The meeting began with the revisiting of the UNCRPD mandate on education in Art. 24. This discussion caused the group to decide that It would not address the issue of education in a polarized manner by indulging in debates on the different kinds of education. The stress shall instead be on the kind of outcomes that should be reached through education and these outcomes must find explicit mention in the chapter on education. It was decided to study the various Supreme Court judgments on the right to education to find suitable text to achieve this purpose.
It was reiterated that the eventual outcome of the education ought to wed the academic as well as social development through inclusiveness and this has to be achieved on the testing grounds of equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. Since reasonable accommodation and support were overarching in the UNCRPD, there was a felt need that these must also find place in the RTE and the new Act.
The Committee next moved on to draw linkages between the RTE and UNCRPD. It was deliberated that despite the inclusiveness, attitudinal barriers still prevailed regarding children with disability. In order to ensure structured awareness raising SMC could prove to be a powerful body. SMC which is already present in the RTE need to be further strengthened with the voice of the parents of children with disability by giving them a proportional representation. It was also agreed that SMC should be created in the new Act as well. A concern was also raised regarding the various education schemes initiated by the Centre which are later on discontinued on the expiry of the prescribed time period. To address this issue there was a general consensus to have concurrent responsibility of the Centre as well as the State.
There was also a deliberation regarding a possible overlap between the RTE and the new Act. The RTE talks about only of the children in the age group of 6-14 years and unless the children with disability are included in the disadvantaged group in the RTE, the RTE does not address the concerns of children with disabilities. It is necessary to keep track of the RTE amendment process in order to ensure that children with disabilities do not fall within the cracks of the two statutes. It was also essential to create a strong convergence between the provisions of the two statutes so that background conditions necessary for the education of children are adequately addressed.
There were discussions on the connection between the curriculum and examination. It was a general observation that the examination rules varied according to the school, university, state and nature of disability. It was emphasised that the assessment in the examination should be based on the strength of the learning and not deficit oriented. A consensus was reached that there should be provision for establishing an Education Reform Commission in the new Act itself with the mandate to deliberate on developing curriculum taking into account the lived experience of persons with disabilities. This Reform Commission would not accommodate disability within the existing education system rather it would develop a curriculum from the standpoint of persons with disabilities. It would explore how disability can contribute to knowledge creation.
Lastly, the issue of special teachers and teachers training was also discussed at length. The special teachers were not recognized by the NCTE but by RCI. To ensure inclusiveness in education, it was imperative that the teachers are also adequately trained. There needs to be parity in the training, grant, salaries and appointment between all kinds of teachers.
The group was unanimous in its opinion that the education of children and persons with disabilities should be the concern of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. It was recognized that the new law could not make provision on the matter however it was unanimously decided that the committee should recommend this change in its report.