Education of Children with Disabilities – Is NEP a beacon of hope?

Education of Children with Disabilities – Is NEP a beacon of hope?

Author: Chetan Kumar
III Year | Central University of South Bihar

Introduction:

Disability is a condition that limits a person from doing certain activities like others. This limitation may arise because of hampered physical, intellectual, mental, sensory, cognitive development, or a combination of multiple factors. Section 2(zc) of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 (RPD Act) defines the term ‘disability’. The Schedule of the said Act recognizes the disability conditions like Blindness, Low-vision, Dwarfism, Mental Illness, Cerebral Palsy, Hemophilia, Sickle Cell Disease, Acid Attack Victim, Parkinson’s disease and many more. Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) need constant and special care and attention to compete with persons without disabilities.

Education is essential machinery which is very useful for the all-round development of a person. It is the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next generation in society. The development of any nation significantly depends on the quality of education. To ensure that, our government has come up with a policy called New Education Policy, 2020.

The earlier education policies ignored the education for children with disabilities. This article explains the flaws in the earlier education policies and sheds light on some positives of New Education Policy, 2020.

Problems faced by Children with Disabilities in School:

Let us take an example.

Suppose a boy is suffering from Cerebral Palsy. He is too slow in his studies. Even after trying hard, he is unable to secure good marks. His teachers often scold and punish him. His parents do not understand his plight. He spends most of his time outside the classroom. He has no friends because his voice shivers, or because he has a different pace.

In such circumstances, the boy has no other option but to be alone and deal with his problems himself, for which he is not capable. This is not just one case. According to the 2011 census, there are 7.86 million children with disabilities[1]. According to UNESCO, “75% of children with disabilities don’t attend schools in India[2].

Earlier Education Policy:

Some of our earlier education policies constantly ignored the education of children with disabilities. For example, the draft of New Education Policy, 2019 dealt with a child’s whole lifespan in about 500 pages related to education, yet failed to acknowledge children with disabilities. There was a lack of harmony between the legislations related to the Right to Education. For example, the RPD Act talks about inclusive education, but the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 does not even define inclusive education.

Inclusive Education is a system where children with special needs and normal children read in the same school. This provides them better exposure and social interactions leading to further success in life[3]. However, this system completely denies the existence of separate schools for children with special needs. The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 had supported inclusive education i.e. the integration of children with disabilities within the community.

In my opinion, the problem with this system, when we apply it in a strict sense, is that one cannot prescribe the same medicine to cure both typhoid and tuberculosis. Both the diseases have different symptoms or traits, thus require different medications. Similarly, children with disabilities need more care and attention compared to children without disabilities. So, the pedagogy and strategy to teach both types of children should also be different.

Solutions:

The solution to this problem is that the inclusive education model should be followed, but not in a strict sense. Simply speaking, children with disabilities and normal children can be educated in the same school by the same teacher in the same classroom. In addition to that, some classes should be arranged specifically for the children with disabilities to cater to their special needs.

The issue is that this solution works only when we have identified the child with a disability. What about those children whose disabilities are latent? They will continue to face problems with no solutions. So, one of our priorities must be to screen and identify children with disabilities.

Screening of children has to be done at different cycles of their lifetime. Anurag Kandu, an officer in the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), suggests that, first, it should be done at the time of birth. This must be followed by another round of screening when the child attains 6 years of age. Thirdly, when he enters teenage, screening must be repeated. Schools should mandatorily screen the children and issue the disability certificate[4].

New Education Policy, 2020:

The Union Cabinet approved the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 on 29th July, 2020. The New Education Policy brought major transformational reforms in the education sector in the country. One of them is “Special Educators”. Our government has felt the urgent need for introducing additional special educators for certain areas of school education. For instance, to cater to children with specific learning disabilities.

Such teachers are expected to possess not only subject-teaching knowledge but also the relevant skills for understanding the special requirements of children. The Government shall provide adequate training for this. Greater synergy will be created between the course curriculum of National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) and Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) to ensure adequate numbers of qualified special educators. Schools would be provided with appropriate technologies and assistive devices to teach subjects to children with disabilities. The National School of Open Schooling (NIOS) would create the syllabus to teach Indian Sign Language and other subjects using Indian Sign Language.

Our Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot has said- “Barrier-free access for all children with disabilities will be enabled as per the RPWD Act[5]”. In the series of tweets, he pointed out some points in the NEP related to children with disabilities and those from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds[6]. In another tweet, he said that “Knowledge of how to teach children with specific disabilities will be an integral part of all teacher education programs”. Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) supported this policy.

Conclusion:

New Education Policy, 2020 is a massive update from the earlier education policies. It not only acknowledges but also emphasizes the education for children with disabilities. It has introduced the concept of ‘Special Educators’ especially for children for disabilities.

The NEP 2020 appears to be very ideal in black and white. We have to wait to see its practical applicability. NEP aims to increase Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education from 26.3% to 50% by 2035. The government has promised to spend 6% of GDP (earlier 3-4%) in the education sector. In the author’s opinion, we should be patient and hope for a better future that is more accommodating of special needs of special students.


[1] Editor, Disabled population in India as per census 2011 (2016 updated), Enabled.in (Aug 5th, 2020, 8:30 PM),

[2] Kadambari Agarwal, Why 75% of India’s disabled kids never attend a school in their lifetime, The Print ( Aug 5, 2020, 9:00 PM), https://www.google.com/amp/s/theprint.in/opinion/un-report-75-india-disabled-kids-never-attend-school-in-lifetime/423440/%3famp

[3] Editor, Inclusive Education, Unicef.org (Aug 8th 2020, 11:30 PM) https://www.unicef.org/education/inclusive-education

[4] Anurag Kandu, New Education Policy lacks focus on children with special needs, misses opportunity of recommending mandatory screening, Firstpost, (Aug 5, 2020, 9:30 PM), https://www.firstpost.com/india/new-educational-policy-fails-children-with-special-needs-misses-chance-to-make-mental-health-screening-mandatory-6823121.html

[5] https://twitter.com/TCGEHLOT/status/1288499910073970690

[6] https://twitter.com/TCGEHLOT/status/1288499628506193923

Editor: Samiksha Gupta
Founder, Writer and Editor | Leagle Samiksha

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