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States asked to ensure free education for students with disability up to age 18

24 Nov 2017

The Centre has asked all states to ensure that every child with special needs get free education up to the age of 18. For this, the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has asked all the states to make “suitable modifications” in the curriculum and examination system to meet the needs of such students. Provisions could include extra time to complete examination papers, use the facility of scribe or amanuensis, and exemption from second and third language courses.

Referring to the Rights of Persons with Disability (RPwD) Act, the HRD ministry has also asked the heads of the state education departments to ensure that all schools within their jurisdiction have inclusive classrooms with a conducive learning atmosphere to enable special children to study with others.

This move comes after increasing complaints across the country 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.The revised RPwD Act, 2016, came into effect from April 19 this year. “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 a recent communication to the states, referring to the RPwD Act provisions which provide for it.

The ministry 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. It 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.

Under the RPwD Act, all state governments and union territory administrations are required to ensure that such children are provided with books, other learning materials and appropriate assistive devices free of cost up to the age of 18. They are also required to provide scholarships “in appropriate cases” to students with benchmark disability. The “Ministry has requested the States to consider issuing necessary instructions to the authorities and departments concerned to ensure compliance of the provisions of the RPwD Act”