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Educational Policies in India with Special Reference to Children with Disabilities



The present paper traces the emergence of 'inclusive education' of disabled children in India in terms of the governmental policies that have been suggested as well as implemented. The UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability) in the international arena has India as a ratified member, which also places importance on making provisions for providing education to children with disabilities. The government of India is yet to come up with some concrete laws that focus solely on the education of children with disabilities, there does exist the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SAA) under which all children between 6-18 years are to receive free education and another draft bill for the new education policy which is under way. The paper will also throw a light on how far commitment towards education for children with disabilities has been successful in the country.
Educational Policies in India with Special Reference to
Children with Disabilities
Ritika Gulyani
The present paper traces the emergence of ‘inclusive education’ of
disabled children in India in terms of the governmental policies that have
been suggested as well as implemented. The UNCRPD (United Nations
Convention on the Rights of People with Disability) in the international
arena has India as a ratified member, which also places importance on
making provisions for providing education to children with disabilities.
The government of India is yet to come up with some concrete laws that
focus solely on the education of children with disabilities, there does exist
the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SAA) under which all children between 6-18
years are to receive free education and another draft bill for the new
education policy which is under way. The paper will also throw a light on
how far commitment towards education for children with disabilities has
been successful in the country.
Keywords: India, Inclusive Education, Disability, Government Policies,
Defining Disability
There are innumerable definitions of disability and for the sake of convenience,
these definitions of can be divided into two groups: the official definitions
produced by professionals and academics and those that are developed by
people with disabilities and the organizations controlled and run by the people
with disabilities (Oliver and Barnes 1998:14). The definitions of disability are
significant as they play a vital role in diagnosing a particular condition as
belonging to a specific category which can have far reaching consequences in
shaping the identity of those subjected to its ramifications. Diagnosis can be
understood both as a medical process as well as a system of analysis of
people’s lives based on special knowledge and expertise of professionals (Ghai
2003:29). There exist different models which help us understand disability,
earliest among them being the medical model and the social model. The former
sees the diagnostics and solution to disability in medical knowledge, with the
focus being on bodily ‘abnormalities’, disorder or deficiency, and the way in
RITIKA GULYANI, Research Scholar, Centre for the Study of Social Systems,
School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Email:
which this in turn ‘causes’ some degree of ‘disability’ or functional limitation.
The recommended solution lies in curative and rehabilitative medical
intervention, with an increasing involvement of allied health practitioners,
psychologists and educationalists (Barnes et al. 1999:22-23).
The social model in turn emerged during the 1970’s and 80’s as a response to
the medical model by the disability activists, who argued that it is the society
which disables people with impairments and therefore any meaningful solution
must be directed at societal change rather than individual adjustment and
rehabilitation. Disability was something that was imposed on top of one's
impairments such that one is excluded from a full participation in the society.
The model focused on the experience of disability, but not as something which
exists purely at the level of individual psychology, or even interpersonal
relations. It considers a wide range of social and material factors and
conditions, such as family circumstances, income and financial support,
education, employment, housing, transport and the built environment, and more
(Barnes et al 1999:27-28).
However, the social model, despite being critical of the medical model, has
been criticized for looking at impairment in terms of medical discourse itself. In
order for social model to claim that disability was a consequence of the
oppression of the society, it was essential to challenge the medical view that the
body is the cause of disability and handicap. Thus, a distinction was created
between impairment and disability where the former was due to biology and the
latter due to society and the body is defined in biological terms. The problem
with this understanding is that the dualism created by impairment/disability
tends to pull biology and culture in two different directions.
Tom Shakespeare (1997) and Marian Corker (1998, Corker and French 1999)
have emphasized that the social model of disability does not take into
consideration the cultural processes that shape disability. For them, within a
materialist view of disability, culture is seen to be an insignificant part of the
superstructure that emerges from the economy. Emphasis is placed on the
disability engendering role played by the cultural ideas which more often than
not portray people with disabilities in a negative light. For post structuralist,
like Foucault, however, even impairment is fully cultural and is the outcome of
social processes (Foucault 1979, 1980). The postmodernist and the post
structuralist perspectives reject the idea of the roots of disability being located
in the realms of social relations. Rather as Thomas (2002:49) puts it, the social
phenomena of disability and impairment should be understood as being ‘woven
through and out of cultural ideas’. The understanding of disability as a
phenomenon has thus undergone a series of changes over the years and has
come a long way from the medical model of understanding of disability to a
Indian Anthropologist (2017) 47:2, 35-51 37
present post – structuralist one where culture and the surroundings play a vital
role in its formulation.
International efforts around Disability
Internationally, efforts have been going on to address the issue of disability and
the rights of people associated with it since the last four decades. Patil (2008) in
his work has outlined a trajectory of these developments. In 1969, the United
Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Social Progress
and Development to address the concerns of the rights of people with disability,
while in 1975, it adopted the Rights of Disabled Persons which proclaimed that
‘disabled people have the same civil and political rights as other human beings’.
