By Uma Tuli & Sudhansh Malhotra
No school has the right to deny high quality education to a child simply because s/he has a disability
New Delhi: As per the Census 2011, out of over 120 crore people, 2.2 per cent in India are disabled. In absolute terms, this implies that over 2.68 crore people live with one form of disability or another. It is significant to note that of these, 66 lakh are children in the age group 5-19 years. These numbers are most likely much higher — it is generally accepted that surveys all over the world grossly undercount the actual number of disabled people. The World Report on Disability jointly produced by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank in 2011 estimated that about 15 per cent of the global population live with disability. Whatever the actual number of the disabled, they constitute a significant resource that can and should contribute to the social, economic and political life of the nation. Children — with or without disabilities have the right to a quality education — no matter what special needs they may have. Education is the prime tool that equips a child to meet the challenges of life. Children with disabilities need this even more to supplement their different talents. Indeed, disability need not be an impediment to achievement.
Inclusive education is a model of education in which children with disabilities spend all or most of their time in school with children without special needs. Fully inclusive schools do not separate ‘general education’ and ‘special education’ programmes. Such schools are structured so that all students learn and grow together. Disability exacerbates existing vulnerabilities arising from social and economic inequities such as poverty and gender, lack of access to services, social stigma and so on. Universal access to inclusive education has the potential to shift society towards a more just and equitable future.
Inclusive education allows children with disabilities to develop friendships with peers and feel less isolated. Children who are placed in standard classroom environment generally have higher self-esteem than children who are isolated in special needs programmes. Policy-makers and civil society need to recognise that no school has the right to deny high quality education to children and families who want the best for their child simply because s/he has a disability. A common misconception that needs to be dispelled is that the presence of disabled children in classrooms impedes the learning of non-special needs children. In fact, children without disabilities in inclusive schools get an opportunity to receive their own education in a non-discriminatory environment and develop a more accepting and wholesome perspective.
Although much progress has been made in the education sector, India faces immense challenges in addressing educational needs of children with disabilities. In the age group five to 19 years, 28 per cent disabled girls have never attended an educational institution. The figure for boys at 26 per cent is only marginally better. Only 16 per cent of the disabled male population and nine per cent of the disabled female population has matric/secondary education. Not surprisingly, only nine per cent of males and three per cent of females with disability are graduates.
A mission approach is needed to make the provisions for inclusive education in the Right to Education Act 2009 and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 universally available in all educational institutions — public as well as private. Educational institutions in the private and NGO sector have made a beginning in introducing inclusive education. However, most of these schools are in urban settings. The need of the hour is to learn from these pioneering efforts to make inclusive education a reality in public sector institutions at scale. As the country strengthens the education sector further, the universalisation of inclusive education in the public and private sectors must become a foundational principle of the nation’s education sector.
The Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, New Delhi — a pioneer in the field of inclusive education in collaboration with the Asian Centre for Inclusive Education, Dhaka — is organising the 5th International Conference on Inclusive Education (ICIE) from November 28-30, 2018 in New Delhi. Over 300 participants from developing as well as developed countries are expected to attend the conference. Persons with disabilities, students, parents, educationists, academics, policy-maker, et al, will utilise the platform for sharing new initiatives. They will also exchange international trends and good practices, discuss policy-making strategies with different stakeholders and strengthen networking of national and international institutions that provide and promote inclusive education.
Source: Daily Pioneer