CHALLENGES TOWARDS INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FOR
CHILDREN WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT
(My first paper presented in the National Seminar-cum-Workshop on Including the Excluded: Role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in Education, organised by AAE, FoE (K), B.H.U. Varanasi, November 14-15, 2010)
Rajnish Kumar Arya*
The right to education is universal and must extent to all children, youth, and adults with disabilities. This right is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and addressed in several significant, internationally approved declarations, including the World Declaration for Education for All (1990), the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disability (1993), the UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (1994) and the Dakar Framework for Action (2000). There are an estimated 25 million children out of school in India (MHRD 2003 statistics, cited in World Bank, 2004), many of whom are marginalised by dimensions such as poverty, gender, disability, and caste. We also know that the vast majority of individuals with hearing or visual impairments in developing nations lack basic literacy; that individuals with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities are treated with often cruel neglect; and that there is a strong link between disability and poverty. We also know that all individuals with disabilities, given the opportunity, can lead meaningful, productive lives, and contribute to the social and economic well being of their family and community. While many educational programmes have attempted to reach out to these previously excluded children, those with disabilities including Children with Visual Impairment are often forgotten, emphasising their invisible status in a rigidly categorised society.
This paper, while limited by the lack of available empirical data and constraints of desk research, aims to present the current status of inclusive education in India with a focus on challenges towards inclusive education for Children with visual impairment.
The goal of “Education for All” will only be achieved when the Union Government as well as the State Government establish or reform public education systems that are accessible to, and meet the needs of, individuals with disabilities including Children with Visual Impairment. The inclusion of learners with special educational needs in general education is becoming more prevalent (Crawford, Almond, Tindal & Hollenback: 2002). As a result various special education researchers have began to examine the success of inclusion, as well as the attitudes and beliefs of general educators towards the inclusion of learner with disabilities in the general education classroom (Ivey & Reincke, 2002; Avrandis, 2001; Van Reusen, Shosho & Barker, 2000; Choles, 2000; Gorden, 2000; Kgare, 2000; Bothana, 1998; Van Staden, 2001; Hyan, 2001; makunga, 2002; Siebalak, 2002). Work for the children with visual impairment in India is more than a century old. Miss Anne Sharp founded the first school for the blind in Amritsar in India in 1887. Though the foreign missionaries started the first institution, Sri Lal Behari Shah was the first Indian to start the Calcutta blind School in 1897(Murickan and Kareparampil, 1995). The growth of special services for disabled children in India has followed the global trends of care and help. Besides efforts from the voluntary sectors, the Union Government too initatiated constructive activities towards the development of services for the children with visual impairment. In 1942, the Government of India invited Sir Clutha Mackenzie, a World War I veteran from New Zealand to conduct a survey on blindness in India. The recommendations of his famous report on Blindness (1944) have great influence on the programmes for persons with visual impairment in the post-independent period. As soon as India got freedom the Govt. of India took several steps to provide the education to the Persons with Visual Impairment. In 1947, a unit on blindness was set up in the Ministry of Education, which was headed by Lal Advani, himself a blind person. This unit became the focal point for expansion of services to other disability areas through the union government. The unit was also instrumental for the creation of the concept of separate national institutes for the handicapped in India. The development of Bharathi Braille Code in India also provides a fillip to the augmentation of services for children with visual impairment. Though the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) initiated the work in 1922, it took a concrete shape only during the first conference on Uniformity of Braille Codes organised in Paris in 1950. At the time of independence in India, there was no formal legislation to ensure compulsory education for the disabled. Though the Article 45 of the Constitution of India has assured better services to person with disabilities in India, it was not enforced through legislation until recently. India came out with legislation in the form of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act in 1995. The pre-independence period which witnessed the growth of only 32 special schools for the blind rose to a remarkable 400 special schools in the post-independence period. Still, the beneficiaries of the services constitute only about 5% (Status of Disability in India- 2000, Pp 3-4). A great work had been done to include the Children with Visual Impairment in General Education as well as in the General Schools. But still a big portion of the population is excluded from even the primary education.
Understanding of Inclusive Education:
Inclusive education is understood differently by educationists, practitioners, government, parents, disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and other key stakeholders. This is evident at all levels, and affects the acceptance, design, implementation and quality of the entire process.
The Salamanca Framework focuses on inclusive education as a strategy to include children with special educational needs in mainstream education by responding the needs of individual learners.
“Inclusive education” implies that children and youth with special educational needs should be included in the educational arrangements made for the majority of children… Inclusive Schools must recognize and respond to the diverse needs of students, accommodation of both different styles and rates of learning and ensuring quality education to all through appropriate curricula, organizational arrangements, teaching strategies, resources use and partnerships with their communities.” (UNESCO –Salamanca Statement, 1994)
UNESCO, in 2006, describes inclusive education as “ a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through inclusive practices in learning, cultures and communities and reducing exclusion within and from education. It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies, with a common vision which covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children.” (UNESCO, 2006)
Rational for Inclusive Education:
1. Inclusive Education: The Growing Trend in Realising Education For All
At present, there is a growing awareness about inclusive education among educators. In special school concept, the special education component is a part of the general education system, whereas in integrated approach, the special education is a part of general education. Inclusive Education goes one step further. In this approach, the special education is an integral part of the general education system. The need for inclusive education has to be viewed in the background of the reality of services for Children with Visual Impairment in India.
