Education of Children with Disabilities in Rural Indian Government Schools: A Long Road to Inclusion
Global commitments to the education of children with disabilities, have led to progressive policy developments in India, and a surge in the enrolment of children who were traditionally excluded from the formal education system. This paper examines the perceptions and practices of mainstream teachers in rural government schools, within the context of increased learner diversity, focusing on how teachers understand, and respond to, the needs of children with disabilities. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with teachers and classroom observations, in six primary schools, in three districts of Haryana. Our findings suggest that deficit-oriented views dominated teacher thinking, but they showed a readiness to engage with disability issues, recognizing the value of education for all. However, they struggled in their classroom practices in relation to meeting diverse learner needs and exclusionary practices were further amplified for children with disabilities. Teachers were unwilling to take responsibility for the learning of children with disabilities, expressing significant concerns about their own preparedness, while highlighting the lack of effective and appropriate support structures. The paper concludes by drawing attention to the pressing need for effective teacher professional development opportunities and other support structures, to provide quality education.