New Delhi, April 12: The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) wants the human resource development (HRD) ministry to amend the right to education (RTE) law to ensure that disabled children have the choice to study either in an ordinary or a special school.
“The HRD ministry should amend the act to ensure that the RTE to all children with disabilities is safeguarded and that the choice to such children to study in an inclusive school or a special school is real,” said the draft guidelines framed by the council’s working group on the rights of the disabled.
According to the NAC, while one view was that children with sensory disabilities would benefit from education in separate settings and a supportive environment, the other was that education was the key to promoting positive attitudes in people with disabilities.
“Segregating children with disability perpetuates stereotyping and lack of understanding of the difference, leading to discrimination in all areas of life,” said the guidelines.
Making a mention of the draft Rights of Persons With Disabilities Bill, 2011, the advisory body said the proposed legislation did not take a position on the issue of sending disabled children to special or integrated schools.
The NAC said it concurred with the approach adopted in the bill that it was appropriate to let children and their guardians have a choice on the kind of school they would like to access – inclusive or special.
Noting that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act extended to all children, including the disabled, the advisory council said norms for schools needed to be revised.
“This would imply that every school would need to be inclusive with teachers trained with basic skills of special teachers,” said the NAC, adding, “If this is not feasible then the maximum distance norms for a disabled child to access an inclusive school would need to be clarified”.
Since the choice of special school was also guaranteed in the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Bill, the RTE needed to indicate norms for special schools and the level at which these would be available to the disabled, said the NAC.
For instance, there can be a distance norm or that every district will have special schools, as well as numbers per population in cities and towns, said the NAC.
The advisory council said the RTE law will need to indicate the qualification of teachers in special schools and the system of certification.
According to NAC estimates based on 2001 figures, there are nearly 22 million disabled people in India.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)