The year 1981 was declared by the General Assembly as the International Year
of Persons with Disabilities with a theme of full participation and equality,
while the decade 1983 to 1993 was the UN Decade of disabled persons for
Better Implementation of the World Program of Action for the Disabled. The
end of the decade was marked by declaring 3
December as the International
Day of Disabled Persons. The General Assembly in 1993 adopted the Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Person with Disabilities. This in
turn gave rise to different countries accepting and drawing up policies so as to
promote equality of opportunity, protection of rights and full participation of
persons with disabilities. In 2006, the UN convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities was brought forth which emphasized on the non-
discrimination and effective and full participation and inclusion in society (Dias
Out of these, there have been a few conventions and treaties that have pertained
to the rights of disabled children and their education specifically. These include
the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Standard Rules of
1993, the UNESCO Salamanca Statement of 1994 and the recent 2006 UN
Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child was ratified by about 177 countries worldwide which
included India. The Convention overall has statements to the effect that ‘all
rights shall apply to all children without any discrimination on any grounds,
including disability’, ‘the best interest of children will be a primary
consideration’ and that ‘the children will have a right to express opinion and
that opinion would be taken into account.’ However, it is Article 24 of the
Convention which specifically deals with disabled children and says that the
education of the child should lead to the fullest possible social integration and
development of the individual and also active participation in the community
(Vaughan 2002:154). Also unlike the other declarations on disability, the CRC
asks the state to lay down provisions for the education of disabled children as a
basic human right rather than it being aimed to achieve charity or social
integration (Hernandez 2008:501). But while the Convention obliges the states
to recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education, just the
recognition of these rights does not ensure education. Education policies may
be in place but if schools have a rigid curriculum, buildings that are
inaccessible, teachers not trained in special education and so on, then it may
prevent children with disabilities from attending school.
The UN Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities set out a standard that was to be internationally followed when
making policies for people with disabilities. These Rules put emphasis on
inclusive education for the development of disabled students. The UNESCO
Salamanca Statement, was a declaration on the education of disabled children,
and had representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organizations,
which included India, agree on it. The main aim of this statement is to urge the
governments of the different countries to adopt inclusive education and to
enroll all children in a mainstream school unless there is a reason not to do so
(Vaughan 2002:155).
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(UNCRPD 2007) aims to promote an equal society by recognizing the fact that
the persons with disabilities should be guaranteed respect, dignity and social
inclusion the same way as other members of the society. The Convention looks
at the disability issue as a central part of development. As specified in Article 4
of the Convention, the signatory states are “to take into account the protection
and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities in all policies
and programmes.” As suggested by Durocher in the work “Disability and
global development”, only about 2-3% of children with disabilities in the
developing countries attend school while most of them remain illiterate
(O’Dowd, Mannan and McVeigh 2013:70). In the same vein, UNESCO pointed
out that in developing countries, about ninety percent of children with
disabilities did not attend any school (United Nations Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities). The UNCRPD is the move of the United Nations
from understanding disability from the point of view of the medical model to
understanding it from the point of view of the social model. The early
document of UN emphasized on seeing education as a treatment for disability,
while the more recent ones have tended to see it as a human right which is
required by children to develop their full potential (Hernandez 2008:499).
The CRPD in specific was an important step as it brought with it a paradigm
shift in the way in which disability is understood in terms of the international
human rights law. It is based on the social-human rights model that focuses on
capability and inclusion: on lifting the environmental as well as the attitudinal
barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from full inclusion and equal
participation in all aspects of community life. As Kothari points out, with the
coming of the CRPD, the dichotomy between the civil-political as well as the
Indian Anthropologist (2017) 47:2, 35-51 39
socio-economic has been dissolved and it easily blends in the two. It also
includes highly disability specific interpretations of the existing human rights
which transform the negative rights or the non-interference based rights into
positive state obligations (Kothari 2012:181).
Understanding Special Education
When the western education system developed, it was to cater to mass
education and disability was thought of to be an impairment that should be
given special treatment in a separate environment. Since the medical profession
was the one responsible for diagnosing the defects, it irrevocably became tied to
it. It also became a screening process to keep the children with physical and
sensory disabilities, and later also those with behavioral and learning
disabilities, out of the mainstream school. However, the notion of special
education was not very successful, as pointed out by Oliver (1996:93):
‘Special segregated education has been the main vehicle for
educating disabled children throughout most of the industrialized
world in the twentieth century. Over a hundred years, a special
education system has failed to provide disabled children with the
knowledge and skills to take their rightful place in the world, and it
has failed to empower them.’
