Inclusive Education in India Today It is indeed a paradox, despite the Right to Education becoming a fundamental right in India after 65 years after independence, we as a nation perhaps have the greatest number of children with disabilities out of school. There are over 650 million persons in the world with disability. Along with their families, nearly two billion people are living with disability. In every country in the world, persons with disabilities often live on the margins of society. An estimated 20 per cent of the world’s poorest persons are those with disabilities. Topping this nearly 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. The United Nations Convention on Persons with Disability, to which India is a pioneering signatory, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly - 13 December 2006 . The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as "objects" of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as "subjects" with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society. Implicit in the core of the Convention is the belief that education is a vital tool to ameliorate to the status of PWDs and the governments have a vital role to play in that process . Article 24 of the UNCRPD declares that, “States Parties shall ensure persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability”. While there are various international policies and frame works for the education of children with disabilities (viz: United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child 1989, World Declaration on EFA 1990, UN Standard Rules Equalization of Opportunities for PWDs (Rule 6) 1993, Salamanca Statement & Framework For Action (UNESCO, 1994), UN Convention on Rights of PWDs, 2006, and the National Legal & Policy Framework comprising of the 93rd Constitutional Amendment - Article 21, National Policy on Education 1986, Programme Of Action 1992, PWDs Act, 1995, The Right of children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009) there is a pressing need to ensure a model of inclusive education with the involvement of various stake holders. In India, the right of children with disability to education was envisaged as early as 1968. The first education commission in India, popularly known as the Kothari Commission, began the section on handicapped children in the chapter ‘Towards Equalization of Educational Opportunities’. ‘Very little has been done in this filed so far… any great improvement in the situation does not seem to be practicable in the near future… there is much in the field that we could learn from the educationally advanced countries, (Education Commission, 1966,p.123). It was evidently in favour of making education of the disabled an integral part of the general education system. The commission suggested educational facilities to be extended to these four category: The blind, the deaf, the orthopedically handicapped and the mentally retarded. The Commission further felt that children would be constrained by two main considerations: lack of teachers and financial resources. Furthermore, it recommended a Cell, at NCERT, to study in this country and abroad, the work being done in the field of education for the handicapped and prepare material for their teachers. However 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.
The 1995 Act can be deemed to directly negate the convictions of the social model, the only framework that sufficiently demonstrates that a mere understanding of inaccessible environments do not lead to political reforms without promoting social inclusion. Physical and mental impairments are compounded by poor education outcomes, and Children with Disabilities (CWD) have a very high out of school rates compared to other children. Across all levels of severity, they very rarely progress beyond primary school. This underlines the importance of getting CWD into school if India is to achieve the education Millennium Development Goals. In order for this to happen, society has to become inclusive with focus on education especially in schools and colleges.
International evidence suggests that the educational outcomes of non-disabled students can also be improved by inclusion of CWD in integrated classes. For that to happen we need to focus on a multi stake holder model, ensuring significant transmission from segregated to inclusive education and works towards the empowerment of Children with Special Needs (CWSN) enabling their integration into mainstream society. In this model people with disabilities and their families express their demands, share their stories and participate in real social and systemic change. It promotes a model of community inclusion which recognizes respects and values all persons with disabilities. The emphasis must be on â€œenrolment, retention and completion ratesâ€? among disabled children in pre-, primary to secondary schools which feeds into higher education. We not only need to focus on enrolment but also identify gaps in the existing educational system, influencing policy makers to address the same. Working with schools and teachers to create sample model schools, we need to ensure the community takes ownership, plans for the future and ensures all children with disabilities have access to basic education. Children should not be devalued or discriminated against by being excluded or sent away because of their disability or learning difficulty. There are no legitimate reasons to separate children for their education. Children belong together - with advantages and benefits for everyone. They do not need to be protected from each other. Research shows children do better, academically and socially in integrated settings. There is no teaching or care in a segregated school, which cannot take place in an ordinary school. Given commitment and support, inclusive education is a more efficient use of educational resources. All children need an education that will help them develop relationships and prepare them for life in the mainstream. Only inclusion has the potential to reduce fear and build friendship, respect and understanding. Given commitment and support, inclusive education is a more efficient use of educational resources.