Right to inclusive education in light of NEP 2020

Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for all
Right to inclusive education in light of NEP 2020
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Millions of children with physical handicaps throughout the world are denied their basic right to education. Some children are denied access to education due to explicit laws and policies of exclusion or segregation. Significant numbers of physically challenged children are denied access to quality education due to the lack of accessible transportation or accessible school buildings, classrooms, or teaching-learning material. In addition, many physically challenged children are subjected to inferior education, often without accommodations and supports, and are taught by teachers who are either untrained or unwilling to include students with disabilities in their classrooms. Yet without access to quality education, children with disabilities will remain on the periphery of society, unable to fully participate in society.

In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). Article 24 of this Convention recognizes the right of all children and adults with disabilities to education on an equal basis with those children without disabilities. : Physically challenged children must be provided with ‘reasonable accommodation’ to help them have an education on an equal basis with others. This can include adaptations or services which will help them to overcome the hurdles of discrimination in getting a quality education. Deciding whether an accommodation is reasonable involves an evaluation of whether it is relevant and effective, in relation to how much it will cost.

The type of accommodations needed must always be decided with the child, and where appropriate, with their parents or guardians. What is reasonable accommodation should never be decided by a medical diagnosis of a student’s impairment. It must be decided by looking at the barriers to education that a particular student faces. Denying reasonable accommodation counts as discrimination, and children must be able to challenge a decision to refuse them the accommodations they need. Physically Challenged Children are entitled to get general support to enable them to derive most out of their education.

This encompasses trained and psychologically supportive teaching staff, school counsellors, psychologists, and other relevant health and social service professionals, as well as access to scholarships and financial resources. Physically Challenged student should be provided with an individual education plan based on programmed learning that is aligned with the accommodations and support they need. These plans should be chalked in collaboration with the student. They should be monitored regularly as a follow up exercise.

The child should be able to make a complaint if the support they need is not provided. Certain groups of children may require specific services so that they can acquire the life, language and social skills to help them benefit fully from their education. For example: Blind and partially sighted students need to be able to learn Braille and other alternative communication modes, as well as orientation and mobility skills ;  Deaf and hard of hearing students must have the chance to learn sign language and have their linguistic identity promoted, as well as access to quality speech therapy services, induction loop technology and captioning; Learners with communication impairments must be provided with the opportunity to express themselves using alternative or augmentative communication including sign language, low or high tech communication aids such as tablets with speech output, voice output communication aids (VOCAS) or communication books; Learners with social communication difficulties must be supported through adaptions to classroom organization, including working in pairs, peer tutoring, seating close to the teacher and the creation of a structured and predictable environment.; Learners with intellectual impairments must be provided with easy-read teaching and learning materials within a safe, quiet and structured learning environments. All human rights are interlinked. This includes the right to education. It is not possible to achieve an effective education unless other rights are realized. And if the right to education is fulfilled, it leads to the realization of other rights. What must governments do to ensure inclusive education?

Establish enabling structures for education:

Schools for all children should be the responsibility of the education department. And other departments need to be involved in helping create inclusive education – for example, transport wing to enable children to get to school, planning wing should make school buildings accessible, child protection wing to make sure that children are safe, finance wing to ensure sufficient funding is available.

Introduce laws and policies:

The right laws and policies must be in place to support inclusive education. This can include laws to end discrimination, to promise the equal right to education, to guarantee inclusive education, to provide support, to give children the right to be heard, to make sure all schools are accessible and introduce early identification and assessment of young children.

Create educational plans:

Governments need to make a plan of action to introduce inclusive education. It will need to spell out, for example, how much money will be made available, how many children will need to be provided with a school place, what action it is going to put in place to make it happen and time frames for when it will achieve these goals.

Pool information:

Governments need to know how many children with disabilities there are and what help they need to support their learning. They also need to find out what problems they face in getting to school. Only with this information can they plan properly.

Close institutions:

Many children with disabilities are forced to live in institutions – orphanages. Government needs to bring an end to this practice, and those children should be helped to live with their own families or with other families in the community. Then they can go to their local school.

Make money available:

Governments must make sure that any money spent to support segregated schools is moved so it can support inclusive schools. And they need to make money available to adapt schools so they are accessible to all children. And to provide the learning materials and supports needed by children with different disabilities. This can include assistive technologies that will help with learning.

Provide teacher training:

All teachers need to be trained to work in inclusive schools with children with different abilities. Teachers must be trained to work effectively in inclusive environments. Teachers with disabilities must be recruited and trained. Teachers with disabilities in schools will help promote equal rights, provide unique expertise and skills, contribute to breaking down barriers and serve as important role models.

Introduce inclusive testing and assessment:

physically challenged children   should be assessed on the progress they have made for themselves. They should not be judged simply on the basis of a standard set of exams or tests.

Enable complaints:

physically challenged children must be able to make a complaint if their right to inclusive education is not being met, or they feel they are being discriminated against. And the system for making a complaint must be safe and easy to use. Governments or schools must take swift action if the complaint is justified.

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator , Directorate of Distance Education , University of Kashmir

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