According to Richard Rose, Professor of Inclusive Education at the University of Northampton, “The RTE Act displays a willingness by the Indian government to engage marginalised children hailing from economically disadvantaged families, but it does not do enough to address the needs of children with learning disabilities.” He is sure that the “Knowledge about handling students with learning disabilities is readily available in India, but the problem stems from the inability to disseminate those teaching practices to society at large.” He points out that the lack of training amongst teachers to handle students with special needs can prevent the children from reaching their full potential.
“Students with learning disabilities tend to have very high IQ just as any regular child. The only difference is that they might have difficulty in certain areas of learning. In many instances, children with mild learning difficulties can pass out of main stream schools provided that the disorder is identified at an early age,” says Harini Mohan, a Special Educator from Madras Dyslexia Association.
“It is imperative that the disorder is identified at a young age. Once identified, the issue can be tackled with multisensory teaching techniques. In the event that the disorder goes unnoticed, the gap between the child’s ability to learn will grow and will eventually need the child to be admitted to a special school,” adds Harini Mohan.
Teachers also feel that they are ill-equipped to handle students with learning disabilities.
According to Joseph PJ, a teacher from St Michael’s Academy, “When I was pursuing my B.Ed, we were only trained to tackle problems with handwriting, spelling and reading. The concept of learning disorders just didn’t exist back then. But it is a very real problem today.”
Awareness is the biggest challenge facing uninitiated teachers. In many case when teachers encounter children with learning disabilities, they brand them as underachievers instead of taking affirmative action to enable the child to overcome the disability.
According to Sulata Ajit, Director, Sankalp, an NGO that provides education to students with learning disabilities under the National School of Open Learning, “The module that is taught as part of B.Ed courses on learning disabilities is very limiting. Teachers are not exposed to techniques that will enable them to handle students with special needs. Here in Sankalp, we train teachers, show them the ways to approach such students, and these techniques can be beneficial for all students.”
In the absence of proper training for teachers the onus falls on schools to train teachers to handle students with learning difficulties.