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Special Education Today in India

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Abstract

Similar to Western countries, the early origins of special education in India started with Christian missionaries and nongovernmental agencies which stressed a charity model of serving populations such as the visually, hearing, and cognitively impaired. However after its independence from Great Britain in 1947, the Indian government became more involved in providing educational, rehabilitation, and social services. Thus over the past four decades, India has moved gradually toward an inclusive education model. This chapter discusses the implementation of such a model related to the prevalence and incidence rates of disability in India as well as working within family environments that often involve three to four generations. Also included are challenges that an inclusive education system faces in India, namely, a high level of poverty, appropriate teacher preparation of special education teachers, a lack of binding national laws concerned with inclusive education, a dual governmental administration for special education services, and citizen's and special education professionals strong concern about whether inclusive education practices can be carried out.
SPECIAL EDUCATION TODAY
IN INDIA
Ajay Das and Rina Shah
ABSTRACT
Similar to Western countries, the early origins of special education in
India started with Christian missionaries and nongovernmental agencies
which stressed a charity model of serving populations such as the
visually, hearing, and cognitively impaired. However after its indepen-
dence from Great Britain in 1947, the Indian government became more
involved in providing educational, rehabilitation, and social services.
Thus over the past four decades, India has moved gradually toward an
inclusive education model. This chapter discusses the implementation of
such a model related to the prevalence and incidence rates of disability in
India as well as working within family environments that often involve
three to four generations. Also included are challenges that an inclusive
education system faces in India, namely, a high level of poverty,
appropriate teacher preparation of special education teachers, a lack of
binding national laws concerned with inclusive education, a dual govern-
mental administration for special education services, and citizen’s and
special education professionals strong concern about whether inclusive
education practices can be carried out.
Special Education International Perspectives: Practices Across the Globe
Advances in Special Education, Volume 28, 561581
Copyright r2014 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-401320140000028025
561
INTRODUCTION
Historically, persons with disabilities in India have enjoyed coexistence
with the general mass, though at different times, their treatment and
attitudes toward them varied but they were never excluded from society by
confinement in institutions. Rather, they lived with their families. As far as
education was concerned, even the Gurukula Ashram (educational insti-
tutes) promoted the basic educational principles of special education, for
example, ascertaining the abilities and needs of each pupil, individualiza-
tion of teaching targets and methods to match their skills and interests, and
preparing them to meet the social expectations of their prospective inter-
ests. The famous epic of Mahabharta is evidence that King Dhritrashtra
was the king of all India although he was visually impaired.
ORIGINS OF SPECIAL EDUCATION
However, during more recent times, systematic efforts took place in provid-
ing educational and vocational opportunities to individuals with disabilities
in India. Starting with Christian missionaries in the 1880s, the charity
model became part of the special schools they established (Alur, 2002). For
instance, formal educational institutions were established for the blind in
1887, for the deaf in 1888, and for mentally deficient in 1934 (Misra, 2000).
After these early establishments in the late 19th century or early 20th
century, a growth was seen in the establishment of these institutions in the
later half of the 20th century. After independence from Great Britain in
1947, there was a systematic development of special education in India that
saw the establishment of 81 schools between 1960 and 1975. By 1979, the
number of special education centers was 150. With the establishment of the
National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped (NIMH) in 1986 and
others soon after, the availability of trained personnel and suitable models
of service made the growth of special schools for children with disabilities
very significant.
PREVALENCE OF DISABILITY IN INDIA
According to a UNICEF Report on the Status of Disability in India
(2000), there were around 30 million children that had some form of
562 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
disability. Another report, the sixth All-India Educational Survey reported
that of India’s 2,000 million school aged children (614 years), 20 million
require special needs education (Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI),
2000). Although these numbers show a large discrepancy, it is clear that
there are a large number of students with special needs that require appro-
priate educational services. Recognizing the large number of special needs
population and regional disparities, the Government of India (GoI)
initiated policy reforms and strategies for special needs and inclusive educa-
tion. The educational system in India has witnessed many changes after the
coveted independence from Great Britain in 1947. The post freedom era
together with the economic and social development policies in the last four
decades have contributed substantially to bringing about an evolution in
the overall educational system in India through legislative measures as well
as social welfare activities.
GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS IN PROVIDING
SERVICES
The efforts of the GoI over the last four decades have been toward provid-
ing a comprehensive range of services for the education of children with
disabilities. In particular, inclusive education has been the focus of delivery
of instruction to the students with disabilities in the country. In considering
the educational provisions made for students with special educational needs
in India, Jha (2002) states that while the agenda for inclusion in the West is
concentrated mainly on the inclusion of students with physical and intellec-
tual disabilities and those whose learning difficulties are due largely to emo-
tional and behavioral factors, in India the focus extends beyond such
groups. They also include children who are educationally deprived due to
social and economic reasons, for example, street children, girls in rural
areas, children belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as well
as various minorities and groups from diverse social, cultural, and linguistic
backgrounds. According to Jha, all these children are considered to have
special needs. He argues that what is called “special needs” in Britain
would be considered the “normal needs” of a large minority of children in
India. Hence, the terminology, which has its origins in the medical world
of diagnosing the disability in the West, cannot explain the educational
deprivation of large numbers of children in the developing countries (Jha,
2002, p. 67).
563Special Education Today in India
PROMOTING INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN INDIA
The remainder of the chapter focuses on the significant strides made by the
GoI toward promoting inclusive education in its national legislation and
policies in the recent decades. Some key initiatives in each decade in
the last four decades are discussed to illustrate the development of special
education services for students with special needs in India.
The 1960s
The Indian Education Commission, widely known as the Kothari
Commission (Kothari, 1966), was the first statutory body which highlighted
the issue of children with disabilities in the Plan of Action in 1964 (Alur,
2002;Puri & Abraham, 2004). It made strong recommendations for includ-
ing children with disabilities into regular schools. Elaborating on the allo-
cation of funds for handicapped children, the commission proposed that:
The Ministry of Education should allocate the necessary funds and NCERT should
establish a cell for the study of handicapped children. The principal function of the cell
would be to keep in touch with the research that is being done in the country and
abroad and to prepare material for teachers. (Kothari Commission, 1966, p. 124)
The Commission emphasized that (a) the education of children with dis-
abilities should be “an inseparable part of the general education system”
(Azad, 1996, p. 4) and (b) it should be organized, not merely on humanitar-
ian grounds, but also on grounds of utility (Azad, 1996;Puri & Abraham,
2004). Moreover, the Commission set specific targets for four categories of
disability to be achieved by 1986: education for about 15 percent of the
blind, the deaf, and orthopedically handicapped and 5 percent of the men-
tally retarded (Panda, 1996;RCI, 2000). In addition, the Commission
strongly proposed inclusive education as a model for the delivery of educa-
tional services emphasizing that not only was it cost-effective but would
also enhance mutual understanding between children with and without dis-
abilities (Panda, 1996;Puri & Abraham, 2004). However, it was apparent
that not much had been achieved in realizing the targets set by the commis-
sion (Azad, 1996); despite the fact that subsequent to the Kothari
Commission recommendations, the 1968 National Education Policy was
formulated, which had suggested: (a) the expansion of educational facilities
for children with physical and mental disabilities; and (b) to develop
integrated program to enable children with disabilities to study in regular
schools (Jha, 2002).
564 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
The 1970s
The Ministry of Welfare launched the scheme for Integrated Education for
Disabled Children (IEDC) to overcome some of the difficulties faced by the
special education system in the country, particularly, limited coverage and
a lack of qualified and trained teachers (Dasgupta, 2002). The Central
Government provided 50 percent financial assistance to the State
Governments for the implementation of the IEDC in regular schools.
The objectives of the IEDC included the retention of children with
disabilities in the regular school system, preschool training for children with
disabilities, and counseling for parents. One hundred percent financial
assistance was offered by the central government to: (i) provide facilities for
children with disabilities for books and stationery, uniform, transport allow-
ance, readers’ allowance for blind children, and boarding and lodging
charges for these children residing in hostels; (ii) setting up of resource
rooms; (iii) resource teacher support in the ratio of 1:8 in respect of all
disabled children except those with locomotor disabilities; (iv) survey for
identification of disabled children and their assessment; (v) purchase and
production of instructional material; (vi) training and orientation of resource
teachers and school administrators; and (vii) salary of persons working in
an IEDC Cell at the state level to implement and monitor the program.
Until 1990, the scheme was implemented in 14 states. In 1999, the
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting reported that the scheme was
being implemented in 26 states and union territories benefiting over 53,000
students enrolled in 14,905 schools. It has been noted that among all the
states, Kerala has shown significant progress in implementing this scheme
where 4,487 schools were implementing IEDC and serving 12,961 children
(Puri & Abraham, 2004).
