Education Minister of India, Ramesh Pokhriyal, addressed the issue of children with disabilities in the parliament on February 4, 2021. He answered certain questions regarding the recognition of children with intellectual disabilities. Moreover, the minister also shed light on the steps taken by the government with respect to the education of children with disabilities.
The Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSE&L) overlooks the ‘Samagra Shiksha Scheme’ for students from Class I to XII. This scheme comprises a component called Inclusive Education (IE) dedicated towards Children with Special Needs (CWSN). This component aims at bringing such children to the mainstream and including them in regular school activities. The CWSN covers all 21 disability categories included under the RPwD Act, 2016. The act includes intellectual disability, developmental delay and Down’s syndrome.
IE provides support to the CWSN component at two levels. These two levels are Activities under Student Oriented Component (SoC) and Resource Support (Special Educators). According to SOC, all states and UTs are to provide financial assistance to government and government-aided schools. This aid must be for different reasons including the development of teaching aids, aids and appliances, teaching learning materials (TLMs), Braille stationery materials, aids and equipment, etc.
Qualified and specially trained educators are provided to improve the quality of education under CWSN. These educators in a cyclical or repetitive manner and impart services to all schools alongside the school faculty. This step is taken primarily to acknowledge the particular and diverse needs of Children with Special Needs (CWSN). Moreover, all these provisions have been included in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
The centrally sponsored Samagra Shiksha scheme has also made arrangements for barrier-free infrastructure in the form of ramps with handrails, disabled friendly toilets, etc in educational institutions. According to the UDISE+ 2018-19, there are a total of 8,33,703 ramps with handrails as well as 1,49,501 disabled friendly toilets. These are present in government and schools aided by the government for the students of Class I-XII.
The education minister also shed light on the provisions introduced for disabled children under the NEP 2020. According to the minister, the policy represents equity and inclusion as the basis of education. This is to ensure that all students are able to develop and learn in the education system. It also includes under its ambit, children with disabilities to ensure high-quality schooling.
The policy recommends home-based education for children with severe or multiple disabilities using the support of resource centres and trained educators. Moreover, NEP also specifies that children seeking home-based education must be treated as equal to any other child in the education system. Moreover, after the disclosing of NEP 2020, states and UTs have been asked to formulate an implementation plan in accordance with the policy recommendations. These recommendations must also include suggestions and facilities for seeking school education for children with severe and multiple disabilities. The plan must also comply with the RPwD Act, 2016.