ISEC 2005

Inclusive and Supportive Education Congress
International Special Education Conference
Inclusion: Celebrating Diversity?

1st - 4th August 2005. Glasgow, Scotland

about the conference

Responding to difference:
Policies to support ‘inclusive education’ in India

(Please do not quote without the author’s permission)


Dr. Nidhi Singal
Teaching and Research Associate
184 Hills Road
Faculty of Education
University of Cambridge

Tele: 01223 767608


This paper will explore the different meanings of ‘inclusive education’ in an Indian context, with particular reference to its understanding at the government level. The paper argues that efforts towards the development of an inclusive system of education are better understood when one examines the government’s response to other perceived differences, namely, gender, caste and tribe. Based on a review of government policies, official documents and analyses of interviews carried out with individuals closely involved in influencing and shaping governmental decisions, namely, officials working in various government departments and researchers in national institutes, an understanding of the concept of ‘inclusive education’ is developed. An examination of the government’s response to difference highlights some interesting commonalities. The paper concludes by arguing that inclusive education offers an invaluable opportunity for a critical reconceptulisation of our understanding of difference.


India is home to 16 per cent of the world’s population in 2.42 per cent of the world’s total area, making it the world’s biggest democracy. It represents the most diverse group of participants in terms of their linguistic, social, economic and cultural backgrounds. The major languages used are Hindi and English. In addition, 17 other official languages and 844 dialects are also spoken. While a burgeoning middle class has made great strides, according to 1993-1994 estimates (ADB, 2000), 36 per cent of the population continues to live below the poverty line. These are some of the complexities that must be accounted for when considering the nation’s education system.

The Indian education system is the second largest in the world and is perhaps the most complex in terms of its spatial outreach. India has around 200 million children in the school going age (6-14 years). Education has been accorded a high priority in the constitution, and in post-independence policies and programmes. However, it is only as recent as December 2002 that elementary education has been accorded the status of a fundamental right for all children. Recent developments have also seen the concept of ‘inclusive education’ become a part of the official rhetoric.

While impressive gains have been made in education over the past few decades, around 35 to 80 million children continue to remain out of the system. It is believed that children belonging to certain groups are more likely to be excluded than others. In section IV of the National Policy on Education (MHRD, 1986) entitled ‘Education for Equality’ emphasis is laid on the ‘removal of disparities’, along with an attempt ‘to equalise educational opportunity by attending to the specific needs of those who have been denied equality so far’. The policy goes on to identify girls, children from schedule castes (SC), and schedule tribes (ST), minorities, and children with disabilities as in need of extra attention. The Plan of Action (MHRD, 1992a) further addresses the needs of these groups in greater detail.

The primary focus of this paper is to critically examine how the concept of ‘inclusive education’ has been understood in Indian government policies and programmes. It also examines the nature of efforts that are underway in response to such an understanding. It is believed that efforts designed for ‘inclusive education’ are better understood when one examines government’s response to other perceived differences, namely, gender, caste and tribe in post-independent India. Such an examination highlights certain commonalities in government’s approach when responding to ‘difference’.

I begin the paper by exploring the use of the concept of ‘inclusive education’ in official rhetoric. I support my findings with data gathered from official, policies, programmes and other documents, and through semi-structured interviews with individuals   (ministry officials, political activists, researchers and other concerned people). Details of the data are discussed in Singal, 2004.   I then discuss three common themes that emerge from government’s efforts when responding to perceived differences in the field of education. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the present understanding of inclusive education is limiting. It also questions the effectiveness of governments efforts towards a differentiated approach to understanding and addressing differences in the educational context.

‘Inclusive education’ in official documents

There has been an increased usage of the concept of ‘inclusive education’ in various government documents, programmes and publications of national institutes, such as National Council for Educational Research and training (NCERT), National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) and Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). It is also widely used in the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) literature.

As mentioned previously, government documents recognise that children maybe excluded from the education system for a range of reasons. However, it is interesting to note that the concept of inclusive education focuses specifically on including children with disabilities into the education system. Noteworthy here is the emphasis on inclusion in the education system, and not specifically into the mainstream.

Moreover, while the concept is commonly used, there is little/no clear elucidation of what ‘inclusive education’ means for the Indian context. Rather, a DPEP report (2000:5) commenting on ‘changing terminology’ in the field, lists ‘mainstreaming’, ‘integration’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘full inclusion’ as the ‘new terms’.