The overall lack of success of this scheme was attributed to a lack of
coordination among various departments toward its implementation (Azad,
1996;Pandey & Advani, 1997). Furthermore, issues such as nonavailability
of trained and experienced teachers; lack of orientation among school
staff on the difficulties of children with disabilities and their educational
needs; and nonavailability of equipment and educational materials were
stated as major contributory factors in the failure of the program in
Maharashtra (Rane, 1983). Consequently, in 1992, the IEDC scheme was
revised to overcome some of its limitations. Under the revised scheme,
schools involved in the inclusion of students with disabilities were entitled
to 100 percent assistance and a full funding provision was made for non-
government organizations to implement the scheme.
565Special Education Today in India
The 1980s
The IEDC scheme was followed by the seminal year of International Year
for the Disabled Persons (IYDP) in 1981. The United Nations established
that all countries should frame legislation for people with disabilities and
that was the major thrust of the year. India was one of the first signatories
to the resolution proclaiming the year 1981 as the “International Year
for the Disabled Persons.” India demonstrated its commitment toward
people with disabilities by endorsing the objectives proposed in the
resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly (RCI, 2000). In
response to the United Nations initiatives, the GoI enacted a series of
legislations and policies to advance integrated education in the country
(RCI, 2000).
The GoI in its Sixth Five-Year Plan (19801985) considered inclusive
education for children with disabilities as a priority. Subsequent increased
funding for inclusive education and supplementary policies, legislation, and
programs indicate the government’s dedication in this sphere. In particular,
the provision of inclusive education as an integral part of the education
system by the GoI is reflected in the National Policy of Education (NPE)
(Ministry of Human Resource Development, 1986) and Project Integrated
Education for the Disabled (PIED) (Ministry of Human Resource
Development, 1987).
The 1986 NPE was a major initiative of the GoI toward inclusive educa-
tion for students with disabilities (RCI, 2000). It envisaged a meaningful
partnership between the union and states (National Council of Educational
Research and Training (NCERT), 2000). The policy outlined specific steps
“to integrate the physically and mentally handicapped with the general
community as equal partners, to prepare them for normal growth and to
face life with courage and confidence” (Ministry of Human Resource
Development, 1986). The NPE, under its all-encompassing objective of
“Equal Education Opportunity,” proposed the following measures for the
education of children with disabilities: (i) “wherever it is feasible, the educa-
tion of children with motor handicaps and other mild handicaps will be
common with others; (ii) special schools with hostels will be provided, as far
as possible at district headquarters, for severely handicapped children;
(iii) adequate arrangements will be made to give vocational training to the
disabled; (iv) teachers’ training programs will be reoriented, in particular for
teachers of primary classes, to deal with special difficulties of handicapped
children, by including a compulsory special education component in preser-
vice training of general teachers (Dasgupta, 2002); and (v) voluntary effort
566 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
for the education of the disabled will be encouraged in every possible man-
ner” (Jha, 2002, pp. 9394).
The NPE highlighted various issues in relation to children with disabil-
ities, such as, the magnitude of the problem, the approaches to service
delivery, the scheme of human and material resources, and nature of
linkages between various agencies, in special education, which created the
platform for serving children with disabilities as well as highlighted “educa-
tion as the right of the disabled child” (RCI, 2000).
NCERT, following the guidelines of NPE 1986 and with the assistance
of UNICEF and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD),
launched PIED for children with disabilities to strengthen the implementa-
tion of the IEDC scheme (Dasgupta, 2002). However, this project did not
include children with intellectual impairment within its scope (RCI, 2000).
This project was undertaken in 10 states/union territories of Haryana,
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Rajasthan,
and Delhi. Ten blocks were selected in each state/union territory on the
basis of “composite area” approach, to ensure appropriate coverage. Each
of these blocks constituted as a “project area” and all the schools in that
block were required to implement integrated education programs.
Furthermore, the idea for clustering schools in the specified project area
was to share facilities: instructional materials, instrumental aids, specialized
equipment, resource teachers and medical, psychological and social support
personnel. One of PIED’s main objectives was to improve access for chil-
dren with disabilities within their own environments and neighborhoods
(Alur, 2002). A major component of this project was the training of regular
classroom teachers to work with students with disabilities. The teacher
training programs were provided at three levels:
Level I: All primary school teachers in the project area underwent orien-
tation training for the duration of one week;
Level II: Ten percent of the teachers participated in an intensive six-
week training to equip them to handle children with a disability; and
Level III: Eight to ten teachers from each block completed a one-year
multi-category training program provided by the colleges of NCERT.
