in meeting the special needs of children.

2.2 One of the major areas of study was to find out the learning experience between general and public schools and how children with different types of disability should be allotted to these schools.  The existing literature shows mixed results as to whether children with disability should be part of special schools or general schools. Our study shows that teachers in general schools often hesitate to teach children with disabilities as most of them lack sufficient training in special education. This is unlike the special schools, where all of them have undergone diploma courses. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to ensure that the teachers in general schools undergo requisite training in special education before being inducted to teach children with special needs (CWSNs).  Further, we need to make a difference between children with physical disability and those with a mental disability like autism, cerebral palsy, etc. The severity of the disability must also be kept in mind, apart from the expectation level of learning, where the threshold should be much lower in the case of severe and profound categories.

3 Major Recommendation

One of our major recommendations would be that mild and moderate categories be part of general schools while ensuring that teachers are trained. However, children with severe disability should be part of special schools where each student would require specialized attention. Special educators were found to be more effective in addressing differentiated needs. Ironically, while teachers in special schools face much greater challenges in teaching their remuneration is much lower than that of the teachers in general schools. The grant per child in a special school is a paltry Rs 500 per month to cover all their expenditure including their transportation,

  1. Concluding Thoughts

4.1 Quite clearly the grandiose expectation of NEP is getting a short shrift in actual implementation. There is a clear need to ensure that properly trained teachers teach CWSNs and that their remuneration is reasonable. Assistive technologies and devices are few and far between and the quality of ramps in most schools is quite deplorable. Interaction with special educators brings out that there are five major challenges, viz physical barriers like inaccessible infrastructure, poorly designed classrooms, social challenges like communication challenges, and social stigma, lack of proper accommodation for disabled children, behavioral and emotional challenges, and level of patience from special educators. Experts believe that enhancing employability through vocational education can boost their self-esteem and lift them out of the morass of feeling helpless and worthless.  There is a need to implement targeted scholarships, conditional cash transfers, and curriculum improvements.  Some of the special educators believe that we must shift the attention from the academic achievements of CWSNs to nurturing their unique capability in extracurricular activities.

4.2 Stephen Hawkins, the celebrated cosmologist who suffered from motor neuron disease for more than 50 years wrote “My advice to other disabled people would be to concentrate on things your disability does not prevent you from doing well. Do not be disabled in spirit as well physically”. It is for the society at large, the government as the fulcrum of funding, and special educators with training and technological tools who can inch us towards a more inclusive society. It was heartening to find that working against the heaviest odds, the special educators are relentlessly trying to mainstream these hapless children in terms of behavior, learning, and confidence. They are the unsung heroes of India, who need to be recognized by the state during the teacher’s day for their stellar contribution. The chasm between the pious aims of NEP and its realization on the ground needs to be bridged. As Jeffrey Sachs, the prime architect of MDG  rightly underlines that such missions can not be state-led but collaborative, where the corporates, the local communities, and the state are equal partners.

Prof Misra was assigned this project by ICSSR , GOI

Ms Abhipsa is doing a Ph.D. under his supervision




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