“If a child can’t learn the way we teach maybe we should teach the way they learn”- Ignacio Estrada
Education is a fundamental and inalienable right of each child irrespective of his or her religion, caste, gender, race, language, social or ethnic origin as well as disability. Every child should get an equal opportunity in education and thus inclusive education has become very crucial in this age for breaking down barriers and embracing all marginalized students in the mainstream education system effectively. There should be an increased effort to universalize education irrespective of any disabilities suffered by the child. Children with disabilities should be admitted to regular or mainstream schools and should not be differentiated or alienated from children without disabilities. They should not be segregated and kept confined within the boundaries of special schools and denied equity in the society. These children should also have access to equal opportunities to learn in mainstream schools with other children and be entitled to quality education and facilities.
Inclusive Education speaks for the improvement of schools in all dimensions. The very early recommendations for sending children with disabilities to mainstream schools can be traced back to 1944 in the Sargent Report followed by the setting up of the Kothari Commission in 1964. Thereafter, the Persons with Disabilities Act was enacted in the year 1995 and has been amended recently in 2016 in a very comprehensive and systematic manner giving great importance to the Rights of the Persons with disabilities in India. Section 2 clause (m) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 defines Inclusive Education as a system of education where the children with and without disabilities can learn together. It doesn’t speak about giving a level playing field to these children as that won’t be equitable. Rather it advocates for a system of teaching as well as learning that is suitable to cater the learning needs and requirements of different types of students with disabilities. Chapter III of this Act deals with the education of children with disabilities. Section 16 and 17 of the Act lay down certain measures that are very integral to implementation of inclusive education. These are as follows-
Admission without discrimination
Recreational activities, provide educational and sports facilities
Provision for reasonable accommodation
Provision for inclusive environment
Use of most appropriate languages and modes of communication
Detect specific learning disabilities and early intervention
Provision for transportation facilities
Establishment of adequate number of teacher training institutions
Training and employing teachers, professionals and staff
Establishment of resource centers
Provision for books, learning materials and assistive devices
Provision for scholarships
Modifications in curriculum
Promotion of research
Any other measure as required
This Act also mandates the appropriate government to take adequate measures for protecting the persons with disabilities from being victims of any torture, cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities 2008 also stresses on the human rights of persons with disabilities and places obligations on the states to promote, protect and ensure these rights and also take measures for their successful implementation and monitoring.
Inclusive Education is also an indispensible part of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). It promotes Universalization of Elementary Education through focusing on Access, Enrollment as well as Retention of all children in the age group of 6-14 years. It has given an impetus to the vision regarding inclusive education of Children with Special needs as it lays emphasis on the fact that without such inclusion, the very objective of Universalization of Elementary Education cannot be fulfilled.
PROBLEMS WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF INCLUSIVE EDUCATION IN INDIA
In India, a population of 27 million lives with special needs which form approximately 2.2% of the entire Indian population. Around 4.6 million out of these belong to the age group of 10-19years and 2million are in the age group of 0-6 years approximately. According to the Census, only 61% of these children belonging to the age group of 5-19 years have attended some sort of educational institutions. The national Census states that only 11% of children with disabilities belonging to the age group 5-18 years in urban areas and less than 1% in the rural areas were enrolled in special schools’ only 7% in rural and 18% in urban areas have completed secondary education. However more children with intellectual disabilities attend mainstream schools in rural areas as compared to urban areas due to lack of special schools and facilities in the rural areas but the question arises that are they being given the due care and facilities that they are entitled to under the system of inclusive education.
Although Inclusive Education is a priority for the Indian Government and there have been legislations, programmes, etc to make it successful, there is still a very big gap between the policies and their implementation. There are several barriers which hinder the effective implementation of Inclusive Education policies in India. Given the nature, diversity, composition, living standards, literacy rates, poverty index of the Indian population, implementation of Inclusive Education in India is shackled by very powerful chains and getting freed from them might take years. But for finding out the effective remedies to these problems, the first step should always be analyzing these problems. On coming across several literatures on this subject, some of the main barriers that have come into my focus are the Attitudinal Barriers, Financial Barriers, Physical Barriers and the Policy barriers.
Attitudinal Barriers- The acceptance of children with special needs or intellectual disability is very low in the Indian society. Some parents find it shameful to introduce intellectually disabled children or suffer from the notion that they are the outcomes of their past sins. Sometimes even if the parents are supportive, other family members of the joint family system in India or neighbors might not willingly accept such a child with open minds and arms. Parents in India often weigh the investment on their child’s education with the results that can be reaped and this adds to the reluctance on part of the parents to spend much on the education of intellectually disabled children. Not only from the family system, but these children fall prey to such negative attitudes at schools too. Schools might not want to admit them or even if they do, they hardly make any efforts to mould the curriculum or the school environment in a manner which suits the needs of these children. These lead to higher dropouts and breaks down the morale of the children. Due to lack of awareness or discussion programs to educate children without disabilities regarding ways in which they can help these children to adjust to the mainstream education system or to provide them a sense of belongingness in the schools add to the miseries of the intellectually disabled children. Children with disabilities are often bullied by their peers or kept segregated from all social activities in schools.
Financial Barriers- In a country like ours, where a lot of people can barely afford the basic necessities of life, having a child with intellectual disability can only add up to financial burden on the parents. Regular visit to doctors, medication, counseling, support gears such as wheelchairs etc can escalate costs manifold. Also, the parents have this notion that these children have to be supported financially throughout their lifetime and thus they try to save money for the future rather than investing it on their education.