These teachers were subsequently placed in each project area to function
as resource teachers for a cluster of schools (Dasgupta, 2002;Jha, 2002).
According to Azad (1996), PIED, resulted in both regular school tea-
chers and students becoming more receptive toward students with disabil-
ities. Azad added that over 9,000 teachers received training to implement
567Special Education Today in India
integrated education programs. The success of the PIED project led to an
increased commitment by the Department of Education to integrate stu-
dents with disabilities (Jangira & Ahuja, 1993). An external evaluation of
this project in 1994 showed that, not only the enrollment of children with
disabilities increased noticeably, but also the retention rate among children
with disabilities was higher (approximately 95 percent) than the nondis-
abled children in the PIED blocks (Dasgupta, 2002;Jha, 2002). In addition,
results of the project showed that the achievement of children with disabil-
ities was found to be at par with children without disabilities in both
scholastic and non-scholastic activities in schools (Alur & Rioux, 2004;
Jha, 2002;RCI, 2000).
The 1990s
During this period, the GoI spurred various projects, schemes, and legisla-
tions to reinforce inclusion programs. Some of the initiatives were: the
National Policy of Education-Plan of Action (NPE-POA) (19901992); the
District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) (Ministry of Human
Resource Development, 1994); and perhaps the most significant of these
initiatives was the passage of the landmark legislation, The Persons with
Disabilities Act of 1995.
NPE (1986) was revised in 1992 and is referred to as the NPE-POA
(Ministry of Human Resource Development, 1992). The revised act
resulted from criticism of the 1986 NPE, namely, due to its lack of commit-
ment to the universalization of elementary education for all children, espe-
cially for those with disabilities (Jangira & Ahuja, 1993). In contrast, the
1992 NPE-POA reemphasized the principle of integration by stating that
those children who may be enrolled in a special school for the acquisition
of daily living skills, plus curriculum skills, communication skills, and basic
academic skills should be subsequently integrated in regular schools
(Dasgupta, 2002). In addition, all basic education projects, such as, nonfor-
mal education, adult education, vocational education, and teacher educa-
tion schemes, which are funded by the central government, should adhere
to the principle of integration (Ministry of Human Resource Development,
1992). Two important features pertaining to training issues in the
NPE-POA (1992) were: (i) it focused on the need for incorporating a mod-
ule on the education of children with disabilities as an integral component
in training for educational planners and administrators; and (ii) it upgraded
teacher education, especially for primary school teachers by introducing
568 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
the “concept of teacher accountability” to the students, their parents, the
community, and to their profession as part of teacher training programs.
Furthermore, a resolution was made to set up District Institute of
Education and Training (DIET) to provide preservice and in-service educa-
tion to regular school teachers to enhance their skills to meet the needs of
students with disabilities in their classrooms. The NPE-POA made an
impressive commitment for universal enrollment by the end of the Ninth
Five-Year Plan (19972002) for children who could be educated in regular
primary schools and those who required being educated in special schools
or special classes in regular schools (Ministry of Human Resource
Development, 1992, p. 18). This administrative initiative further high-
lighted the GoI’s commitment to integrated education.
The DPEP, a centrally sponsored scheme, was launched in 1994, with
the ultimate goal of achieving universal education. This program laid a
special emphasis on the integration of children with mild to moderate dis-
abilities in line with the world trends. The DPEP is noteworthy because it
was the first time that primary education had been delinked from the state
(Alur, 2002). The DPEP in 19941995 with financial support from the
World Bank, the European Community, and the United Kingdom’s
Overseas Development Agency, UNICEF, and the Government of the
Netherlands and the GoI became one of the largest programs of the GoI in
terms of funding. Approximately 40 billion rupees were budgeted to fund
this program in 149 districts, in 14 states.
The multiple components of the DPEP were: (i) environment building,
development of innovative designs for primary schools, and removal of
architectural barriers in existing schools; (ii) the development of teaching-
learning materials and research; (iii) provision for regular in-service teacher
training conducted by the DIET and the State Council of Educational
Research and Training (SCERT); (iv) activities related to community mobi-
lization; (v) provision for early detection, functional assessment, the use of
specialized aids and appliances, and the implementation of individualized
educational plans; and (vi) resource support at block/district level with
regards to availability of funding for educational aids and appliances as
well as placement of a program officer at the DPEP district project office.
