The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) has urged schools affiliated to it to detect specific learning disabilities in children at an early stage, preferably when they are in primary school or before they turn nine.
The council reversed its earlier circular - which said detection should happen after students turn nine years old - last week following an order passed by the High Court of Bombay.
CISCE has also asked schools to abide by the Right of Persons with Disability Act 2016, which says educational institutions should detect specific learning disabilities among children and take measures to help them overcome it.
The move has been welcomed by school managements. In fact, many of them pointed out that most learning disabilities are identified late, sometimes when the students are on the cusp of their board exams. Some of the type of learning disabilities include auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, language processing disorder, and non-verbal learning disabilities.
Nooraine Fazal, Managing Trustee, Inventure Academy, said it would help if education institutions could facilitate detection of specific learning disabilities at an early age so that they could design suitable interventions. Her school has a team that goes for observations to classes and asks the parents to go in for a third party evaluation if they feel that the child may have any learning disability. They later have an individualised education plan for children who are diagnosed with these disabilities. “It helps because we can identify the issue and teach them in a way they can learn by making necessary accommodations in the early years,” she said.
B. Gayatri Devi, principal of Little Flower Public School in Banashankari, while pointing out that it was important for teachers to pay attention and identify kids who may need help and that the role of counsellors would be crucial in this process, also said many parents were not receptive to undergoing this process. “They feel that their children do not need any help and are doing absolutely fine. But small intervention in primary years can ensure that the issue is dealt with appropriately,” she said.
Parents, however, feel that schools should ensure that they appoint trained professionals to tackle this issue. Shweta Sharan, founder of Bangalore Schools, a support group for parents related to schooling, said, “It is a good thing that learning disabilities are getting the attention they deserve, but I am sceptical of the implementation. How will special educators be selected? There is a paucity of good ones. People who do two-month online courses in special education get appointed as special educators. This leads to more harm than good. If a good special educator is not appointed, problems cannot be diagnosed properly,” she said.
She, however, said that this would help schools become inclusive. “Parents prefer to have their children in inclusive schools than send them to special schools,” she said.