Inclusive Education in India

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By Swetha Sukumar

Posted on January 3, 2023


5 min read

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Inclusive Education in India

Inclusive education is a new approach to education that emphasises access to education under one roof for traditionally excluded groups – especially children with and without disabilities and those who speak minority languages etc.  Simply put, inclusive education can greatly help reduce discrimination against children with disabilities and promote equality, access and rights to education and care. For that it is essential that schools try to include such learning methods in the curriculum.

In a country like India, the problems of disabled people and minorities are very complex. People’s attitudes towards them are also very bad. The number of children with disabilities (CWD) enrolled in school in our country is decreasing significantly with each successive schooling. CWD rarely progresses beyond primary school, and only 9% complete secondary education. There are fewer girls with disabilities than boys in schools. The reason for all this is the lack of inclusive schools in our country.  At present, due to the lack of inclusive schools children with special needs (CWSN) have no other option than the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). Also children with special needs depend on special schools or child development centres.

Inclusive Education in India; A historical perspective

According to the Indian Disability Status 2003, the number of schools for children with special needs has been increasing over the years. In 1884, a Roman Catholic Mission opened the first school for the deaf in Mazagaon in the then Bombay Presidency. In 1893 the Calcutta Badhira-Muka Vidyalaya was established, and later in 1896 a school for the deaf came into existence at Palayamkota in South India.

According to data available with the Department of Education, there are more than 2000 special schools in India today. However, most of these schools cater to urban residents, neglecting many children with special needs from rural areas.

If you look at the history of Indian  inclusive education,

  •  In 1966, the Kothari Commission had highlighted the importance of educating children with disabilities in regular schools.
  •  In 1974, the Government of India launched the Integrated Education for Handicapped Children (IEDC) programme, which was the first formal step towards inclusion. Sponsored by the central government, the scheme aims to provide educational opportunities to children with special needs in regular schools and is expected to facilitate their attainment and retention.
  • Inclusive Education for CWSN has been one of the major interventions of the erstwhile Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) RTE and RMSA schemes.  It supports student-oriented activities, including identification and assessment of CWSN, aids, appliances, corrective surgeries, braille books, large print books, uniforms, and therapeutic services.

National Education Policy 2020 and Inclusivity

Among the many things that have caught public attention in the National Education Policy 2020, one theme revolves around the concept of inclusion and equity. The NEP 2020 envisages equitable and inclusive education for all, not only children and youth but especially girls. Children belonging to socially and economically disadvantaged groups are more likely to be left behind without rising to the mainstream of society.  Although the NEP 2020 has introduced many reforms in the field of education, it remains within the framework of wide policy gaps in the education of children with disabilities. Despite the efforts of the government and the participation of various NGOs, the road to inclusive education in India has been long and winding. Education is not a privilege and every child should benefit from it.

Barriers in the Education of Children with Disabilities in India

The Government of India has made it a priority to implement inclusive education. There have been legislations, programs etc. to successfully implement this, but there is still a huge gap between policies and their implementation.  There are several obstacles that stand in the way of effective implementation of inclusive education policies in India. Given the nature, diversity, structure, quality of life, literacy rate and poverty index of the Indian population, the implementation of inclusive education in India is bound by very strong chains.  The main barriers faced by CWD in India are;

  • Lack of positive attitude among teachers
  • Non inclusive curriculum
  • Lack of resources
  • Infrastructural Problems
  • Unawareness among parents
  • Improper execution  of policies
  • Irregular plans

How to overcome barriers to inclusive education?

  • Early detection and identification : Early detection can help children understand their problems and special needs and provide appropriate help.
  • Functional and formal assessment : Standard tests and practices can help find out more about the disability.
  • Teachers training resources support : special training programs for teachers should be provided, and a special educator should be appointed in every school.
  • Educational Placement : Even on completion of vocational training, children with disabilities cannot find gainful employment. Educational institutions should tie-up with corporates / NGOs or government agencies to provide placement.
  • Support Services : Identify and utilise support services in partnership with parents, schools and government agencies.
  • Individual Educational Plan (IEP): customising the education plan to suit the requirements and abilities of the child with disabilities.
  • Parental training and community outreach programmes : these kinds of programmes will help in fostering the efforts.

For successful implementation of an inclusive education system in India, parents, teachers and even the children without disabilities have to be educated about the system and made aware of its benefits. These people play a pivotal role in the implementation process as they interact with the children with disabilities on a regular basis and form their immediate surroundings.  Children with disabilities also have access to inclusive, quality education on an equal footing with others in the communities in which they live.