In addition, nonformal/alternate schooling incorporating a flexible curri-
culum, informal evaluation criteria, and flexible timings would be pro-
moted (Alur, 2002). Furthermore, an advisory resource group would be
formed at the state and national level to guide the overall efforts as well as
to provide technical and academic support to integrated education under
DPEP (Dasgupta, 2002). The other significant components of this program
569Special Education Today in India
were its emphasis to: (i) actively promote the different government agencies
and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) at various levels to work in
synchronization; (ii) to keep a track of student enrollment, retention, drop-
outs, and gender-wise specifications through case-studies and statistical
records to be compiled annually; and (iii) start primary schools in every vil-
lage to address the issues of out-of school children and early marriages
(Alur, 2002). An evaluation of the DPEP indicated that innovative and
practical interventions introduced by the DPEP significantly improved
access and retention, as well as quality of education of all students (World
Bank, 1997).
In the last decade of the millennium, the turning point in the educa-
tional provisions for children with disabilities in India was brought about
by the enactment of the landmark legislation titled, The Persons with
Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full
Participation) Act of 1995 (Ministry of Law Justice and Company
Affairs, 1996). The aforementioned Act was ratified to give effect to the
proclamation on the full participation and equality of people with disabil-
ities in the Asian and Pacific region to which India was a signatory at
the meeting to launch the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons
19932002 convened by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia
and Pacific (ESCAP) held at Beijing on December 15, 1992. This Act,
passed by the Indian parliament seeks, inter alia, to create a conducive
environment in the country to facilitate equal participation and giving an
opportunity to the disabled to join the mainstream and contribute to the
process of nation building. An essential aspect of the legislation accord-
ing to a number of authors (Kulakarni, 2000;Rao, 2000) was the empha-
sis it placed on the inclusion of students with disabilities into regular
schools. For the first time, the inclusion of students with disabilities in
regular schools entered the realm of Indian jurisdiction. Consequently,
one of the essential features of this Act is that discrimination specifically
against persons with disabilities came under the purview of law through
grievance redressed machinery established at the central and state levels.
With regard to education, it called upon the three tiers of government,
namely, national, state/union territories, and local governments to pro-
mote inclusive education. The Act charged upon these governments to
ensure that all children with disabilities had access to a “free and appro-
priate” education until the age of 18 years. Concurrently, the Act entailed
that local bodies, NGOs, and all others involved with the education
of children with disabilities, would be responsible for implementing its
various provisions (Dasgupta, 2002). In addition, Chapter five of the Act
570 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
articulated the need for establishing open schools and universities and
nonformal/alternative education with the aim of facilitating education for
students with disabilities. It also emphasized teacher training programs,
adaptation of curriculum materials, reform of the examination system,
and the promotion of research (Dasgupta, 2002).
In addition, for the purpose of effective implementation of the legisla-
tion, coordination committees were established at the national and state
levels and headed by the commissioners appointed at the central and state
level. The role of the Chief Commissioner, who holds important statutory
functionary, includes coordinating the work of the State Commissioners,
for persons with disabilities, monitoring utilization of funds disbursed by
the Central Government, and taking appropriate action to safeguard rights
and facilities made available to persons with disabilities (Ministry of
Information and Broadcasting, 2004). Furthermore, the commissioners
possess the powers to intervene legally for deprivation or violation of the
rights of the disabled, including matters of equal opportunity in education
(Jha, 2002). The GoI in its Ninth Five-Year Plan (19972002) earmarked
billion rupees specifically for the provision of integrated education
(Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 2000) in order to expand
educational opportunities for children with disabilities in the country.
The National Trust Act was established as a statutory body under the
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment set up under the “National
Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental
Retardation and Multiple Disabilities” Act (Ministry of Law Justice and
Company Affairs, 1999). This Act further strengthened the PWD Act of
1995 and had provisions for students with autism, intellectual impairment,
and cerebral palsy.
The 2000s
A number of significant initiatives have taken place in the last decade
that further strengthened inclusion movement in India. Some of these initia-
tives included: Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Ministry of Human Resource
Development, 2000), The Action Plan for Inclusion in Education of
Children and Youth with Disabilities (Ministry of Human Resource
Development, 2005), National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (Ministry
of Social Justice and Empowerment, 2006), and Inclusive Education of the
Disabled at Secondary Stage (Ministry of Human Resource Development,
2009a). Detailed information on these initiatives follows.
571Special Education Today in India
The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education
for All movement) (SSA), which was implemented in 2000, set time-bound
targets for the achievement of Universal Elementary Education (UEE) by
2010. With a premise of “zero rejection,” the program provided support for
the inclusion of children with disabilities in regular schools at the elemen-
tary level. SSA provided an assistance of rupees, namely, 1,200 per special
needs child per annum. This money was allocated toward assistive devices,
materials in alternative learning formats, and anything else that would
assist children with disabilities to be included in mainstream classrooms.