However, a significant shift has been observed from special education to the
inclusive education all over the world. The integration of disabled learners into
mainstream schools has become an alternative to the presence of special
schools, especially in the west (Polat 2011:50-51).
Inclusive Education
It was the idea of inclusive education that radically altered the basis of special
education and everything that it stood for, namely the growth of categories of
disability and their subsequent rectification, the separation of education and the
certification of teachers. The distinction between Mainstream and inclusion as
explained by Minow is that while the former means the “selective placement of
special education students in one or more ‘regular education classes’ to the
extent that these students can keep up with the work assigned by the teacher in
the regular classroom while utilizing the relevant educational services,
inclusion means to structure the educational environment in such a way that it
becomes possible to include students with special needs in the classroom itself.
In other words, mainstream tries to being children with special needs to fit them
in the existing classroom methods and goals, inclusionary approach tries to
provide education that is responsive to the needs of all students (Minow
2012:41). Inclusion tries to being together the efforts of the general and the
special educator to the child rather than the child moving for this support.
The idea of inclusion is not a new one and it has its roots in liberal and
progressive thought. The current schooling system seems to be based on two
opposing avenues, that of integration and segregation. There were many like
Elizabeth Burgwin, a child welfare pioneer, who saw no point in segregation
and while thinking about the needs of disabled children, assumed that the
adaptation that had to be made would be to the normal school. The other body
of opinion dealt with the view that children could be divided according to the
difficulties they faced and consequently special schools could be set up to cater
to their needs. Instead of referring to children as having ‘special needs’,
inclusive education sees these ‘needs’ as a part of diversity among learners who
need equal treatment (Jha 2010:8). While the emphasis when discussing about
inclusion tends to emphasize on the curriculum, the attitudes and the teaching
method, there is a further dimension which is related to inclusion not just in the
classroom but in the overall society as well.
Inclusion in most circumstances is understood as being opposed to the concept
of segregation, in a very similar way to which integration is seen as opposed to
segregation. However it is important to keep in mind that inclusion and
integration are not synonyms. The word inclusion should be understood in
opposition to exclusion (Thomas et al 1998:12). Integration thus focuses on the
child and how the child should adapt to fit into the school whereas inclusion
focuses on the school itself where it is the school which has to make
adjustments to make the child fit in.
Disability and Education in India
The disability rights in India right from the 1980’s had been following three
parallel tendencies; there are the individual-centered organizations who mainly
lobby for the provision of services, to create awareness and to circulate
information, then there are the NGO’s that are managed by the activists for the
rehabilitation programmes among the poor of rural and urban areas and finally
there are the disability studies scholars who are involved in the production of
knowledge (Mehrotra 2013:102). However Ghai (2003) points out that
organizations centered around disability rights are usually riddled with concern
of the middle-class men. For Mehrotra (2013) this becomes a matter of concern
when the ‘rights for the disabled’ turn into the rights for only the privileged
disabled such as special parking facilities, concession in travel etc. All these,
though important, are a far cry from the reality of the majority of people with
disabilities who are marginalized even further on account of their caste, class,
place of residence and gender. More vital to them would be issues like
education, residence, employment etc (p.103).
Especially in regards to education, India has been consistent to achieve this
goal. This has been a part of its development strategy and is very visible in the
Indian Anthropologist (2017) 47:2, 35-51 41
form of the formation of the University Education Commission (1948-49), the
Secondary Education Commission (1952-53), the Education Commission
(1964-66) and the National Commission on Teachers- I & II (1983-85).
Additionally, the National Policy on Education (1986) (later revised in 1992)
laid forth a plan for a national system of education where “up to a given level,
all students, irrespective of their caste, creed, location or sex had access to a
comparative quality of education” (Government of India 2016 (1), 3-4).
The concerns for the rights of disabled people in India were visible in the
public domain only in the 1990’s when a number of legislation were passed and
enacted by the parliament. These included the Rehabilitation Council of India
Act 1992, the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of
Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, and the National Trust for Welfare of
Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple
Disabilities Act 1999. It was the rise of the disability rights movement and the
role of United Nations that had given an impetus to the developments in the
field of legislature as well as laid a foundation for the jurisprudence of
disability in India. The most vital development in this regard was the
ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(CRPD) which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13
December 2006 (Addlakha and Mandal 2009:62).
The International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities created
a framework based on the rights-based model of disability. India was the
seventh country to ratify this Convention on October 1, 2007. From then
onwards there was a demand to amend the law on Indian disability so as to shift
from a welfare based approach which treats people with disability as objects of
charity in need of medical treatment and social protection to a rights-based
approach where people are treated as being equally capable of laying a claim
on their rights and being allowed to make autonomous decisions based on free
and informed consent (Chopra 2013:808). This constant push has finally
resulted in the passing of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016.
