Strict Policies Need in Governing the Inclusivity of Schools in India

There is a huge gap in the education industry when it comes to catering to the specially-able students at primary and junior school levels. Will NEP 2020 be able to bridge that gap?

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Inclusive education for Children with Disabilities (CWDs) has been long in debates in the country, but it was never implemented because of various reasons like the lack of available data, improper assessment of quality and achievements, policy incongruities, etc. On paper, the right to inclusive education for CWDs is included in all major reformative acts and bills, like the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, the Sarva Siksha Abhyaan, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD Act) 2016 and the recent New Education Policy 2020 draft. But in the application, most of them face inconveniences due to contradictions of the other existing contradictions in the government policies.

CWD- Current Statistics

As per the data of 76th National Sample Survey 2018, 48.8 per cent of specially-able people are literate and 62.9% of those between 3 to 35 years have gone to a regular school. The report shows a trend of low retention rates, and only 23.1% of the specially-able children were attending school in 2018. Alongside this one distinction, gender, and disability type like for children with cerebral palsy and autism also plays a role in their education. Girls with such conditions are least favourable to be studying in a school. Even these reports are not absolute, the numbers are under-reported, and there is a dearth of reliable data, even under national systems like the Census, the National Sample Survey and the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE).

Other school models for CWDs

While there are different special schools, allocations in the regular schools and even provisions for home-based education of the disabled students, there is no coherent coordination between these educational institutions and the ministries, making it more difficult to manage and impose rules. The RTE Act suggests that CWDs should be admitted in the neighbourhood schools, and in case of severe disability, home-school must be considered. The RPWD Act proclaims the principles of inclusivity and says that the CWDs are at liberty to make a choice between the kind of education they want. However, there is a lack of synergy between the RTE Act and the RPWD Act, making operations difficult. Moreover, the jurisdiction of special education comes under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, while the responsibility of inclusive education is on the Ministry of Human Resource Development. There is also a lack of coordination between the Central Government and the State Government, making situations harder for an inclusive educational atmosphere.

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What are the provisions in the National Education Policy (NEP) draft 2020?

The NEP draft 2020 proposes to resolve all such ambiguity by lending proper recognition to all three models: neighbourhood schools, special schools and home-based education. However, the implications and steps being taken in reality look dicey as the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) cites that they do not include CWDs in their study. This raises great questions over the quality of education they receive. NEP also tries to create coherence between the National Council for Teacher Education and the Rehabilitation Council of India to provide for better mentorship to the CWDs. Making curriculum changes accordingly can also be a part of the ways to increase inclusivity at schools. Inclusive education can only be provided for, if it is seen as an essential framework for enhancing the quality of education and interaction, instead of looking at it as a special provision for CWDs. With an evaluation of the current practices and improvising for both regular students and CWDs can ensure quality education for all, adhering to inclusivity.

The Policy Times Recommendations

  • While the NEP draft 2020 recognizes all the three forms, it stands in violation of the spirit of inclusive education mentioned in the RPWD Act.
  • As special schools are not under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the quality of education here will not be regulated, and the provisions of NEP might not be applicable here.
  • There is a need to ensure that low-cost private education is accessible to CWDs, and there is no compromise on their quality of knowledge along with non-discrimination provisions.
  • There should be strict policies governing the inclusivity of schools in India, ensuring accessibility and proper enrollment of CWDs in schools.
  • Teachers must be trained in handling CWDs and at least made aware of the special conditions a child may have.
  • While the NEP proposes a teacher’s role in understanding certain disabilities, it only focuses on special learning disabilities and completely disregards other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Strict Policies Need in Governing the Inclusivity of Schools in India
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There is a huge gap in the education industry when it comes to catering to the specially-able students at primary and junior school levels. Will NEP 2020 be able to bridge that gap?
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THE POLICY TIMES
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