“Disabled Children are equally entitled to an exciting and brilliant future”
….. Nelson Mandela
The Constitution of India is the highest law of the land. It guaranteed the citizens Fundamental rights. The most important and the first fundamental right in terms of sequence is the Right to Equality. Right to equality is not only a fundamental right but also a human right. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 provides that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantee every person “Equality before law and Equal protection of law”Article 21 of the Indian Constitution further guarantees “right to life and personal liberty” ; both these guarantees are given to persons with disabilities also.
Supreme Court in Jeeja Ghosh v. Union of India has held that Person with Disabilities (PWDs) have the constitutional right to live with dignity and without any discrimination and no authority can violate their rights.
II. Meaning of disability
Disability can be defined as the absence of individual functional capacity which can be performed by other individuals in absence of impairment. Around the world there is no consensus regarding the definition of disability. However there are certain classifications for example hearing , visual, locomotive , speech and psychological incapacity.
The impact of disability is not only on the organs of the body but it also affects the functioning of the individual in the society. People with disabilities experience poorer health outcomes, have less access to education and work opportunities, and are more likely to live in poverty than those without a disability. Discrimination on the basis of disability is more severe in case of women or girlchild, they face what is known as “Double Discrimination.”.
Due to lack of educational facilities PWDs further suffer unemployment which result in the lower standard of living.
“Across the world, people with disabilities have…less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.’
PWD’s face a large number of obstacles every day. Most of these obstacles are due to inadequate welfare legislation and policy, negative outlook of the society, discrimination , lack of financial resources , lack of awareness and lack of representation in the decision making body. In developing countries and the third world countries of the world there is a more severe condition of the PWD’s.
III. Education for children with disabilities (cwds)
Children with disabilities(CWDs) have special needs. When we talk of imparting education to CWDs we need to take a different approach considering their special needs. Different approaches have been adopted for educating the CWDs. Two major approaches are Special Education and Integrated Education. However a third approach that is the Inclusive Education Approach have also emerged and is gaining acceptance all over the world.
IV. Special education approach
The Special Education Approach emerged during the later 19 century period. This approach is based on the principle of segregation of the CWDs from other children on the basis of their special needs. This approach believes that CWDs with similar conditions or disabilities need to be taught separately outside the mainstream and within a similar environment. Because of this segregation this approach has received criticism because of the impact of isolation.
V. Integrated education approach
The Integrated Education Approach tried to curb the criticism of the Special education Approach by placing the CWDs at the same place with other students. However this approach did not consider the special needs of the CWDs, rather it only focused on the attendance and education of them with the mainstream. This approach rather than being facilitating has forced the CWDs to adjust with the education system. This rigid approach has been a subject of criticism for this approach.
VI. Inclusive education approach
Inclusive Education Approach has evolved in recent times as a solution of criticism of both Special Education and Integrated Education Approach. The word inclusive means to accommodate or to include everyone or everything. This approach puts emphasis on bringing all types of students whether suffering with disabilities or not or students which are not part of the mainstream of the society for example child labourer, children belonging to scheduled caste or indegenious tribe under the common roof. However this approach caters to the special demand of every student. This approach can also be said to be the reformative approach bringing reform in the student as well as the Educational institution.
Indian Parliament has enacted Right of person with disability Act, 2016 which defines “inclusive education” as “a system of education wherein students with and without disability learn together and the system of teaching and learning is suitably adapted to meet the learning needs of different types of students with disabilities.”
In United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Cali Conference, members agreed on definition of inclusion as a transformative process that ensures full participation and access to quality learning opportunities for all children, young people and adults, respecting and valuing diversity, and eliminating all forms of discrimination in and through education. The term inclusion represents a commitment to making preschools, schools, and other education settings, places in which everyone is valued and belongs, and diversity is seen as enriching. The term Inclusive education is further defined as “means through which all the children, no matter what they are, get education in the same institution.”
VII. Progression of inclusive education in india
The concept of inclusiveness is not alien to Indian society. Since the Vedic times, PWD’s have enjoyed equal status and rights with their fellow citizens. Classic example is from Arthashastra written by Kautilya where it has put an obligation on the King to make available the assistance to the orphan children, the old aged people, the infirm aggrieved and the helpless.
Ancient epic shows the culture of Gurukula Ashram where kings and mostly nobles at that time used to send their children to learn the art of war, customs and ancient texts. The splendid feature of Gurukula education system was specialised education according to the need and ability of the pupil. Examples of Inclusive education can be seen in the epic of Mahabharata where Dhritarashtras was taught in the gurukulas despite his visual impairment and later on his anointment as a king of Kuru Kingdom showed the inclusiveness of the society.
During the colonial period the Christian Missionaries as a part of the charity had established special schools for the special children with disabilities. India after Independence has focused on the rehabilitation , education, and social equality which have resulted in the growth of special education in India. This has further been supplemented by the availability of specialised personnel for the task. Thus, over the period we can see that India is moving toward an inclusive education model.