India has 16% of the world's population which makes it the biggest democracy
in the world. Out of this population, of about 1 billion, about 10% have some
form of disability. Out of this, about 1.67% of the population under the age of
19 in India has a disability. In other words out of all the people living in India
with disability, about 35.29% are children, or about 12 million children. Of
these children, only 1% has access to school (Child Line India). Education in
India is largely the responsibility of the state government but the central
government has made various provisions to address the inconsistency of the
different state laws. It was due to the 42
Constitutional Amendment of 1976
that education was transferred from the state list to the concurrent one and
giving equal importance to both the state as well as the centre in forming the
Government documents such as that of the Ministry of Human Resource
Development show that children who belong to a certain group like the
schedule caste, the schedule tribe, from the various religious, linguistic and
minority groups, those who are girls and those children who have disabilities
are usually more likely than others to be excluded from the schools. The
Government of India has made various provisions to sort out these
discrepancies along with an effort to equalize the educational opportunities by
attending to the specific needs of those whose equality has been withheld so far.
The responsibility of the education of children with disabilities rests with the
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Department of Education and
the Department of Women and Child Welfare (Singal 2006:354). Historically,
as well, there are certain groups in the society, such as children of colour, ethnic
minority, the working class, the poor children and boys who have been a part of
special education for a long time (Connor and Ferri 2007:68). For Ferri rather
than this being a problem of race or disability, it is more about the forms of
discrimination and exclusion that takes place in these schools. It is a critique on
the part of the school to be unable to teach and value everyone and to make sure
no one is excluded (Ferri 2009:419).
So despite all that the government has done so far, there are still pressing issues
in front of the government in the form of the access and participation in
education, the efficiency of the system, the quality of education that is
imparted, and the financial contribution to the development of education. Also
many groups of children, despite the best efforts from the government and the
presence of multiple policies, are still unable to avail full benefit of these
policies. These include children with disabilities along with children belonging
to nomadic families, children in remote locations and migrant children among
others. They are usually the children who belong to the vulnerable/
disadvantaged sections of the society (Government of India 2016 (1); 10). In
terms of enrollment and retention of children with disabilities in schools is very
poor. According to Chatterjee (2003), about 40 million disabled children in
India do not attend school. This is about ninety percent of the number of
disabled children in India. In addition, according to World Bank (2007),
children with disability hardly progressed beyond the primary education and
only 9% of children in India completed their higher education (Hiranandani and
Sonpal 2010).
Kothari Commission (1964-1966)
Kothari Commission (1964-1966) brought up the issue of education of children
with special needs and was one of the first education commissions to do so. It
recommended that ‘children with special needs should be integrated into
Indian Anthropologist (2017) 47:2, 35-51 43
ordinary schools. The education of such children should not be organized
merely on the grounds of humanitarianism and pity but rather it should be such
that education enables the individual to overcome his/ her handicap and emerge
as a useful citizen of the country.’ for this the commission recommended that
the Ministry of Education allot the necessary funds to help educated children
with special needs (Alur 2002:54). However, despite the recommendations of
the commission, the needs of the children with special needs was relegated to
the voluntary sector, where the government would give out funds for their
welfare and thus not maintaining direct link to the children. Most of the
children with intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities are still educated
in schools run by NGO’s (Lakhan 2013:83).
Although post independence, India witnessed a lot of development in the field
of education, but none of them benefitted the disabled children to a large
extent. The main problem faced by the special education system was lack of
teachers qualified to teach the children with special needs. In the past, there
have been other programmes as well which were introduced to improve the
educational quality like Operation Blackboard by the Ministry of Human
Resource Development in 1987, the Lok Jumbish in 1992 and the District
Primary Education Programme by the Ministry of Human Resource
Development in 1993. These programmes were based on various ways of
improving the overall infrastructure, the curriculum, human resource, and on
ways to improve the achievement levels of the learner (Singal 2006:353). The
Ministry of Welfare in 1974 launched a scheme for Integrated Education for
Disabled Children (IEDC). Under this scheme, educational opportunities were
to be provided to children with disabilities in the normal schools so as to ensure
they remain in the educational system and do not drop out. It provided for full
financial assistance for the education of such children.
In 1987, the Project for Integrated Education Development (PIED) was
introduced to strengthen the IEDC scheme. This project was introduced with
the assistance of UNICEF. It was carried out in a few blocks of ten selected
states of India where all the schools of the blocks were converted into
integrated schools. The teachers of these schools were given training to handle
the needs of children with disability and an external evaluation of this project
showed that due to the implementation of such integrated schools, the
enrollment as well as retention of students with disability was higher, the
awareness about education in general schools regarding those with a disability
increased and also the teachers felt that they had become better teachers by
teaching disabled children (Dasgupta 2002:42-43).
