Schools in Maharashtra are not yet equipped for inclusive education, as teachers are not trained to handle children with special needs, a recent study has revealed.
A nationwide survey by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) published in April, which interviewed 203 teachers and 273 students, has found that 99.9% of mentally-challenged children and those with learning disabilities want to study in a regular school.
However, 16 states, including Maharashtra, do not include training for teachers on how to be sensitive to the needs of these children in the syllabus of the Diploma in Education or Bachelor’s in Education courses.
The Right to Education Act states that children with learning disabilities should study in mainstream schools.
The study found that while 44.5% students said they needed special attention from teachers, 57.1% teachers have not been trained on how to meet this need.
“Teachers can teach in an inclusive education set-up only if they are trained to address differences among children,” said Mithu Alur, founder chairperson, Able Disable All People Together. Alur, head of the task force for persons with disabilities, which is part of the National Monitoring Committee, had given suggestions to the government to integrate training in the curriculum.
“It could be easily done by adding training modules in the BEd or DEd syllabus. But the government is not showing any interest,” she added.
However, the state has appointed special educators to address the needs of these students, the study found. “We do not have the resources to provide such training to general teachers. It is unnecessary as we have appointed special educators,” said a senior education official.
Experts feel having a special educator is not sufficient.
“If children with special needs are going to study alongside other kids, we need to train the class teacher how to teach them,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of the PTA United Forum.
Training would also help teachers in identifying children with learning disabilities and refer them to special educators.