VIII. International efforts for inclusive education
The important milestone in the field of international effort for ensuring equal treatment among humans is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948(UDHR). Article 26 of the declaration provides that every person has the right to education further it provides that education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
The General Conference of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the Convention against Discrimination in Education, 1960 at its meeting in Paris. The convention prohibits any type of exclusion with respect to education.
The United Nation General Assembly on 20th November 1989 adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 26 of the convention recognises the right of the child to education on the basis of equal opportunity further proposing free elementary education. In 1990, the World Declaration on Education for All was held in Jomtien(Thailand). The Convention was aimed at universalization of the access to education and broadening the scope of basic education.
The United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities(UNCRPD) was adopted in 2006 which has played a pivotal role in recognising the rights of the PWDs worldwide. The UNCRPD provides that CWDs shall not be discriminated against with regard to access to education.
The United Nation adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) in 2015. Goal 4 aims for inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all. Target 4A provides for building school infrastructure CWDs friendly.
IX. Initiatives and legislation in india
Since the first National government formed at the centre after Independence, education has remained a point of focus for every government. Kothari Commission also known as National Education Commission was formulated under the chairmanship of Daulat Singh Kothari in 1964. In this report the commission suggested CWDs should receive education which is useful and beneficial not merely for namesake. Report also emphasised on the need for integration rather than segregation of CWDs. The commission report also set targets for advancement in education of CWDs.
National Education Policy, 2020(NEP 2020) also endorses the notion of inclusive education. NEP 2020 also recommended an increase in investment in the education sector to 6% of total GDP which will further help in strengthening the Educational infrastructure.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was an important initiative launched by the Indian Government with partnership of the state and local government in 2001-2002. It was launched with an objective of Universal elementary education for the age group of 6 – 14. The sarva Shiksha Abhiyan also focused on the inclusive education to CWDs wherein the CWDs can co learn with the other students. No Rejection Policy was adopted so that no child can be deprived of education.
Eighty Sixth Constitutional Amendment Act , 2002 has inserted and amended various provisions of the constitution with an objective of guaranteeing the right to education in the country. Article 21A has been inserted which creates the fundamental right to education for all the children between the age group of 6 to 14 year and Article 51A (k) has put the fundamental duty on the parent to educate their children between the age group of 6 to 14 years.
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009(RTE Act) was enacted to enable the fundamental right under Article 21A.This act was amended in the year 2012 which amended section 2(d) i.e. child belonging to disadvantaged groups also include a child with disability. Further section 12(1)(c) of the act provides that 25 % seats in the private schools be reserved for the disadvantaged groups.
In the year 2019, the Scheme for Inclusive Education for Diabled at Secondary Stage(IEDSS) was launched for CWDs who are studing in Class IX to XII. This scheme covers all types of educational institutions whether government aided or not. Scheme covers disabilities such as “blindness, low vision, leprosy, hearing impairment, locomotor disabilities, mental illness, learning or speaking disabilities. Special focus under the scheme is given to girls with disabilities.
In 2016 the government enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 to give effect to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. The act creates legal status for inclusive education in India. Section 16 states that it shall be the duty of the appropriate Government and the local authorities shall endeavour that all educational institutions funded or recognised by them provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities and towards that end. Further , section 17 provides for the measures to promote and facilitate inclusive education. These include namely –
- To conduct survey of school going children every five years for identifying children with disabilities, ascertaining their special needs and the extent to which these are being met.
- To train and employ teachers, including teachers with disability who are qualified in sign language and Braille and also teachers who are trained in teaching children with intellectual disability.
- To train professionals and staff to support inclusive education at all levels of school education.
- To promote the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes including means and formats of communication, Braille and sign language to supplement the use of one’s own speech to fulfil the daily communication needs of persons with speech, communication or language disabilities and enables them to participate and contribute to their community and society.
To provide books, other learning materials and appropriate assistive devices to students with benchmark disabilities free of cost up to the age of eighteen years.
- To provide scholarships in appropriate cases to students with benchmark disability.
- To make suitable modifications in the curriculum and examination system to meet the needs of students with disabilities such as extra time for completion of examination paper, facility of scribe or amanuensis, exemption from second and third language courses.
Government of India in 2021 relaunched the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan 2.0 (SSA-2.0). Inclusive education is one of the important objectives of SSA-2.0. Under the scheme allocation for Children with Special Needs (CwSN) is increased from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 3500 per child per annum. And also provided stipend of Rs. 200 per month for Girls with Special Needs from classes 1 to 12.
X. Judicial interventions
The Supreme Court is considered as the guardian of the Constitution and the various rights that are provided under it. Judiciary has played an important role in recognising the right to education. In Mohini Jain v. Union of India Hon’ble Apex court held that the right to education is a fundamental right enshrined under the Constitution. It was further held that there cannot be a right to life without the right to education. Next year in the celebrated judgement of Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh, Supreme Court further reiterated the fundamental right of education under Article 21. After this judgement the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 was made which inserted Article 21A and 51A(1)(k).
