A step in the right direction: Free education for special kids up to 18 years

Every special child will now get free education up to the age of 18, thanks to an initiative taken by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The MHRD has on November 22, 2017 asked all state education departments to make suitable modifications in the curriculum and examination system to meet the needs of such students.

“The appropriate government and local authorities shall ensure that every child with benchmark disability has access to free education in an appropriate environment till he attains the age of eighteen years in a special school or inclusive neighbourhood schools as per his choice,” the ministry said in a statement.

Referring to the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disability (RPwD) Act, the MHRD has also asked the heads of the state education departments to ensure that all schools within their jurisdiction have inclusive classrooms and teaching-learning atmosphere to enable special children to study along with others.

“The states should consider issuing necessary instructions to the authorities and departments concerned to ensure compliance with the provisions of the RPwD Act,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision from the MHRD came after it received increasing complaints of schools denying admission to special children and discriminating against others on the rolls despite clear provisions in the RPwD Act to facilitate their education.

As per the MHRD order, the states were asked to make suitable modifications which include extra time for special students to complete examination papers, use the facility of scribe or amanuensis and exemption from second and third language courses.

The MHRD has also asked the states to establish teacher training institutions and train and employ teachers, including those with special needs, who are proficient in sign language and Braille and trained to teach children with intellectual disability.

According to reports, the MHRD has also asked states to make necessary arrangements for training of professionals and other staff to support inclusive education at all levels of school education.

As per the RPwD Act, all state governments and union territory administrations are required to ensure that special children are provided with books, other learning materials and appropriate assistive devices free of cost up to the age of 18.

The states are also asked to provide scholarships in appropriate cases to students with benchmark disability.