Labelled as restless and naughty by their teachers, several students who are grappling with learning disabilities and are identified as children with special needs (CWSN) often do not get the intervention they need. They include those who are physically and intellectually challenged as well as slow learners or children with learning disabilities.
Things, however, may now change in classrooms.
Days after the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) constituted a committee to formulate a policy for CWSN to ensure that they get the help they require, many city-based schools and educators have sent in their inputs to the board. Among the issues they have raised are the need to have a standard operating procedure (SOP) for identifying children with learning disability and requirement of trained teachers.
The aim of the committee formed by the CBSE is to formulate a policy of the board on inclusive education of children with special needs, apart from a policy on the level of inclusion, an examination policy for CWSN, and to formulate guidelines for children who are slow learners.
To revisit the development strategy and the plan of action for inclusive education for children with special needs, the Ministry of Human Resource Development conducted a workshop in New Delhi recently.
Various NGO representatives, State government officials, and other key stakeholders who work in the area were invited to brainstorm and present an actionable road map with clearly defined interventions.
Several issues were raised in the meeting, including difficulty in identifying a CWSN and the hurdle in procuring a disability certificate as there were only a few trained psychiatrists who can assess the child and give them the certificate. Others also pointed out that mere co-location of CWSN with other students does not make the classroom inclusive.
Sangeeta Saksena, co-founder of NGO Enfold Proactive Health Trust, who participated in the workshop, said her suggestion was to include “Personal Safety and Sexuality Etiquette Education” in the curriculum of students from Class 1 to 12 and also make it a part in B.Ed and special education courses. “Children with special needs are more vulnerable to sexual abuse as they are unable to communicate,” she said, adding that her trust has developed “Suvidha kit” with a focus on children with intellectual development delay.
Dakshayini Kanna, principal, Harvest International School, said they had suggested giving limited admission for CWSN, based on the facilities in the school in terms of infrastructure and counsellors and special educators. “We have also asked training for teachers who handle these children on specific topics... This has to be made available and should be mandatory,” she said.
She added that there was a need to explore the possibility of empanelling people who can train teachers online for specific needs. Another grey area that educators find, Ms. Kanna says is that there is a need for minimum level of expectations of performance for slow learners to be specified as in international curriculum.
M. Srinivasan, president, Managements of Independent CBSE Schools Association in Karnataka, said that there was an urgent need for schools to have more trained teachers as well as ensure that all the teachers had a basic level of training regarding CWSN.
Acknowledging that there was a need to step up efforts and bring about greater clarity on how to engage with CWSN, Manju Sharma, principal, Delhi Public School (South), said they had recently conducted a workshop for teachers and asked teachers to be aware of how to recognise a child with special needs and to what extent can special educators be used.