National Education Day: Special Needs Education

By Shweta Siddha-Deshmukh,November 11 2017

National Education day is celebrated every year on November 11 as the birth anniversary of independent India’s first Education Minister and freedom fighter Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. Maulana Azad’s main focus was quality education including primary education, girl’s education, technical education and more. The well-known education institutes in India like the first IIT, IISc, UGC were planned under his tenure. The major cultural and literary academies of Sangeet Natak Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, Sahitya Academy, Indian Council for Cultural Relations were established by him.

The Universities across India have been asked by UGC to organize seminars, workshops, slogans and more on the importance of education on this day, as its main objective is to strengthen the educational institutions and raise the quality of education. The main purpose is to bring together all people in the field of education and focus on seeking ways to educate our people.

Talking about the special needs education in our country, it was earlier mostly dependent on voluntary initiatives. The Government had initiatives and provisions to help these voluntary organizations for establishment of model schools, scholarships, for prevention and early identification of disabling conditions, development of functional skills and aid and appliances for the disabled. In India, learner with Special Education Needs(SEN) is defined variously in different documents. As per International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED-97) (UNESCO-97), the term Special Needs Education (SNE) means educational intervention and support designed to address SEN. The term “SNE” has come into use as a replacement for the term “Special Education”.

India has more than 2,500 schools for children with special needs, some supported or run by the government and many others are registered NGOs or private institutions. Many international schools cater to the needs of children with special needs and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and cognitive disabilities. Efforts are made to integrate these children into the mainstream school environment. Under India's Disability Act (1995), children with disabilities have the right to free education up to the age of 18 with provision of transportation, scholarships, and free uniforms, books and teaching materials. They have access to special schools providing non-formal education and vocational training.

Jeya Meena Dhanabalan, ABA Professional and Special Educator, Jeys Special Needs Centre, Bangalore, says,” It has only been over the last few years that special needs education has been gaining momentum in India. Government should take necessary steps to ensure that children with special needs are given best education to raise them to the level of personal and self sufficiency and success in the day to day lives. Government should be supportive to the schools, organizations and institutions in terms of financial aid, to stay up to date with the latest equipment/teaching aids and methods and encourage organizations to organize workshops for their teachers to update their skills. More government aids like scholarships to special needs schools is required in our country as parents spend lot of money for different therapies for special needs children. More professional career help and opportunities need to be devised for them. Respite homes are very less in our country, so making necessary facilities available will make lot of difference”.

Education policies and practices must be inclusive to all learners to ensure that everyone have access to quality education. The dream for equal education for children with disability will require a comprehensive change in the institutional arrangements and legal provisions. India urgently needs a political will to include disability across all policies and make all the schools, colleges, public places accessible to people with disabilities by arranging adequate resources. Inclusive Education will lead to the betterment and prosperity of the society and peaceful and sustainable development of humanity.