Thus, it is essential to examine plans that the government is making under the banner of ‘inclusive education’.   As mentioned earlier, it is also useful to draw parallels with efforts that have been made for other groups. Here three common themes become evident.


(1) Responding to difference: adopting a ‘targeted’ approach

To account for the continued exclusion of particular groups from the education system, the government since 1990 has adopted a targeted approach to respond to social and gender disparities. Henceforth, children belonging to each of these groups- girls, minorities, SC/ST and children with disabilities have been placed under the purview of different ministries and/or departments. Table: 1 presents an overview of the range of ministries and departments, which address educational concerns for different groups.


Marginalized groups






Ministry of Labour,

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Department of Women & Child Welfare, and

Department of Education

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, and

Department of Education

Department of Women & Child Welfare, and Department of Education

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment,

Ministry of Tribal Affairs, and Department of Education

Table 1:Range of ministries involved in the education of different marginalized groups.

(This table has been compiled from the information in the Annual Reports of Ministries and the POA.)

Furthermore, different schemes and programmes targeting a particular group have been launched. With particular reference to children with disabilities there is further subdivision. Children with disabilities studying in special schools are under the purview of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), while those in mainstream schools are under the purview of the Department of Education (DoE) in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). The former provides grants-in-aid to voluntary organisations to run special schools. In contrast, the Department of Education is encouraging efforts, such as the scheme Integrated Education for Disabled Children (IEDC), to educate children with mild and moderate disabilities in the mainstream. This scheme is now being renamed as the Inclusive Education for Disabled Children.

Adopting such a differentiated approach reinforces the government’s tendency to draw rigid boundaries between groups, which are not naturally homogeneous. Moreover, it has also encouraged the development of narrow professional boundaries such as those between teachers for disabled children, or teachers for children who are regarded as being suitable for inclusive education. As noted in MHRD (2000a: 31) the government in the 10 th Five–Year Plan will encourage the ‘appointment of special teachers for mildly handicapped children’. Thus reinforcing existing beliefs that ‘special’ children can be taught only by teachers trained specifically for them. On the other hand, an organisation such as the Rehabilitation Council of India (a statutory body under the MSJE) runs courses for teachers to specialise in a specific disability.

Moreover, interviews with officials from these departments provided evidence of concerns and complexities in sharing and co-ordinating a coherent approach amongst the various departments. A DoE official stated that children are dispersed across too many departments. Expressing similar thoughts, another interviewee (Interviewee MN) argued that the approach to education followed by the MSJE is different from that followed by the MHRD and they do not share a common ground. Such a perspective is substantiated in a background paper of a workshop organised by the RCI (2001), which states that:

At present, there is no convergence either between the two Ministries or within the different departments of the same Ministry. As a result, duplication, divergent qualities and lack of uniformity are a common phenomenon.

(RCI, 2001: 2)

As noted by Interviewee: MN, such an arrangement results in high wastage of precious resources as ministries work at cross-purposes.

Also evident in government documents are marked variations in services envisaged for each of the identified groups. Historically, the SCs/STs have had a strong political lobby since independence and this is reflected in the provisions made for them. For instance, Article 46 of the Constitution declares:

The State shall promote the special care and education of the weaker sections, in particular of the SC and the ST.

(Article 46, Constitution of India)

In comparison, Article 41 of the Constitution, when referring to children with disabilities, states:

The State shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development make effective provision for securing the right to work, old age, sickness and disablement.

(Article 41, Constitution of India)

A clause, such as within limits of the State’s economic capacity and development, does not have the specificity of such a mandate as is seen in Article 46 regarding the SC/ST. Such caveats have had important implications in the national planning process. Majumdar (2001), analysing the provisions for various disadvantaged groups across different states, sums up the scenario of children with disabilities as:

Apparently, nothing is available other than a few government scholarships, facilities in the form of a couple of institutions for boys and girls and institutes for training teachers for the disabled…for the mentally disabled, no conscious developmental scheme is focused on by any of the states.

(Majumdar, 2001: 123)

Thus, even though significant improvements have been achieved with regard to the increased enrolment of some groups, as reflected in the Education For All Assessment Report (GOI, 2000), where glimpses of overall progress, such as accelerated growth of literacy rate, converging trend in the male-female literacy gap, and increased participation of girls are evident; the rate of enrolment of children with disabilities continues to be dismal. The POA (MHRD, 1992a) described a vision of universal enrolment of children with ‘locomotor handicaps and other mild disabilities’ in primary schools, and enrolment of those requiring special education in special schools or special classes by the end of the 9 th Five-Year Plan in 2002. These goals have far from been achieved.

