KOCHI: Twelve-year-old Ashish (name changed) had been studying in a CBSE-affiliated private school in Kochi since kindergarten. After the results of Class 7 were announced, the boy and his family were in for a rude shock. Though he had passed the exams, the management asked him to change schools apparently because he had scored marks below the class average.The real reason: The school authorities had assessed him to be having a learning disability while in primary school. It was deemed that in the long run, his performance would not be keeping up with the school’s ‘prestige’.
Similar is the case with many children with learning disabilities studying in private schools. The attitude of many CBSE or CISCE-affiliated schools run by private managements in the State has been grossly discriminatory towards such children. “Schools are indifferent about the future of these children. All they care about is the pass percentage of the school,” said Ashish’s mother. When The Sunday Standard checked with a prominent school in Kochi on the pretext of seeking admission for a child with a learning disability, the school management responded, “This is not a special school. We do not take in children with special needs.”
Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Shobha Koshy said the schools’ obsession with ‘high performance’ is indeed leaving a bad taste. “These are exceptionally bright students who have a difficulty in comprehending things, unlike normal kids. But they are not a priority for schools competing for full ‘A Plus’ scores. Very few managements are willing to acknowledge students with learning disabilities. It’s as if the schools are embarrassed by these children,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kerala CBSE Schools Management Association President T P M Ibrahim Khan said that special classes and separate teachers are made available to students with disabilities from primary classes onwards.“But, if there is no improvement, there is no point in keeping them in the school. Teachers find it difficult to manage normal students and these children together. It is only for the betterment of these students they are asked to move to special schools,” he said.
The CBSE chairperson’s office said action will be taken against any school denying admission to students with special needs as it is a clear violation of the inclusive education clause in the Right To Education.
Meanwhile, a feeling of rejection pervades many students with learning problems in the long run, said child counsellor Naseera Najeeb. “We have seen numerous cases where children with learning disabilities are ignored. Teachers sometimes prove incapable of understanding them,” she said.
Govt schools show the way
While private schools turn their backs on children with learning disabilities, many government-aided schools in the state have special classes and inclusive education for the disabled (IED) resource teachers to help such students. Government-approved counsellors assess the students and, if diagnosed with a learning disability, IED resource teachers give special assistance to them.
A CBSE circular dated January 24, 2017, advised affiliated schools “to ensure no child with special needs is denied admission in mainstream education” and to modify teaching techniques to meet their needs
Use of scribes for exams for those with learning disabilities
They are categorised under ‘dyslexia’ even while diagnosed with other learning disabilities