No country for students with special needs?

As per data released by CBSE, out of the 33,000 students who appeared for the 2014 Class X exams in the state, only 301 had special needs

If the success of a country’s educational system is gauged by how well it is able to absorb kids with special needs into its schools, then the system here has a lot of catching up to do. According to data released recently by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the number of students with various forms of disabilities who appeared for the 2014 Class X examinations in CBSE schools in Maharashtra under the categories ‘blind’, ‘dyslexic’, ‘deaf’, ‘handicap’ and ‘spastic’ stood at 301. The number fell even further, with only 45 students appearing for the Class XII exams in 2014, under various categories of disability.

Experts blame the lack of awareness of schools and colleges for the alarming report. Pic for representation purpose
Experts blame the lack of awareness of schools and colleges for the alarming report. Pic for representation purpose

School principals speak
“Many students and parents easily believe that CBSE Class XII syllabus is very difficult and they often end up opting for state board after Class X, which they assume is comparatively easier,” said Avnita Bir, principal of RN Podar High School in Santacruz. She added that the state education department has also put in place various rules and regulations to facilitate these students’ admission to junior colleges. “Students like to have their options open but as the state government has made strict rules for junior college admissions, many students prefer going to colleges instead of continuing with CBSE schools for Class XI and XII,” added Bir. Principals also pointed out that only a handful of CBSE schools in the state have the Plus-2 (or, Class XII) facility. Invariably, students end up leaving the CBSE board for further studies.

Seema Maindiratta, principal of DAV School in Kharghar, opines that students with special needs may prefer vocational courses over school or college. “They feel that vocational courses will be more helpful and hence choose that over junior college or continuing in CBSE schools,” she said.

The trend of students dropping out of school after Class 10 is common throughout the country. In Delhi, for instance, during the March 2014 examinations, 2,246 students appeared for CBSE Class X exams under the disabled category whereas the number dropped to 1056 in the Class XII exams.

Similarly, in Kerala, while 535 students appeared for the Class X exams under the disabled category, only 90 students appeared for Class XII exams this year. In Bihar, the numbers stood at 144 and 40 respectively. School principals, however, attributed the low numbers to the less number of CBSE schools in these states, as well as lack of awareness among schools and parents.

Lack of awareness to blame
Although figures on the CBSE’s website show an increase in the number of candidates with special needs appearing for Class X/XII exams, experts say that the numbers are quite low. Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said that at least 80 in every 100 students have some form of learning disability, which goes unnoticed either because schools discourage such students or parents shy away from identifying the problem.

“The Ministry of Women & Child Development and the education department have a long way to go in ensuring that children don’t miss out on concessions,” he added.

Help for students
A 2007 Supreme Court order clearly states that all education boards have to make concessions for students with learning disabilities in schools as well as during boards exams. Concessions in SSC/HSC include:
>> 30 minutes extra time for SSC and an extra hour for HSC students is given
>> Exemption from third language (Hindi/ Marathi) for SSC students. Students may take a vocational subject instead
>> 20 grace marks during board exams
>> Blind/deaf students can use tape-recorders in classrooms

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