In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the Supreme Court noted the significance of ensuring education for children from educationally deprived sections i.e., the poor, weaker sections, Dalits, tribals and minorities. Furthermore, it noted that providing compulsory education to such children was essential to the “stability of the democracy, social integration and to eliminate social tensions.” Therefore, the recognition of education as a site of social justice was recognized even prior to the enactment of Article 21A.
The Delhi High Court in Social Jurist v. Government of NCT of Delhi considered that, on the basis of the RTE Act, children with disabilities had the right to access all schools, whether aided or unaided by the Government. The Court acknowledged that the absence of such facilities creates a “vicious cycle”, where children with disabilities don’t seek admission due to the absence of such facilities, thereby rendering their right to education meaningless. In Pramod Arora v. Governor of Delhi, the Court considered that the fact that “children with disabilities” faced even greater marginalization than other groups of children from disadvantaged groups and therefore, their inclusion within the education set up only created a higher burden of affirmative action by the Government, in view of the right to equality under Article 14 and the statutory scheme, to ensure meaningful inclusion within the education set up.
In Kamal Gupta v. State of Uttarakhand Uttarakhand High Court proposed a reporting mechanism which allowed for admission for children with disabilities in line with information on aided and unaided schools which had the facilities to cater to them. However, it is clear that after the RPWD Act came into force, all schools are required to meet the conditions of reasonable accommodation. At the same time, Courts continue to refer to the provisions of the old Act in interpreting the scope of education for children with disabilities even after the Act came into force.
The scope of the obligations under the RPWD was thereafter considered by the Delhi High Court in Syed Mehedi v. Government of Delhi, wherein the Court conducted, to an extent, the exercise referred to it Part III of this paper i.e. the recognition that the duty cast by Sections 16 and 17 of the RPWD is binding.
“19 A statutory duty has been cast upon the respondents to ensure that all educational institutions, funded and recognised by them, provide inclusive education to children with special needs and raise the requisite infrastructure to serve that purpose. The respondents have, in fact, been directed to ensure that this process of inclusivity of disabled children begins by ensuring that they are admitted in educational institutions without discrimination, and are granted equal opportunities to partake in activities with other children. The respondents are also obligated to put in place and promote adequate measures in furtherance of the objective to attain inclusive education for children with special needs by inter alia facilitating research to improve the methodology adopted to teach them and monitoring their overall progress within the existing educational system.”
While the Court read the obligations of the RTE Act and RPWD Act together, the obligations under Section 16 of the RPWD Act require reading into the norms and standards under the RTE Act to ensure substantive compliance by all schools as per the legislative intent of the RPWD Act.
Segregated education approach is anti to the commitments of India in International Human Rights law as well as Constitutional law and statutory frameworks. While the quality of meaningful inclusion will be progressively realized through innovations in technology and teacher training, the rights to education in a nearby school and the right to non-discrimination are immediately realizable. In adopting Article 21A a recognising Right to education as a fundamental right, the State accepted the constitutional obligation to ensure primary education of all children. There is no basis for the exclusion of children with disabilities. Segregated education deprives children with disabilities from access to their community and from becoming part of the mainstream. The State has the obligation to provide access to the common education environment as well as to ensure reasonable accommodation of the common environment to ensure that access to education is meaningful. There is a need to improve the accommodation facilities so that the child or their parents have the choice to opt for specialized education in a choice of school.
Inclusive education is a challenging approach. It is not only a method of imparting knowledge to the CWDs rather it is method which creates a sense of equality and ensure that in future there is a proficient participation in the society.Government both at centre and state level is making an effort to develop an inclusive approach but still the challenges persists. Lack of awareness , sensitivity and a non learner friendly approach limit the progress.
According to Gandhiji, “Education is an all round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind and spirit”. It is important to understand that inclusion of PWDs can only be possible if society accepts them and recognizes them as equal.The social prejudice regarding disability is maintained by persons without a disability who occupy key positions and have little interaction with persons with disability in the public space. Meaningful inclusion is therefore essential to enable persons with disabilities.The focus should be on ability rather than disability.
 Article 14 , Constitution of India, 1950
 2016 (7) SCC &61
 Margaret Chan,former Director General World Health Organization.
 Section 2(m), The Rights of Person with Disability Act, 2016
 Cali, Conference Report, 2019 available at https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000370910
 Idid. page 2
 Kautilya’s Arthashastra , Jaico Publishing House
 Article 1, The Convention against Discrimination in Education, 1960
 Article 28 , Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1980
 Section 2(d) The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
 Section 12(1)(c) The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
 https://samagra.education.gov.in/ (last accessed on 21, December, 2021)
 AIR 1992 SC 1858
 AIR 1993 SC 2178
 1997(10) SCC 549
 2012 SCC Online Del 4651
 Ibid. pg 14-15
 (2014) 5 HCC (Del) 215
 2018 SCC OnLine UTT 677
 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9015
You may also like to read:
- Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Contemporary Developments by Neha Aneja
- Educational Policies for Persons Living with Disabilities in India by S. M. Abinaya