Under the scheme, over 2 million children with disabilities were identified
and over 1.5 million children with disabilities in the age group 614 years
were enrolled in regular schools. Under SSA, a continuum of educational
options, learning aids and tools, mobility assistance, support services, etc.
were made available to students with disabilities. This included education
through an open learning system and open schools, alternative schooling,
distance education, special schools, wherever necessary home-based educa-
tion, itinerant teacher model, remedial teaching, part time classes, Commu-
nity Based Rehabilitation (CBR), and vocational education. Alur and
Rioux (2004) however argue that the implementation of SSA was adversely
affected due to the inadequate disbursement of financial assistance.
The Action Plan for Inclusion in Education of Children and Youth with
Disabilities was an ambitious plan that was introduced by the Government
to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream
schools. Under this plan, the first level of intervention was offered through
the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program. This program
aimed to reach out to all children aged 06 years, and it trained anganwadi
workers to detect disabilities in children at an early stage. In addition, this
plan included a number of specific objectives including the following: (a)
providing home-based learning for persons with severe, multiple, and intel-
lectual disability, (b) modifying physical infrastructure and teaching meth-
odologies to meet the needs of all children including children with special
needs, and (c) providing training to preservice teachers about inclusion con-
cepts by including a module on inclusion in their preservice teacher pre-
paration programs and offering professional development opportunities to
existing teachers.
The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognized that
persons with disabilities are valuable human resource for the country and
sought to create an environment that provided them with equal opportu-
nities, protection of their rights, and full participation in society. The focus
of the policy included prevention of disabilities, rehabilitation measures,
572 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
and physical rehabilitation strategies. More specifically it involved (a) early
detection and intervention, (b) counseling and medical rehabilitation,
(c) the use of assistive devices, (d) development of rehabilitation profes-
sionals, (e) education for persons with disabilities, (f) economic rehabilita-
tion of persons with disabilities, (g) serving women and children with
disabilities, (h) creating barrier free environment, (i) issuing disability certi-
ficates, (j) providing social security, (k) the promotion of NGOs, (l) carry-
ing out research, (m) sports, recreation, and cultural life, (n) making
amendments and existing acts dealing with the PWDs.
SSA specifically supported inclusion of children with special needs at the
early childhood education and elementary education level and Inclusive
Education for the Disabled at the Secondary Stage (IEDSS) was introduced
to provide assistance to students with special needs at secondary level. The
scheme for IEDSS was therefore envisaged to enable adolescents with dis-
abilities to have access to secondary education and to improve their enroll-
ment, retention, and achievement in the general education system. Under
the scheme every school was proposed to be made “disabled-friendly.”
IEDSS especially aimed to identify students with disabilities at the second-
ary stage, provide 3,000 rupees per child per annum for instructional mate-
rials, and set up model schools in every state to develop replicable practices
in inclusive education.
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act
(Ministry of Human Resource Development, 2009b) proposed free and
compulsory education to all children aged between 6 and 14 years. Also,
the Act made it binding that all public and private schools reserve 25 per-
cent of their classroom seats for children from “disadvantaged sections.”
Section 3 of the law stated that “disadvantaged sections” cover children
with disabilities as specified under the PDA. In 2012, a bill was passed by
the parliament of India to amend the Act. This bill allowed children with
autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, and multiple disabilities the
benefit of choosing to study from home. The bill emphasized that the
“home schooling option” should not become an instrument for schools not
wanting to take these children in classrooms.
CURRENT CHALLENGES FOR INCLUSIVE
EDUCATION IN INDIA
The movement toward inclusive education has become a major focus in
recent education reform in India. In spite of the government’s efforts in the
573Special Education Today in India
last four decades, less than 1 percent of children with disabilities are edu-
cated in inclusive setting (The Hindu, 2013). India’s unique problems and
characteristics such as poverty, the absence of a binding law for inclusive
education, a lack of resources, and its unique cultural and social back-
ground are daunting obstacles to the inclusion of children with disabilities
into the regular education setting.
