Inclusive Education for differently-abled still a mirage

ON DECEMBER 3, INDIA ALONG WITH REST OF THE world celebrated yet another International Day for people with disabilities and this provides an opportunity to focus on country’s ‘inclusive education’ effort. According to 2011 census, India has close to 2.68 crore such people and about 20-42 lakh children in 0-6 age group alone. And constitutional guarantee of equality and inclusion is also in place vide progressive legislations like Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full Participation) Act, 1995 and inclusion of disability under section 2(d) of Right to Education Act.
However, the education system has not correspondingly evolved to mainstream special needs education. While market interventions like all disabilities residential school may be coming up in Dehradun and some committed social workers and voluntary groups may be addressing the issue in their own right, capacity and capability, the reality is that a majority of parents of such children are still walking in dark for want of proper counselling services. The institutional mechanism of counselling for such children is totally amiss from the education system. Perhaps a more hardship comes in wake of lesser number of specialist educators. According to Dr Shanti Auluk, a former professor of psychology at Delhi University who is running one of the most successful skill education models for people with disability in Delhi, the fundamental concept of training of special needs educators is flawed. The training opportunities that exist today make them at best technicians and not real educators. The fact is that no university in India carries out any research work in this sphere as special education is being kept outside the higher education ecosystem. Now there is talk that the degree program of teacher education in future may include special education and counselling as well, which is indeed welcome. The best way to go is to add special education training as specialization to B Ed courses and offer it to a certain number of candidates so that country gets a pool of well-trained teachers who can take care of children with special needs. This will also equip larger number of schools to admit such children with confidence. Mind building or development of mind is the ultimate challenge for educators in case of these children and so are the life skills. Both can be done by a good conditioned teacher and not a person who has no grounding in education delivery.
Then the generalities like appreciation of student diversity, attention to curricular needs, respect for residual ability of student, and active and must collaboration of various enabling service and stakeholders must also be addressed at the same time. The other aspect of the issue is that except for Braille for visually challenged, there is not any big effort at addressing the educational needs of other disabilities. By enabling their potential, we will not only be addressing their human needs of social and cultural integration, but also adding 3% manpower to our economy and development.