However in 1982, the implementation of the IEDC was transferred to the
Department of Education and in 1986 the education of these children was
brought under the Equal Education Opportunity Provision under the National
Policy on Education (NPE). Under this, the Programme of Action states that
every child with a disability who can be educated in a general school should not
be put in a special school. In addition, those children who are studying in a
special school should be integrated into a general one after they acquire skills
pertaining to daily living, communication and basic living. This Programme of
Action not just emphasized on the principle of integration but made it an
integral component of all the basic ongoing projects like the non-formal
education, adult education, etc. (Dasgupta 2002:44).
There have been other schemes like the Integrated Education for Disabled
Children and the Inclusion in Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities
which provide for financial assistance to help include children with disabilities
in the mainstream but along with that there has been an increase in the number
of special schools as well (Singal 2008:1518). The policies on education have
to recognize the role played by the other policies at the national level and has
been acknowledged in other policies such as the National Policy on Early
Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) put forth in 2013, the National Youth
Policy (NYP) of 2014 and the national policy of Skill Development and
Entrepreneurship 2015 in addition to various other policies of the state.
Persons With Disabilities Act 1995
The Persons with Disability Act 1995 also identifies different mental and
physical categories of disabilities, ranging seven in all. Specifically chapter 5 of
the Act deals with the right to education. Under it, every child with a disability
has a right to free education in an environment considered appropriate for the
child. For this, the Act provides the establishment of special schools and
provision for imparting non-formal education and open school education to the
disabled children, and also to take steps in adapting the curriculum to make it
more student friendly, to reform the examination system and to provide
opportunities of research to the disabled students. In order to fulfill these
responsibilities, the Act put the government at the national, state as well as
local level in charge. At the national level, while the welfare of disabled in
general is looked after by the Ministry of Welfare, the education of disabled
students comes under the Department of Education. Education is a concurrent
subject in the Indian constitution, which means that both the governments at the
level of the state as well as the center make laws on it and education is
primarily under the administrative control of the state government and the role
of the central government is to provide support to the state government
(Dasgupta 2002:46).
The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and
Full Participation) Act, 1995 was passed with the philosophy of viewing
disability as a medical condition and so the Act does not make a distinction
Indian Anthropologist (2017) 47:2, 35-51 45
between special schools and special education. As per the 1994 Salamanca
Statement and Framework for Action, one important criterion for special
education is inclusion, which the PWD Act seems unaware of. It also seems
unaware of the distinction between inclusion and integration when it states in
Article 26 that “the appropriate Government and local authorities shall
endeavor to promote the integration of students with disabilities in the normal
school. Even the use of the term “integration” in the PWD Act 1995 does not
simply signify functional integration but rather either geographical or social
integration. In most cases, this trickles down in practice to resource rooms or
separate classes (Bhattacharya 2010:19). A survey by National Centre for
Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEPD) of 89 schools in
2004 found that even after a decade of liberalization and the economic reforms,
only 0.51% and 0.1% students were enrolled in the primary and secondary level
and university level respectively, which is a far cry from the 3% reservation
enacted by the PWD Act (Hiranandani and Sonpal 2010).
Right to Education Act 2002
By the 86
Amendment Act in 2002 to the Indian constitution, free and
compulsory education to all children within the age of six to fourteen years was
guaranteed as a fundamental right. This was the Sarva Shiksha Abiyan
(Education for All), a programme of the Indian government for the achievement
of the Universalization of Elementary Education. SSA was implemented so as
to address the needs of 192 million children and is undertaken with the help of
the state governments. Within this programme, new schools were to be opened
in those locations which did not previously have a school and also to strengthen
the already existing infrastructure as well as provide extra teachers to schools
that had inadequate teaching staff. The main focus of SSA was to provide
education to girls and to children with special needs (Ministry of Human
Resource Development, Government of India). A consequent legislation of this
was The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act
which was passed in 2009, according to which every child had a right to “full
time elementary education of satisfaction and equitable quality in a formal
school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.” The key words
here are 'free and compulsory' which implies that those children admitted into
schools that are supported by the government will not have to give any fee or
undergo any expense which would otherwise prevent the child from completing
elementary education.
By compulsory education it is meant that the government and the local
authorities would ensure and provide the admission, attendance as well as the
completion of the elementary level of education (Department of School
Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government
of India). The RTE Act promises to guarantee free and compulsory education to
children aged 6 to 14. Although it is devoid of obvious segregationist
terminologies, it does little to encourage inclusive education (Bhattacharya
2010:21). One major drawback of the RTE is that it guarantees free education
to children between 6 and 14, thereby denying the children below the age of six
of their right to pre-primary education (Hiranandani and Sonpal 2010).
Although Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) is showing progress towards inclusion
of children with physical disabilities, but the situation for children with
intellectual and multiple disabilities remains unchanged (Lakhan 2013:83).