A high level of poverty in India has been a real challenge for the imple-
mentation of inclusive education. In spite of recent economic develop-
ments, poverty is rampant in India. World Bank reports that as much as
400 million people in India are living in poverty, that is, living on less
than 82 pence a day (The Telegraph, 2013). According to the most recent
report published in Business Standard on January 21, 2014, per capita
income in India stands at Rupees 68,748 per year which is equivalent to
about $1,087. This is significantly below even with developing countries’
standards. The principal causes of disability inadequate nutrition, faulty
childbearing practices, infections from diseases, and accidents are pro-
ducts of poverty and insufficient human services. Thus, the risk of impair-
ment is much greater for the children of the poverty-stricken. The birth of
an impaired child or the occurrence of disability in the family, often places
additional demands on the limited resources of the family and strains its
morale, thrusting it deeper into the morass of poverty. Poverty is also an
obstacle to the improvement in educational opportunities for children with
disabilities in India. Karna (1999) points out that a large number of chil-
dren with disabilities live in families where family income is significantly
below the poverty level. Many of these children become a part of the
child labor force not due to choice but out of compulsion to meet the
basic needs of their family. For the majority of these children and their
families, subsistence takes precedence to education as they have an
immediate need for food and shelter. This notion severely restricts educa-
tional opportunities for a vast majority of children let alone children with
disabilities.
Another significant challenge for the successful implementation of inclu-
sive education in India is the lack of binding laws. There have been several
legislations such as PWD Act, RTE Act, and others that have been passed
in India which focus on inclusive education. However, in absence of bind-
ing clauses such as “zero reject,” “least restrictive environment,” “due pro-
cess,” and others included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Improvement Act (IDEIA) which was passed by the United States
Congress in 2004, the provisions made in the PWD Act and others did not
yield the required outcome in terms of creating equitable educational
opportunities for children with disabilities in India. In absence of binding
574 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
laws, the legislations passed in India emphasizing inclusive education
remains nothing but a hollow and empty promise.
The lack of resources has been a major hurdle in the implementation of
inclusive education in India. A number of authors including Alur (2002),
Bhatnagar and Das (2013),andDas, Gichuru, and Singh (2013) pointed
out that constraints of resources have been a major barrier in the imple-
mentation of inclusion programs in India and therefore, it should be a mat-
ter of priority. Alur (2002) further asserts that “Policy without funding is
no policy at all” (p. 25). Jangira (2002) argued that the inclusion education
plan can only be successful if the GoI allocates resources based on preva-
lence of special educational needs. The Working Group Report on
Elementary Education and Literacy under the 12th Five-Year Plan
(20122017) made a number of recommendations to address the resource
crunch for inclusive education which included the following: support for
inclusive education to be provided at the rate of Rupees 3,000 per year for
every child with special needs and 1,000 of these Rupees will be made avail-
able for resource teachers; provision of aids and appliances will be provided
as needed; and that their will be training of regular school teachers.
Another reason for non-realization of the inclusion endeavor in India
could be the dual administration of special education in the country. While
special schools fall under the administration of Ministry of Social Welfare,
inclusive education is the responsibility of the Department of Education in
the Ministry of Human Resource Development (Jangira, 2002). In addi-
tion, inclusive education to be effective requires the coordination between
different sectors of operations, namely, the welfare sector, the women and
child development sector, and the health sector. However, there is no co-
coordinating system in place either at the central, state, district, or subdis-
trict levels which hold up the inclusion process at the school level (Jangira,
2002). Furthermore, there is no appropriate regulatory framework to moni-
tor and enforce accountability for the successful implementation of inclu-
sive education programs at all levels (Alur, 2002;Jangira, 2002).
Another important challenge is teacher concerns and a lack of suppor-
tive attitudes for inclusive education in India. The available research on
teacher attitudes and concerns in India indicate that while many general
education teachers philosophically support inclusion, most have strong
concerns about their ability to implement it successfully (Bhatnagar & Das,
2013;Das, Kuyini, & Desai, 2013;Shah, 2005). For instance, studies have
shown that most general education teachers question their ability to teach
students with disabilities, and some doubt they will be provided with the
resources and support necessary for the programs (Bhatnagar, 2006;Shah,
575Special Education Today in India
2005). Another similar challenge is a lack of trained work force to effec-
tively meet the needs of children with disabilities. A number of researchers
have highlighted that the regular school teachers in India have reported not
receiving appropriate training in special education instructional methods
(e.g., Das, 2001;Jangria, Singh, & Yadav, 1995;Shah, Das, Desai, &
Tiwari, 2014). It is rather unfair to ask these teachers to do something that
they have not been trained in.
