Arjun Kapur, Haritaa Nair, Sneha Pillai
BBA-LLB, Law School, Christ(Deemed to be)University
In these times of rapid development and advancements, The Ministry of Human Resource Development Ministry introduced the prospect of New Education Policy 2020 which was approved by the Union Cabinet of India on 29th July 2020 with the sole objective of holistic productivity, contributing citizens for building an equitable, inclusive and plural society with an increased Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 50% by 2035. NEP 2020 has brought about a structural change in the education system which aims to make India the global knowledge superpower ensuring equity and inclusion.
Provisions of NEP, 2020 inclined towards the provision of better education for students with disabilities:
- Skills on how to teach children with specific disabilities have been included in all teacher education programs.
- Neighborhood schools, special schools, and home-based education- as options for the education of children with disabilities, as a step towards resolving ambiguities towards school choices which arose during the Right to Education Act, 2009, 2012 amendment of the RTE Act and The RPwD Act, 2016.
- If a student opts for home-based education, the education provided would be audited on the basis of norms in the RPwD Act, 2016. This provision was introduced due to the concerns raised regarding the provision and quality of education provided to the students.
- To ensure the availability of adequate resources for students with disabilities including resource centers and educators, schools within a radius of 5-10 km will be consolidated within one school complex. This provision seeks to solve the aggravating problem of the shortage of special educators. (“Barrier-free access to education for all children with disabilities in NEP SJ E minister”)
- NEP, 2020 has introduced short-term specialization courses to teach children with disabilities with the existing framework. The teachers will be given the freedom to choose different tools for teaching as per the needs and requirements of the students.
- Setting up of a National Assessment Centre, PARAKH. PARAKH will ensure accessible assessment guidelines for children with learning disabilities (“NEP 2020: Making education more inclusive”).
- Broadly aligns with the objectives of the RPwD Act, 2016. It has referred to the RPwD Act, 2016 at multiple points and clears out a lot of ambiguities regarding the type of schools for children with special needs.
- Instructors will be prepared to perceive and recognize inabilities, especially explicit learning handicaps because, without such comprehensive training, there will be a staggering lack of skilled teachers. Hence, attention wouldn’t be provided to children with disabilities and even if they are provided with the attention it would lead to wastage of time for other children in the class. (“Equitable and inclusive vision in the National Education Policy 2020: A Critique”)
- Greater consonance between the NCTE and the RCI has been ensured so that special educators have both content and pedagogical knowledge, a gap that both teachers and special educators have identified.
- A flexible curriculum will be enacted according to NEP 2020. Curricular changes will be made in consultation with national institutes under the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (“Examining disability inclusion in India’s new national education policy”).
- NIOS will develop high-quality modules to teach Indian Sign Language and to teach other basic subjects using ISL.
- Resource centers in conjunction with special educators will support the rehabilitation and educational needs of learners with severe or multiple disabilities. (“NEP 2020”)
- Other provisions like non-discrimination in schools, accessible infrastructure, reasonable accommodations, individualized supports, use of Braille and Indian Sign Language in teaching, and monitoring have been included in NEP 2020.
- Provisions for recruitment of special educators with cross-disability training which incorporates disability awareness within teacher education.
- NEP schools and school complexes will be equipped with resources for the integration of children with disabilities with mainstream students.
Children with disabilities in the policy are primarily viewed as recipients of welfare and care in the form of peer tutoring, open schooling, and one-on-one teaching. There is a need to go further, to recognize disability as an identity and as a form of diversity rather than solely a deficit – an example of this would have been to suggest the standardization of Indian Sign Language as a valuable language system for all students and not just for ‘students with hearing impairments’. The educational challenges of children with disabilities stem from a rigid curriculum, inaccessible schools and classrooms, absence of modified assessments, and deficit perspectives that place limits on what disabled children can achieve.
The NEP conflates these distinct ways of thinking about the education of children with disabilities. At one end, the policy views disability as an individual problem to be solved through ‘rehabilitation’, ‘mitigation’ to ensure that children with disabilities integrate more easily. On the other hand, it endorses the idea of creating an educational system that is designed for children with and without disabilities to be in the same classroom, addresses barrier-free access, and puts forth a plan for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the curriculum and assessment. These seem like an add-on, retrofitted solutions for the ‘problem of disability’ instead of a critical examination of existing practices and how they perpetuate ableism. The policy, therefore, further undermines the notion of inclusive education, which views the challenges of disabled people as a result of structural constraints, not individual shortcomings that need to be fixed.