The oldest and still prevailing model for education of disabled children was that
of segregating the children with exceptional needs in a completely different
learning environment, the special schools made especially for them keeping
their needs in mind. The curriculum that was taken up in these special
institutions was specific for each school, keeping the disability in mind. The
segregated model has now been replaced by integrated and inclusive education
for disabled children. There is evidence that due to ‘special schooling’ and
historically low expectations, people with disabilities are less likely to
undertake formally valued education and training. Studies show that processes
of educational segregation have a strong impact on the social and cultural
experiences of the child, which includes the ability to develop friends at home,
mix with a variety of children in school, play in local spaces etc.
There has emerged a global shift away from the schooling method of
segregation or special schools to the mainstream schools. Disability activists
have also called to attention the mindset, which presumes that children with
disabilities require differential treatment as they slow down the rest of the class
(Kothari 2012:69-70). So it is vital that not just mainstream schooling be
available but also be accessible to the students with disabilities. The focus of
education needs to shift from the outside to the inside and one should pay
attention to what is being offered in the educational settings and their relevance
in the lives of the children receiving it (Dawn 2014:26). What is required in
India is for the focus to shift from the problems ‘within’ the child to problems
within the society. In most cases, the concept of inclusive education is not
defined but rather is taken as a given, as a result of which the usage of the term,
especially in official documents, remains unclear and confusing (Singal
New Education Draft Policy 2016
Since children with disabilities form a very significant number of out-of-school
children, it becomes vital that their needs are addressed by the schools and
appropriate authorities. In light of this, the New Education Policy will ensure
that students with varying levels of disability, which includes visual, locomotor,
speech and hearing, and neurodevelopment disorders are given the opportunity
Indian Anthropologist (2017) 47:2, 35-51 47
to take part in the general educational process. The draft refers to these children
as Children with Special Needs (CWSN). It also states that where the level of
difficulty is great, there, provisions for special schools will be made.
Additionally, it will lay special emphasis on the training and recruiting of
teachers who will be able to teach in an inclusive classroom (Government of
India2016:90-91). It also recommends the setting up of boards which will
oversee as well as guide the schools in addressing the needs of especially those
children with a learning disability. This will be particularly beneficial as special
programs by the government for students with learning disabilities do not exist
at the moment (Government of India2016:194).
India and UNCRPD
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional
Protocol (UNCRPD) (A/RES/61/106) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the
United Nations Headquarters in New York, and was opened for signature on 30
March 2007. The convention stated that the government should promote the
‘inclusion’ of children in normal schools instead of their ‘integration’. This
means that the schools should be adapted in a way to adjust the child with
disability rather than the child adjusting to the school curriculum. India needs to
adopt strategies for inclusion and make amendments to its current laws. In
addition to this, more funds need to be allotted for the education of children
with disabilities. In fact providing inclusive education is equal to or less than
the cost incurred for providing education in a segregated school. This is so as
the establishment of segregated school will incur the cost of infrastructure as
well as the administration whereas in a inclusive education, the infrastructure is
already in place, just the way of teaching needs to be changed (Hernandez
A major concern in adopting the inclusive education in India is the training of
teachers where the average size being about forty students to one teacher. In
such situations it becomes difficult to provide individual attention to those
students who need it. This also calls for training the teachers to work with
students of different abilities. Many times, the teachers are not willing to admit
students who are disabled in the classroom. In addition, in India, there is
provision for either special education or mainstream and thus no teacher is
prepared for both (Ibid:518). The country lacked appropriate laws as well as the
fiscal and human capacities to implement these laws.
A major difficulty for the Indian educational system was to figure out as to how
to bring special education to the poor, the lower castes, and the rural regions,
when in fact even regular education is not accessible to these sections.
Additionally as Misra (2000) and Dailey (2004) have pointed out, that while
there is a shortage of special education teachers, it is a challenge for the parents
as well as the families who do not have proper access these services (Byrd
2010). An attempt has made by the India state to rectify the above mentioned
lacunas in the form of the recently passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Bill 2016. In this Bill, there have been many new and welcome changes, in
accordance to the UNCRPD. The Bill states that in addition to the Rights of
Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, it will be the duty of the
educational institutions to provide not just equal educational opportunities but
also opportunities for sports and recreation. Additionally, the accessibility of
the structures would be kept in mind, which would also include transport
facilities. Not just the physical accessibility, but the Bill also lays down plans
for suitable pedagogical adaptations to be made in the classrooms. Finally, it
also talks about the employment of teachers who are trained and have a
disability themselves. This simultaneously not just takes into concern the proper
environment for education but also ensures employment of PWD’s in the field
of teaching (The Gazette of India 2016)
The emergence of one single definition of disability is a very complex process
as it takes into account many variables. The understanding of disability may
differ from person to person and even for the same person at different stages of
life. Pertaining specifically to the earliest stage of life, namely that of a child,
there is very little focus on the issues and challenges faced. Ironically, this is
the most vital stage where proper and equal opportunities are required, lest, the
whole trajectory of life may be ruined. Concentrating specifically on the
education of children with disabilities in India, it has been found that there are
very few policies and programs in India that cater to it. Prior to 2016, the last
bill catering to disability was in 1995 and that which catered to education of
children as a whole in India in 2009. So it is not surprising that the ratification
of UNCRPD by India and subsequently the passing of the RPWD 2016 have
given new hope to the disability sector. The New Education Policy is also a
welcome step. It is wished that the void left by the previous policies will be
successfully filled by the new bill. What is desirous from the government and
the society at large is not feelings of sympathy, but rather empathy, in order to
provide equality of opportunities for this largely unnoticed but highly important
marginalized section of the Indian society.