WORKING WITH FAMILIES OF CHILDREN WITH
DISABILITIES IN INDIA
Understanding family structure in India is important in the context of deli-
vering services to children with disabilities. The traditional “Western”
notion of family as having a nuclear structure does not apply to Indian
families which may include three or four generations of family members liv-
ing under one roof. Both joint and nuclear families exist in almost equal
proportions in India, but reflect some geographic variations in family struc-
ture. In the southern part of India, about 60 percent of the families are
nuclear, whereas this proportion is 42 percent in the northern part of the
country. The joint family system is, however, shrinking due to industrializa-
tion, urbanization, increased mobility, and influence from the Western
world (Pinto & Sahur, 2001). Professionals need to be aware of role func-
tions of family members while communicating with them. For example,
while men typically assume primary role in key decision making process
involving financial and outside home-related aspects, women assume
primary role in day-to-day household tasks and implementation of any
intervention at home. Professionals, therefore, must adjust their communi-
cation accordingly while communicating with family members. Another
aspect that needs professionals’ attention is the changing nature of family in
India. While even until a decade ago, majority of the family used to have
one member (typically men) who was the primary breadwinner for the
family, in the last decade this notion has changed drastically due to
increased industrialization and urbanization. This has also resulted in
increased number of nuclear families in India. While grandparents or other
family members took care of the disabled child earlier, this support system
is slowly fading away and exerting increased pressure on the families that
have a child with disabilities. In addition, families of children with disabil-
ities in India still have to deal with the stigma associated with disability.
576 AJAY DAS AND RINA SHAH
This is more prevalent in rural areas. For this reason, inclusive education is
a preferred option for many parents in spite of receiving minimal services, in
most instances, from the school where their children attend. In the last dec-
ade or so, however, mass media has played a significant role in developing
awareness among people and reducing the stigma attached with disability.
TEACHER PREPARATION
While teacher preparation in special education has witnessed a major
change in the last two decades in India, it is still lagging behind to meet the
demands of increased number of teachers in the country. In order to meet
with the demands of special education teachers in the country, the GoI had
set up national institutes on various disabilities in the 1980s (e.g., NIMH,
National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH)). These national
institutes and their regional centers in various parts of the country became
instrumental in offering bachelor’s degree or diploma courses in special
education. For example, the NIMH started offering a Bachelor’s degree
course in Mental Retardation (BMR) as early as 1987. Other national insti-
tutes started such initiatives as well. The range of courses offered by these
institutions and other universities grew rapidly over a period of time.
Currently the course offerings include certificate courses that may last for
three months to doctoral degree in special education and allied fields. In
addition to aiding with the manpower development in the country, these
national institutes played a key role in conducting research in special edu-
cation and developing pedagogy unique to India. The GoI also formed an
autonomous body, RCI in 1993 by passing RCI Act in 1992 to regulate the
special education and rehabilitation course offered by government agencies
and NGOs. RCI has been instrumental in ensuring program quality offered
by the teacher training institutions. It regulates and monitors services ren-
dered to persons with disabilities and standardizes syllabi. It also maintains
a Central Rehabilitation Register of all qualified professionals and person-
nel working in the field of Rehabilitation and Special Education in India.
According to the latest information obtained from the RCI website, there
are 60 different categories of courses offered in special education and allied
fields in the country. These courses are both offered through regular as well
as distance mode.
With regard to the inclusion of children with disabilities and meeting
their unique needs in that setting, a number of researchers have highlighted
577Special Education Today in India
a lack of preparation among regular teachers in India. For example, Das
(2001) conducted a survey of 310 primary and 130 secondary regular school
teachers in Delhi and reported that a vast majority of these teachers had
never received any training in working with children with special needs.
These teachers were nonetheless charged with meeting the needs of all chil-
dren in their classrooms that were already overcrowded and under
resourced. Bhatnagar (2006) and Shah (2005) raised similar concerns
regarding teachers’ lack of preparation for inclusive education.
CONCLUSION
India appears to be at the crossroads with the implementation of inclusive
education. On one hand, the Indian government has demonstrated its
determination by implementing a number of policies, programs, and legis-
lations for inclusion in the last four decades; while on the other it faces a
number of unique challenges that limits its successful implementation.
Policy makers need to address these challenges appropriately to make
inclusive education a reality for millions of children with disabilities in
India. While research (Singal, 2005;Singal & Rouse, 2003) on inclusive
education in India is limited, external research can be evaluated and
adopted to meet the unique socio-cultural-educational traditions of India.
Similarly, specialized services can be sought from those professionals who
have extensive experiences with the implementation of inclusive education
in other contexts and an understanding of Indian scenario as well.
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Supplementary resource (1)

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