The Real Fact:
v Education of Children with Visual Impairment is more than 100 years old but the present service delivery system have not even covered 5% of the total population of Children with Visual Impairment.
v When more than 90% of the Children with Visual Impairment are found in the rural areas, majority of the special schools as well as integrated education programmes are located in the cities/urban areas.
v In most villages of the country, Children with Disabilities (CWD) of different categories are present. As far as the standardized models such as resource and itinerant models are concerned, on specialist teacher serves 8 to 10 children with visual impairment. But the scattered villages in the country do not have adequate number of the same category of children to justify the appointment of a full time resource teacher. Therefore, the need for multi-category personnel becomes inevitable.
v The extent of disability in each category ranges from mild to severe and profound cases. The mild and moderate cases are more in number than the severe and profound cases. Due to lack of sensitivity of the general education to the needs of Children with Visual Impairment, even the mild and moderate cases are not attending schools. This calls for the involvement of general education so that the children who are currently left out of schools can be served.
2. Inclusive Education – The Reality Based Service Delivery System
The present scenario of special education in India really calls for innovations and appropriate service delivery strategies. The main features of the inclusive education are given as follows:
v Development of the capability of the general education system to meet the educational needs of children with visual impairment.
v Flexibility in programme models to address the variations found at the state as well as block levels.
v Maximising educational services for the children with visual impairment with limited resources.
v Participation of parents and community in the planning and execution of the services for the children in general and children with visual impairment, in particular.
v Improving the communication between children with visual impairment and non-disabled children to promote child-to-child learning.
v Making the programme for the children with visual impairment, an integral part of the general educational system rather than a system within general education.
v Economical viability for education of children with visual impairment.
v Easy approachability of service area so that children with visual impairment could come to school from home (Status on Disability in India- 2000, Pp 26-28).
Challenges Towards Inclusive Education For Children with Visual Impairment:
There are 75 million children around the world missing out on an education and it is estimated that one-third of those children have a disability. In fact, it is estimated that 90 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not go to school. It is believed that not more than 2–3 per cent of children with disabilities have access to education (Draft National Policy on Special Education, 2002). The Rehabilitation Council of India estimates that 30 million disabled children are in need of education; it aims to educate 10 per cent of all disabled children by 2020.
Several factors contribute to this exclusion, including such as:
v the provision of an inadequate additional curriculum;
v lack of inclusion in the main teaching and learning processes taking place in the mainstream classroom;
v lack of communication and adequate planning by the class teacher and teaching assistant;
v lack of proper understanding of the concept of inclusion;
v societal attitudes;
v insufficient government leadership;
v non-availability and quality of human and material resources;
v fragmented approaches;
v lack of appropriate role models involved in the process, such as Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs); and
v lack of adequate confidence building programmes for children with visual impairment.
Some of these issues clearly overlap and so a holistic approach is needed if the best possible outcome for children with visual impairment is to be achieved.
The paper concludes that a twin-track approach to disability may assist not only in improving educational access for marginalised children, but also the reconceptualisation of inclusive education as a school quality issue to benefit all children. This could contribute in the long-term towards the achievement of Education For All and fulfillment of the Fundamental Right to Education enshrined in the Constitution of India in 2002.
In summary, if we are to enhance the quality of inclusive education programmes, then we need a shift in attitudes, government commitment and action to coordinate all aspects of inclusive education, strong linkages and good preparation. Formal and informal stakeholders need to be involved at every stage to ensure successful inclusive education.
Mdikana, A., Ntshangase, S. & Mayekiso, T. 2007, Pre-Service Educators’ Attitudes Towards Inclusive Education. International Journal of Special Education, vol. 22(1), p.125
Kundu, C. L. (ed.) 2000, Status of Disability in India. Rehabilitation Council of India, New Delhi, chp 1, pp. 3-4
Kundu, C. L. (ed.) 2000, Status of Disability in India. Rehabilitation Council of India, New Delhi, chp 4, pp. 26-28
Unknown (n.n.), 2010, Barriers to education: a voice from the field, Sight Severs International, p. 2
Unknown (n.n.), 2010, Barriers to education: a voice from the field, Sight Severs International, p. 6
www.sightsavers.org/.../education/13072_Barriers%20to%20education%20%20a%20voice%20from%20the%20field.pdf downloaded on 20-10-2010, p. 2
http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/know_sharing/flagship_initiatives/disability_last_version.shtml downloaded on 20-10-2010
Connie Laurin-Bowie 2009, A Global Report on Education for All, Disability and Inclusion, Instituto Universitario de Integración en la Comunidad (INICO)
Salamanca, Spain, chp 2, pp. 31-32