The present paper is a part of my M.Phil. dissertation submitted at the Centre for the
Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. My indebtedness
for this paper is two-fold; to the Centre for providing the opportunities and scope for
research and to my supervisor, Prof. Nilika Mehrotra, who has been a constant source
of guidance at every step.
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Full-text available
Special education is defined as programs that cater to children with disabilities, giftedness, and talents separately from their same-age peers. Globally, there is an increasing awareness about social inclusion which led to promoting and aiming for inclusive education for all children. This study aims to review the literature regarding the progress of special education policies in countries from various regions. Also, it seeks to answer the question, “Where do countries from different regions’ policies in special education are comparable?”. This literature review used a qualitative approach and employed thematic analysis to analyze a qualitative dataset. There are four (4) themes that emerge from the data analysis namely 1) Progress on Special Education Policies; 2) Objectives in Achieving Inclusion; 3) Inclusion as a Solution and 4) Barriers to Inclusive Education. The study suggests that various countries are recognizing inclusive education as a better way to address the needs of children with disabilities.
Women and girls with disabilities are one of the world’s most marginalized sections of society. They face various forms of discrimination in their daily life and are often excluded from social and political participation. However, there is very little evidence that addresses the intersectional marginalization of women and girls with disabilities, especially in developing countries. This study empirically investigates possible intersectional discrimination against women and girls with disabilities in educational opportunities in India. The result shows the incidence of intersectional discrimination against women and girls with disabilities. Among persons with disabilities, being women further limits school enrollment and educational attainment. Hence, the study advocates for inclusive policies in all spheres, including education, which explicitly acknowledge the rights and needs of women with disabilities and place greater emphasis on their participation.
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Children with disability were included as early as 1968 in the National Policy on Education, but the rhetoric of integrated education has been ambivalently used to keep at bay the broader concept of inclusion. Apart from putting in context the meaning of inclusion in education of children with disability and suggesting some inclusive practices, this article examines the two Acts in the Indian context that have a bearing on education of children with disability, the Persons with Disabilities Act and the Right to Education Act.
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In 1996, two years after we commenced the research, Cassell published The Sexual Politics of Disability: Untold Desires. For Dominic Davies, Kath Gillespie-Sells and myself it was the end of a hard slog, a real moment of pride, but also an occasion for trepidation: what would other people think? How would the disability movement react? What difference would our book make? Had we done the right thing? Researching and writing is largely under the authors' control. Of course, it is true that unexpected developments or problems may shape the development of the process, there is room for disagreement among collaborators, and books rarely end up exactly as they were intended. However, we exercised choice and control over the project, in negotiation with Cassell, which was relinquished once the book emerged on the market. At that stage, we could only wait and worry. Post-structuralist writers have identified what they call 'the death of the author'. By this is meant the openness of a text to multiple interpretations. While the writers may have specific ambitions and intentions, once the book is in the public domain, others are free to read into it their own values and feelings, and to use the arguments and evidence it provides to promote ends which may be contrary to the authors' intentions. There is no way around this danger. For example, free market libertarians on the Right have adopted the anti-institutional emphasis of the disability movement to argue that day centres and other provision should be closed down. A progressive demand for autonomy and integration is converted into cuts in public services and rolling back of the state.
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Illiteracy levels are high across all categories of disability and very high for children with visual, multiple and mental disabilities compared to national averages. Generating awareness that the disabled have full rights to appropriate education in mainstream schools and that it is the duty of those involved in administration at every level, including schools, to ensure that they have access to education is of utmost importance.
