Volume 3 Issue 13 - July 01, 2005

Inclusive Education is high on priority for U.G.C : Rajasekaran Pillai

“Inclusive Education is high on priority,” says Rajasekaran Pillai, Vice Chairman, University Grants Commission, in an interview with Parvinder Singh.

Rajasekaran Pillai, Vice Chairman, University Grants Commission,

What significance does UGC, as an apex body for higher education, accord to the idea of Inclusive Education?

Inclusion is a major area of focus for the Commission. And within area of Inclusion, the concept of Inclusive Education is high on priority. This is to say providing quality education and equal opportunity to persons or students with disabilities is high on our agenda. The representation of disabled persons at all level in universities and colleges, as mandated by the Disability Act 1995, is a matter of priority.

What steps are being undertaken for materialising the idea of Inclusive Education in terms of participation of persons with disabilities?

We have been devising, and implementing, schemes from time to time so that there is no segregation of persons with disabilities. Three to four schemes were initiated in the 9th plan. For instance from 2001 onwards over 25 universities and 30 colleges have been assisted for conducting specific programmes to train teachers to enable them to educate students with disabilities and for supporting disabled students to pursue higher education.

The idea of inclusion in higher education also involves participation of persons with disabilities as faculty and teachers. As you know there is a provision of 3% reservation for them. Sir, what is the status of their participation?

Yes there has been a reservation for persons with disabilities in teaching positions at universities and colleges, but unfortunately there continues to be a lag in this. However, the Commission has not restricted itself and had initiated a plan in 2002 for providing financial assistance to visually impaired teachers. The scheme was formulated to help permanent teachers to pursue teaching and research with help of a reader, and by using teaching and learning aids by way of providing reader's allowances and funds for purchase of Braille books.

Future research on the subject of disability is important for new direction and more effective evolution and implementation of policies for Inclusive Education. What are UGC's plans for this?

Yes, this is important. In fact the Commission has plans that all universities will have a Disability Councillor, who will act as one stop shop for the disabled students and assist them in all their needs. The Commission will assist all universities to establish a separate Department of Disability studies, including modules on foundations of inclusion and on inclusive practices, research and discourse. We also propose to set up a Chair of Disability Studies in the Central Universities, in different Departments. We will also examine the possibility of affiliating our leading national institutes working in the area of disabilities with an apex university. In fact a disabilities studies committee was constituted and it will be submitting its report on the subject to the Commission in two to three months.

On the issue of access, to physical infrastructure and facilities, the situation across the country is abysmal. Do you think there should be punitive measure to ensure compliance as incentives seems to have had little affect?

The Disability Act is very clear on this point, so we have a law and therefore it must be followed. I feel punitive measures as such are not a good idea. As such there a number of accreditation bodies and they can make it mandatory for all institution to incorporate various provisions for access stipulated in the act. We have been offering incentives by the way of special grants to colleges and universities to initiate structural changes to make them barrier free.

What is the level of interaction that is needed between the civil society, UGC and educational institutions for attaining the goals of Inclusive education?

Interaction is very important, and we have asked affiliated educational institutions to engage with bodies working on the issue of inclusive education for the disabled. This interaction would eventually help in creating actionable points for universities and colleges to implement. The socio-economic realties of India have a direct bearing on the issue of education in general, and education for disabled in particular. A holistic evolution of the nation not only in the sector of education, but also in health etc, will facilitate improved intergeneration. Therefore the issue of inclusive education needs to be dealt not only at the individual level, but also unified level.

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