Keeping this in mind, it is not surprising that for many commentators in India, ‘inclusive education’ is regarded as being about children with disabilities. Proponents holding this opinion argue that such a focus is desired and justified, as the needs of other marginalized groups (namely girls and SC/ST) have since independence been prioritised due to historical and political factors. As one of the interviewees explained:

…since independence we had specialised schemes and programmes for SC/STs and minorities, girls and all. We really need not over shadow the concerns of disabled children. So one way for India to participate in the UN deliberations is that, yes we agree with this thing, that every child who has a special education need due to his personal condition, due to his socio-economic condition, due to some historical reason and should be catered for. But as a first priority the funds will be made available to children with disabilities.


Many interviewees concurred with the opinions reflected in government documents that inclusion is about children with special needs, as reflected by a disabling condition. A handful of others argue that inclusive education should not be limited to children with disabilities, as it holds relevance for all marginalized groups. Though they were quick to accept that this thinking has not yet prevailed.


(2) Responding to difference: building alternative systems of education

The 1990s also signified a major shift in official policy towards more ‘cost effective’, alternative and innovative schooling in an effort to meet the needs of the educationally deprived. As a result some of the systems put in place where the Non-Formal Education (NFE) and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). Presently, the total coverage of children in the NFE scheme is about 7.4 million at the primary and upper primary levels (GOI, 2002), while the NIOS has around 158,039 students on its rolls (NIOS, 2000).

In keeping with such a focus, it is not surprising that inclusive education in government circles has been highlighted as yet another alternative provision that can be available to children with disabilities. At a national workshop the Director of Elementary Education and Literacy is noted as stating:

Zero rejection policy had to be adopted as every disabled children had to be educated. But multiple options could be used …(these) include inclusive education, distance education, home based education, itinerant model and even alternative schooling.

(DPEP, 2001: 3)

Similar understanding is expressed in the Draft NPSE (RCI, 2001: 3-4) when discussing ways of providing education for children with special needs (used synonymously with ‘children with disabilities’). It notes a range of options shall be available which may include:

(RCI, 2001: 3-4)

Within the discourse of inclusive education, there is a strong governmental focus on the development of special schools for children with disabilities. This has been sustained through an increase in funds through grant-in-aids given to Non-Governmental Organisations. In the early 1990s there were estimated to be about 1,035 special schools (MHRD, 1992) nearly a decade later it is estimated that there are about 2,500 special schools in the country (RCI, 2000). Such developments raise confusions about the understanding underpinning such an interpretation of inclusive education. While the concept of ‘inclusive education’ is much talked about in the Indian context, there is no engagement with how such a system will look like in practice. As noted previously, the various documents have been quick to adopt a linguistic shift, but they do no draw any difference between the earlier used terminology of ‘integrated education’ and the more recent term of ‘inclusive education’.  


(3) Responding to difference:   distributive notion of social justice

Analysis of various programmes and schemes addressing the education of children with disabilities suggests a significant focus on the provision of aids and appliances. Schemes such as IEDC (MHRD, 1992b) focus on provision of free aids and appliances, free uniforms, books and stationery, transport, readers and escort allowances. Under DPEP, identification and providing children these aids has been a primary focus (DPEP, 2001b). Rather in some of the DPEP reports on ‘inclusive education’ the number of aids and appliances distributed in a particular state is of primary concern. Indeed, such statistics make encouraging reading as they reflect that something is being done. In addition, efforts towards inclusion are largely defined in terms of access, where issues of infrastructure; such as schools with ramps and lifts are of paramount concern. Such a perception prevails at the official level and also at the school level (Singal, 2004).

It can therefore be argued that efforts to educate children with disabilities are best described as being shaped by the distributive paradigm (Young, 1990) of social justice. The distributive paradigm, as Young (1990) elaborates, defines social justice as the morally proper distribution of social benefits and burdens amongst society’s members. Efforts in India are primarily aimed at providing children with disabilities equality in terms of resources and access. For example, the IEDC (MHRD, 1992b) provides an ‘escort allowance’ of a meagre 75 rupees per month to enable children with disabilities to access mainstream schools, while failing to seriously address architectural barriers. This provision of an escort allowance not only reinforces dependency, but it has also resulted in efforts being directed only on input aspects (access and resources), while overlooking issues of processes, like teachers’ pedagogical skills, curriculum, evaluation, attitude, etc.