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Background: Inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities (ID) and multiple disabilities (MD) in regular schools in India is extremely poor. One of the key objectives of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) is to include ID & MD children in regular schools. This study attempted to find out association with age, ID severity, poverty, gender, parent education, population, and multiple disabilities comprising one or more disorders cerebral palsy, epilepsy and psychiatric disorders with inclusion among 259 children in Barwani Block of Barwani District in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. Aim: Inclusion of children with intellectual and multiple disabilities in regular schools through CBR approach in India. Method: Chi square test was conducted to investigate association between inclusion and predictor variables ID categories, age, gender, poverty level, parent education, population type and multiple disabilities. Result: Inclusion was possible for borderline 2(66.4%), mild 54(68.3%), moderate 18(18.2%), and age range from 5 to 12 years 63 (43%). Children living in poor families 63 (30.6%), not poor 11(18.9%), parental education none 52 (26%), primary level 11 (65%), middle school 10 (48%) high school 0 (0%) and bachelor degree 1(7%), female 34 (27.9%), male 40 (29.2%), tribal 40 (28.7%), non-tribal 34(28.3%) and multiple disabled with cerebral palsy 1(1.2%), epilepsy 3 (4.8%) and psychiatry disorders 12 (22.6%) were able to receive inclusive education. Significant difference in inclusion among ID categories (x2=99.8, p < 0.001), poverty (x2=3.37, p 0.044), parental education (x2=23.7, p < 0.001), MD CP (x 2=43.9, p < 0.001) and epilepsy (x2=22.4, p < 0.001) were seen. Conclusion: Inclusion through CBR is feasible and acceptable in poor rural settings in India. CBR can facilitate inclusion of children with borderline, mild and moderate categories by involving their parents, teachers and community members.
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In the 30 years since the passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (PL. 94–142) in 1975 (subsequently the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) special education in the USA as an institutionalized practice has become solidified. Over the years, however, the practice of segregating students because of disability has come under increased scrutiny. Beginning in the late 1980s, an increasing number of parents advocated that their children with disabilities be put in mainstream general education classes. Emotionally charged debates over the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms ensued. In this paper we look at the public debates over inclusion and expose some of the paradoxes within special education that serve to hinder the integration of individuals with disabilities into general classes and, by extension, society at large.
!--[if gte mso 9]> <!--[if gte mso 9]> People with disabilities are one of the most disenfranchised groups in India. Standardized measurements of disability in India and internationally have overlooked the linkages between the economy and disability. In recent decades, neo-liberal economic reforms imposed in developing countries, under pressure from international financial institutions, have downsized state role, privatized social goods, and encouraged export-led strategies and market-based economics. India’s economic reforms, initiated in 1991, have led to rapid economic growth that is, however, increasingly mal-distributed. This paper investigates the implications of economic restructuring in the arenas of social programs, education, employment, accessibility, health, agriculture and food security, and water and land acquisition from a disability perspective. Our analysis shows that while increased employment opportunities and accessibility have benefitted middle-class and highly-skilled disabled persons, the majority of people with disabilities have been left out of India’s economic affluence. We contend that India’s globalized economy and reduced state role necessitate renewed understanding of human rights, including disability rights. </p
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities conceptualizes disability as a human rights issue and requires state parties to provide an inclusive education to all children with disabilities. However, China and India, the two most populous signatory countries, do not currently provide inclusive education—described by the Convention as nondiscriminatory access to general education, reasonable accommodation of disability, and individualized supports designed to fulfill the potential of individual children with disabilities. Though both India and China have laws that encourage the education of children with disabilities, neither country's laws mandate inclusive education and neither country currently provides universal education to children with disabilities. Furthermore, both countries lack the funding and teaching force to enforce existing laws or provide inclusive education. Assuming that India and China intend to comply with the Convention, the United Nations must use the Convention to persuade China and India to also change domestic laws and facilitate the involvement of non-governmental organizations that can help increase and effectively use fiscal and human resources necessary to provide inclusive education to all students with disabilities.
The inclusion of disability as a subject matter of law and policy is a relatively recent development in India. An analysis of some landmark judgments delivered by the appellate courts between 1996 and 2007 under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act highlights the central characteristics of disability jurisprudence. This analysis provides an insight into the violations faced by persons with disabilities and the nature of litigation coming under the disability laws. It draws attention to the changing understandings of the notions of disability and personhood in society.
Disabled/"differently abled" persons by virtue of being human have the right to enjoy human rights to life, liberty, equality, security, and dignity. However, due to social indifference, psychological barriers, a limited definition of "disability" entitling protection of law, and a lack of proper data, disabled persons in India remain an invisible category. Although several laws exit to ensure their full and effective participation in society, they remain insufficient as they are primarily based on the government's discretion. At the same time, whenever the judiciary finds an opportunity, it acts as a real protector of disabled persons, but it is not feasible to knock on the door of the judiciary for every request. Interestingly, various civil societies and human rights activists have occasionally asserted the rights of the disabled. However, unless the foundation stones of law are fortified, disabled persons cannot fully realize their rights. It is high time to enact effective laws, with timely implementation, to protect their interests and empower their capabilities that are based on a "rights-based approach" rather than on the charity, medical, or social approaches. Thus, the horizons of law must be expanded to provide a "human friendly environment" for all of the disabled to overcome the barriers that impair their development.