Physical Barriers- Transportation and infrastructure form a major problem in successful implementation of Inclusive Education in India. The schools must bring about infrastructural changes to provide a comfortable and safe environment for children with special needs. Moreover, they must arrange for transportation facilities to provide barrier free access to schools. There has been a lot of concern exhibited by teachers regarding the lack of facilities that are required for inclusive education. In addition to these, availability of disability certificates is also a major physical barrier as only medical boards of district civil hospitals are empowered to issue these. In 2015, according to the figures submitted by MSJE in Lok Sabha around half of the disabled population did not have a disability certificate. Given its importance in getting access to scholarships, aids, government schemes etc., measures should be taken to make these available to more sections of the population with special needs, especially to the children in order to open the doors of barrier free education for them.
Policy Barriers- there is a lot of ambiguity regarding education of Children with special needs in India. On one hand the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment runs separate schools for special children and on the other hand the Ministry of Human Resource Development promotes inclusive education. This creates a lot of confusion in the minds of the people.
The inferior quality of education for children with special needs is reflected in the fact that several government job positions reserved for adults with disabilities remain vacant. Lack of trained teachers, infrastructure and negative attitudes faced at schools, lack of inclusive curriculum and atmosphere has a direct relation with the fact that only a negligible amount of children with intellectual disabilities get enrolled to or stay in school. In India educational services for children with special needs are still provided in segregated institutions such as special schools and NGOs and the awareness on inclusive education throughout the country is in its infancy. In fact, special education is given a superior position in our country in the matters of children with intellectual disability but this approach is keeping the larger population of such children deprived of their educational rights. Inclusive education can be the only way to facilitate educational access to all children and make universalization of education a reality. It is necessary to have a change in the society by adopting inclusive education to promote the equity of children with intellectual disabilities and provide them with the educational rights guaranteed to them by the constitution.
Universalization of education is a dream which can be achieved only if there is a harmonious effort from the government as well as the stakeholders of the system of inclusive education. Apart from Government, we also need to understand and analyze this issue from the view points of the schools, parents as well as the children themselves. The idea of inclusive education is a child of the capability approach which strives to make the disadvantaged section of the society capable instead of sympathizing with them throughout their lives. They have their right to live and have access to education. The education which has been referred should be at par with the education which is received by the children without disabilities. In no way the children with disabilities should be in a less competitive or disadvantageous position due to lack of access to mainstream schools.
For successful implementation of inclusive education system in India, the 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. We need to understand the difficulties of the implementation process from the view points of all these groups of people to understand the barriers to inclusive education effectively. It is important to understand the real life problems that the parents of the children with disabilities face which makes them chose special schools for their children to mitigate their problems. Similarly it is equally important to analyze the barriers to inclusive education form the point of view of the teachers and school authorities. They might have certain concerns regarding taking responsibilities of Children with disabilities due to lack of teachers training, inadequate infrastructure, lack of trained staff, the extra care and supervision that these children have to be provided with, negative attitude of peers and parents of children without disabilities, social bias etc. Since schools are those places which play a key role in shaping up a child’s future and is one of the main contributors to their wellbeing, it is important to develop awareness, knowledge and a positive thought process in general regarding Inclusive education in the Indian Society.
Lack of awareness remains a problem for the failures in the implementation process but there are factors apart from lack of awareness which are causing a greater trouble in the process of universalizing education system in India. It becomes utmost necessary to analyze the barriers to understand the reason for choosing special schools over the mainstream ones or what are the factors that are keeping the children with intellectual disabilities deprived of their right to inclusive education. For a long time, the children with disabilities have been segregated and kept deprived of their right. In the present era where right to education is an essential component of right to life, these children should get equal opportunities and rights and inclusive education is one of those first steps towards lifting the barriers of segregation of the children with disabilities from the mainstream education system.
 Amrita Thakkar, ‘The Essential Guide to Special Needs Education in India’ (2018) <https://blog.firstcrayon.com/the-essential-guide-to-special-needs-education-in-india-47769fc4d234> accessed 1 February 2019.
 Sumita Chakraborti-Ghosh, ‘PP 53-62 Journal of Educational System V1 • I1 •’, vol 1 (2017) <http://www.ed.gov/offices> accessed 1 February 2019.
 Nisha Bhatnagar and Ajay Das, ‘Attitudes of Secondary School Teachers towards Inclusive Education in New Delhi, India’ (2014) 14 Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs 255 <http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/1471-3802.12016> accessed 1 February 2019.
 Prachi Salve and Swagata Yadavar, ‘Why 12.1 Mn “divyaang” Indians Are Illiterate’ (2017).
 Katharine Giffard-Lindsay, Transitions &Equity Consortium for Research on Educational Access and University of Sussex. Centre for International Education., Inclusive Education in India : Interpretation, Implementation and Issues <http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/1863/> accessed 1 February 2019.
 Chakraborti-Ghosh (n 2).
 Giffard-Lindsay, Consortium for Research on Educational Access and University of Sussex. Centre for International Education. (n 5).
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dulung Sengupta is currently pursuing her LLM from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. She has completed her graduation from the Department of Law, University of Calcutta. Her areas of interest are Corporate and Commercial laws and Constitutional Law. She is an avid reader and has a strong inclination towards legal research.
Picture Credit: Thinkinclusive