National Education Policy 2020 - with Specific Reference to Students with Disabilities
From a 500 page draft to 100 pages concisely presented NEP2020 is a mix bag. As all policies do it proposes actions but it also presents a philosophical intent. It carries many reforms but route to bringing those reforms are hazy at the moment and we will have to wait till 2025 to see how far we reach in creating 'universal foundational literacy and numeracy' at primary level.
The Right to Education Act-2009, after a substantial advocacy, opened few doors for children with disabilities to enter the 'regular education' and over the years we have moved from "Sarva Shiksha to Samagra Shiksha" to include higher secondary under RTE. It is in the light of RTE and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act-2016, I have tried to look at the NEP2020.
There isn't any separate chapter on education of children with disabilities but one of the principles (out of 22) in the policy talks about 'extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, increasing access for divyang students'.
There is no doubt that education of children with disabilities must be treated as 'education' and with this logic, all the sections of the NEP2020 will be useful for students with disabilities. The frequent mention of 'Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE)' raises hope and there are some specific provisions for children with disabilities which can be found in:
Chapter 4 - Curriculum & Pedagogy
4.2.2- Indian Sign Language to be standardized
Chapter 5 - Teachers
5.9- Adequate and safe infrastructure for all including CwD
Section on Special Educators
5.21- Option for teachers to take 'Special Education' as secondary specialization, both pre and in-service
5.24- All BEd programmes to include training in teaching CwD
5.26- Option for shorter post- BEd courses for those regular teachers who wish to move to teaching CwD
Chapter 6 - Equitable and Inclusive Education- Learning for All
6.2- Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) includes disabilities
6.2.5- Creating enabling mechanisms for providing CwSN at par with any other child
6.5- One to one teachers/ tutors, peers tutoring, open schooling, appropriate infrastructure, technological interventions to ensure access for CwD
6.10- Ensuring inclusion and equal participation of CwD on priority. Enabling them to fully participate in regular schools as per RPWD-2016
6.11- Schools to provide resources for integration of CwD, Recruitment of Spl Educators, Resource Centers especially for children with severe & multiple disabilities, Barrier free access, textbooks in accessible formats, assisting devices, ISL
6.12- For children with Benchmark disabilities, choice of Regular or Special Education, Resource centers for learners with severe & MD, Assistance to parents in home schooling, Home based education to continue for CwMD and will be treated as others in general system
6.13 & 14- Dedicated to children with Specific Learning Disabilities
Chapter 7 - Resourcing & Governance
7.5- Challenges of SSA, schools and it's management to be addressed by 2025. Every school to have adequate number of counselors/ social workers. Cooperation and support across schools for education of CwD.
7.7- Establishment of School Complexes/ Clusters and the sharing of resources across complexes for improved support for CwD. School Complex Management Committees.
Chapter 9 - Higher Education
9.3.i- Increased access, equity and inclusion through greater opportunities, scholarship, online education, Open Distance Learning and accessible learning materials for learners with disabilities.
Chapter 21- Adult Education and Lifelong Learning
21.9- Improving availability, accessibility and availability of books for persons with disabilities.
Like any other policy in the independent India, the fate of NEP2020 will also depend on it's effective and efficient implementation so let's wish each other all the best for a successful implementation of the same in years to come.
Author - Akhil Paul
Executive Director, Sense International (India)