CBSE draws up policy for children with special needs
When a seven-year-old student at a leading south Delhi school was identified to be suffering from learning disorders dyslexia and dyscalculia, he was provided regular counselling and is now making good progress. Another three-year-old student was severely withdrawn and avoided interaction until it was found that he suffered from autism spectrum disorder. Timely intervention in his case, too, helped the child.
Often children with special needs do not get such attention in schools across the country and are scarred for life. The complex but the vital subject was highlighted in Aamir Khan’s film Taare Zameen Par and has now caught the attention of policymakers at the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
In a major step towards creating inclusive classrooms, the CBSE has decided to draw a comprehensive policy to tailor teaching processes in its over 20,000 affiliated schools to the needs of children with special needs.
According to a CBSE official, hundreds of students, who have disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia or other physical or mental disabilities, sit in classrooms with other children.
More often than not, there is no understanding among other students and even teachers about the challenges and needs of the kids with special needs, who otherwise are as bright as any of them. While in several advanced countries there is awareness about the needs of such children, in India knowledge of these issues is not widespread.
“They need to design innovative strategies for the identification, education, and examination for children with special needs have been felt. It has been decided that a committee of experts headed by Sudha Acharya, principal of Delhi’s ITL school, will create a draft plan to make the classroom experience really inclusive for children with special needs,” the CBSE official said.
The scale of the issue became clear to the CBSE after the board examinations for class X and XII over the last couple of years.
In line with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, the CBSE had brought out norms for exemptions and concessions to children with special needs.
Approximately, 10,000 students availed the help of these measures, which pointed to the urgent need to create a support system during their learning endeavours in the classrooms, the official cited above said.
“Therefore, the board has consulted leading experts like Dr Shefali Gulati of AIIMS [All India Institute of Medical Sciences] and Dr Jitendra Nagpal of the Institute of Mental Health and Life Skills, Moolchand Medicity, among others to find ways to deal with the issue. Due to the paucity of educators, it was felt that it is essential that school teachers be oriented towards the needs and management of such children,” the CBSE official said.
It was decided that a policy document, which focuses on areas such as teaching, classrooms, infrastructure, and examination of children with special needs, has to be brought out. All special educators in CBSE schools will be mapped. The possibility of identification of neuro-based disabilities through the use of online tests are also being explored, the official said.
CBSE chairperson Anita Karwal confirmed that policy to make classrooms inclusive was “in the offing”.
Dr Nagpal of Moolchand Hospital, who was involved in the management of the two cases cited above said to make education truly effective, classrooms should be truly diverse and inclusive. “Curriculum and teaching should be modified to meet the needs of this diversity which should include children with special needs. They can be as bright as anyone. It is said that even greats like Einstein or Thomas Alva Edison suffered from some such disorders. A policy intervention on addressing developmental disorder with associated behavioural problems by providing counselling and remedial teaching is much needed.”