Supreme Court had in its October 28 last year judgement said that the Centre must forthwith notify the standards of pupil-teacher ratio for special schools.

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The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that it had agreed to the Rehabilitation Council of India’s recommendations regarding the pupil-teacher ratio for special schools and the separate norms for special educators, who are the only ones qualified to provide education and training to students with special needs in general schools (RCI).

According to norms and standards, the recommended pupil-teacher (special education teacher) ratio for regular (inclusive) schools is 10:1 for the primary level and 15:1 for the upper primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels. The ministry of education made reference to these standards in a compliance affidavit that was submitted to the top court. It stated that on June 10, the ministry of education’s department of school education and literacy sent a letter to the education secretaries of all the states and Union Territories (UTs), the commissioners of the “Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan” and the “Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti” asking them to take any additional necessary steps.

“It is humbly submitted that this department is in the process of issuing notification by amending the “schedule” of the RTE Act, 2009, in compliance with para 34 of the judgement dated October 28, 2021, passed by this court. This department has finalised the norms and standards, i.e. PTR for special teachers/special educators who alone can impart education and training to CwSN (children with special needs) in the general schools. Additionally, it is claimed that this procedure will probably take 4 to 6 weeks, “Affidavit stated.

The country’s top court ruled on October 28 of last year that the Center must immediately announce the standards for student-teacher ratios in special schools as well as unique standards for special teachers who are the only ones qualified to provide instruction and training to children with special needs (CwSN) in general schools across the nation. A bench made up of Justices AM Khanwilkar, AS Oka, and JB Pardiwala heard the case on Thursday. Speaking on behalf of the petitioners, attorney Shoeb Alam cited the ministry’s compliance affidavit. According to him, the document shows that the ministry has sent a letter to all the states. Alam said as per the affidavit, the RCI has made certain suggestions to the Centre and the government has accepted them.

The bench observed in its judgement that it had been asked to pay regard to the letter from June 10 alerting all the states and UTs of the acceptance of the RCI’s recommendation and to give it effect so that it would follow the instructions issued by the supreme court in October of last year. The relevant states and UTs shall submit the compliance report to the Secretary of the ministry, the bench stated whilst setting the matter for further hearing on August 17. According to the affidavit submitted to the court, the ministry of education’s department of school education and literacy had established a committee to “notify the norms and standards of pupil-teacher ratio” norms for special teachers—special educators who are the only ones qualified to provide education and training to CwSN in general schools. The department of empowerment of persons with disabilities-RCI was given the duty of drafting the rules and standards of pupil-teacher ratio, it was stated during the committee sessions.

The affidavit said the committee, as formed by RCI to formulate the norms of special educators in special schools, was also requested to formulate the norms, guidelines, standards on ratio, roles, responsibilities, etc of special teachers-special educators in general schools in view of the apex court directions. It said the draft norms were submitted to the ministry by the RCI.

According to the affidavit, the Ministry of Education’s department of school education and literacy sent a letter dated June 10 to the education secretaries of all the states and UTs, as well as the commissioners of the “Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan” and the “Jawahar Navoday Vidyalaya Samiti,” outlining the PTR standards and norms for special schools as well as distinct standards for special teachers-special educators who alone can provide instruction and training to CwSN The letter, it was stated, also required them to provide a department action taken report.

According to the message from June 10, the RCI also suggested and revised the function of special educators, who will now take on specific duties for promoting inclusive education while serving as a catalyst for the empowerment of children with disabilities. It includes giving advice on how to create an inclusive school climate, culture, and ethos where all procedures, including admission, assessments, teaching, and evaluation, are accessible to people with disabilities. The letter also mentioned the outreach initiatives for special educators, including doing home visits and providing support for home training initiatives. Additionally, it included information on the proposed activities for special educators, which included creating a yearly or monthly schedule of inclusive events.

The communication stated that “State governments and UT administrations may take additional necessary action in light of the Supreme Court’s judgement dated October 28, 2021, and furnish the action taken report to this department by June 25, 2022, to enable this department to submit compliance affidavit before the Supreme Court of India.”

Mayank Tewari

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