According to the 2011 census, there are approximately 26.8 million people with disabilities in India, 2.04 million of whom are children. For these children with disabilities (CwDs), the path to receiving quality education is fraught with numerous challenges, rendering 75 percent of them out of formal education systems.

The challenges they encounter include lack of accessible study material and infrastructure, inadequate training provided to their educators, gaps in implementation of relevant policies, and under-reporting of diagnosis. In fact, most of these children tend to drop out by the time they reach primary or secondary school and many of them, if still enrolled, are unable to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) skills.

Although the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act 2016 guarantees the right to inclusive education for CwDs, the factors mentioned above have made it hard for this to be translated into reality.

Drawing from the experiences of Sol’s ARC in working with CwDs and promoting inclusive education over the past two decades, here are some key insights that we have gained to improve the accessibility and quality of education for these children.

The availability of educators trained to teach CwDs is an essential aspect of inclusive and quality education for these students. According to a UNESCO report, only 0.22 percent of teachers in India (1:500 pupil-teacher ratio) are qualified to be special educators, which is significantly different from the recommended 1:5 pupil-teacher ratio outlined in the Scheme of Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary State (IEDSS).

This low number of special educators means that they are able to visit the child only once in four to six months, whereas the recommended frequency of intervention is at least twice a week with regular follow-up. These infrequent visits with no follow-up severely hinders the child’s development. Additionally, special educators have limited knowledge of mainstream education practices and hence cannot be the primary educators for CwDs. As a result, this traditional approach of having special educators work with CwDs—which is also the model practised by most nonprofits in India—is not scalable. Moreover, it promotes segregation.

Read the full article about building inclusive schools in India by Sonali Saini at India Development Review.