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T.The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) was set up under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to standardize training and regulate rehabilitation professionals and staff working with people with disabilities and develop human resources for the area.
Of the 16 categories of rehabilitation professionals and staff (such as audiologists, speech therapists, hearing aid technicians, etc.) registered with the RCI, approximately 75% work in special education for people with disabilities. Therefore, the design of the curriculum for special education teachers, their registration, and the recognition and supervision of teacher training institutions form a significant part of the responsibilities of the RCI.
These special educators usually aim for a diploma and / or a degree (B.Ed./D.Ed. Special education) at institutions certified by the RCI and are classified as specializing in accessible categories such as hearing impairment and intellectual disabilities, visual impairments, etc. They undertake this in order to be trained to better support and teach students with the affected disabilities in various school settings including special and mainstream schools. However, it is the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) that has the task of setting norms and standards for the development of the teacher education system in a broader sense.
The roots of this institutional separation go back to the understanding of disability itself, where disability was understood in terms of the “medical model” requiring diagnosis and treatment as opposed to addressing different needs. While the debate and legal framework has continued to call for “inclusive education” for disabled students (see Sections 16 and 17 of the Disability Rights Act, 2016), this institutional separation remains. It is therefore important to critically examine the prevailing segregation in teacher training and regulation.
Based on this understanding of disability, the RCI also has a CRE (Continuing Rehabilitation Education) component which is intended to ensure that professionals and staff update and improve their knowledge and skills. Professionals registered with the RCI must achieve a minimum number of “points” every five years for re-registration with the Council, which can be done primarily through participation in CRE programs.
Also read: Covid led to 77% of parents of disabled children losing their jobs, 90% were dependent on government support
The RCI mandate, legal developments, needs of special educators
This study dealt with this institutional separation from the point of view of special educators and the regulatory body, the RCI. The study examines the institutional history of the RCI through parliamentary debates on the RCI Act of 1992 and through interviews with 82 registered educators from Bihar and Maharashtra. Educators were asked about their education and work experience, including their interaction with class teachers, students and parents, as well as with the RCI.
Multi-lane educational level: The results of this study show that the special teaching and learning of students with disabilities is changing and has changed considerably from the founding of the RCI to the present day. Interviews with special educators in Bihar and Maharashtra suggest that we are currently in a multi-lane phase of educational development as far as students with disabilities are concerned. This can be understood as a phase in which the inclusion process constitutes constituent education and training as well as the provision of teaching and counseling support within the regular school system in which the general teacher is also trained. Special education teachers understand these diverse paths from the point of view of their employment opportunities. You enter, switch between work settings and exit the field according to the changes made in this multi-lane phase.
Lack of jobs and inadequate jobs for special educators: In the two countries examined, employment opportunities in the state school system are limited to general apprenticeships. The respondents indicated that no positions for traveling teachers or school-based special education teachers had been hired since 2012. 13. In addition, respondents in rural areas stated that they initially had only a few such positions at their locations. At the same time, the conditions of employment are unfavorable both in special schools run by NGOs and in walking lessons with low pay, high workload and a lack of clarity with regard to the areas of responsibility. Traveling teachers working under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SMSA) complained about the significant and unfair differences in the remuneration of special and general teachers and about the contractual nature of their work. They also suggested that their salaries were disproportionate to the actual work they were responsible for and doing.
As a result, educators are switching to options such as self-employment, including providing lessons or taking on non-teaching work. A significant 36 percent of those surveyed had left the teaching profession or were unemployed at the time of the survey.
Inclusion approach limited by systemic challenges: Those employed as traveling teachers and special education teachers in general education schools recognize that the training and work they pursue is only intended to improve general classroom instruction and direct students to other government support programs including tools and equipment. However, respondents said they found this inclusion approach limiting because of the existing systemic challenges for regular teachers, including large class sizes, administrative work and lack of training, and the lack of vacancies in SMSA for traveling teachers. Several respondents also expressed parents’ concerns about the attention their children received in regular schools because of these challenges.
Inadequate Training and Outdated CRE Courses: From the references to limitations in regular teacher training in relation to teaching students with disabilities, specialty educators pointed to their own limitations in teaching students with different disabilities, suggesting that they have limited training Receiving for the disabled was sometimes only for five days, not sufficiently preparing them to work with the diverse needs of the students. In addition, the many who were unable to find employment teaching students with disabilities felt that the courses they had taken to register with the RCI were no longer relevant to them.
Similarly, those who were unable to secure employment in the field did not see or see the benefits of CRE programs. Others complained that they could not participate in these programs even if they so wished because of the physical inaccessibility of these programs, especially in rural areas, out-of-pocket spending or lack of information on where the programs were being held. Although these processes may seem insignificant in the general educational process, respondents indicated that failure to register or re-register within a set period of time could result in the suspension or termination of their teaching service.
Lack of Parent Awareness: Finally, respondents spoke of the importance of parent / guardian awareness of disability in improving the child’s educational outcomes. They cited that this lack of awareness and the resulting lack of support for children in the household made it difficult for students to get a meaningful education.
Also read: India’s online classrooms are out of date for disabled children. Covid only made it worse
Based on the concerns of the special educators, the following recommendations are made:
Since continuing education is currently associated with registration renewal, the CRE points-based programs should be conducted for free or at a minimal registration fee. In addition, it is recommended to address the lack of information and physical inaccessibility of CRE programs (especially for those living in rural / remote areas) by doing them through online modes whenever possible without compromising the quality of the programs affect.
It is also required that the RCI actively consult and understand the teaching experience of regular teachers and special education teachers in order to (i) verify the adequacy of the study and training courses offered; (ii) Create a feedback mechanism for all educators on their ability to teach students with different needs; and (iii) ensure that regular and specialty educators work in collaboration and not in silos.
In accordance with Section 16 (iv) – (v) and (vii) of the Disability Rights Act (RPWD) to Enable Inclusive Education and the Memorandums of Understanding between NCTE and RCI in the past, there is an urgent need to consider how to target the wider degrees and training courses more frequently and in a more meaningful way to general teachers so that they are ready to work with all students, including people with disabilities, in the long term.
Finally and above all, the RCI must investigate why so many trained special education teachers who could also apply for regular apprenticeships are leaving the field of education.
Nisha Vernekar is the team leader for education and Naina Seth is a project fellow at the Vidhi Center for Legal Policy. Views are personal.
This article was originally published by the Vidhi Center for Legal Policy.
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