Not only does the discourse of inclusive education function within a narrow conception of justice, defined simply as right to access and distribution of resources, but within this an understanding operates which selects for inclusion a few relatively easy-to-accommodate children. For instance, the IEDC (MHRD, 1992b) states, ‘assessment would be carried out to identify, then to place those considered suitable in an integrated programme’. Similarly, ‘General pre-conditions for Inclusion’ (DPEP, 1999) lists a range of skills and abilities a child must have before s/he is regarded as suitable for inclusion. In such a scenario children with physical and/or sensory disabilities are seen to be most suited for inclusion, as they are least likely to cause disruption in the existing status quo. Such a perception also has an impact at the micro level on the ‘type’ of children who get entry into the mainstream classroom (Singal and Rouse, 2003). However, the adoption of such a pragmatic principle dilutes government’s commitment to address deeper issues. Neither does it encourage reflection on the part of schools to address their unjust mechanisms, rather it encourages them to select an ‘easy-to-accommodate’ few.

This notion of distributive justice adopted to respond to the needs of children with disabilities, is similar to the one firmly and explicitly embraced in independent India in its efforts to enable the social and educational advancement of those belonging to schedule castes, schedule tribes and other backward classes. In his aptly titled book, ‘Distributive Justice under Indian Constitution’, Sharma (1989) points out how distributive justice has been a defining feature in the framing of the Constitution and the government’s agendas. The focus being on reservations of seats in educational institutions, government employment and in legislative bodies, etc. While dealing with the many complexities of such efforts, Sharma argues that such an approach has not yielded the desired results. Even after 58 years of independence, social and economic inequalities between different groups characterised by issues of caste and tribe continue to exist. Thus, raising concerns about the effectives of such an approach in responding to the educational needs of children with disabilities.

Socio-cultural understanding of disability: an additional dimension

Inclusive education as noted above has been understood as being about children with disabilities and a socio-cultural understanding of disability in the Indian context further shapes efforts made. Inferences gathered from the findings suggest that in India there is a continued individualisation of disability, whereby notions of charity prevail and result in framing of welfare and care based efforts.

Individualisation of disability

Disability, in India, is perceived as a problem of the individual arising from her/his functional limitations. Amongst other things, it is reflected in the synonymous use of labels such as ‘handicap’, ‘disability’, ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’.   It is regarded as inherent in the individual’s mind and body.   Understood as such, it is regarded as a problem that must be diagnosed, cured or catered for, so that the person can function like ‘others’. In such circumstances it is not surprising that efforts in India primarily focus on provision of aids and appliances, immunization and so on.

However, important to point here is that this understanding of disability as a medical, preventable condition may be further reinforced by the fact that a high proportion of disabling conditions in developing countries like India are the result of poor nutrition, limited access to vaccination programmes, poor hygiene and bad sanitation (Wiesinger, 1986). This may contribute to the dominance of a medical perspective and naturalness of these labels being unquestioned (Ghai, 2002). Thus, resulting in a complete neglect of the social dimensions and a continued failure of society to take into account the needs of disabled people.

Such perceptions are given further impetus by the prevalence of an ‘ideology of expertism’ (Troyna and Vincent, 1996), in which faith is placed in the experts’ knowledge enabling them to make decisions regarding a child’s abilities, capabilities, and the best place for her/him to study. As a handbook published by the Planning Commission (2002: 22) notes, a ‘three member assessment team comprising of a psychologist, a doctor and a special educator’ will determine whether the child should be directly enrolled into a ‘normal’ school. The increasing number of psychologists and growing prevalence of educational testing in India, especially in the urban areas, are good examples. Along with this is a growing belief that these children can only be taught by special teachers, which is further supported by training programmes for teachers specialising in specific disabilities, such as teachers for the visually handicapped, etc., as mandated in the Persons with Disability Act, 1995 and in the programmes offered by Rehabilitative Council of India (RCI).

Notions of charity

Not only is disability regarded as a personal affliction, but the impaired body is also seen as resulting from the wrath of fate. Writers in the field, such as Ghai (2002) and Miles (1997) note the commonly held view of disability as retribution for past karmas and punishment for sins committed in a previous life.   Such perceptions are accounted for in Bickenbach’s (1993:189) notion of ‘primitive retributivism’. Such perceptions, thus lead to the manifestation of pity towards these sinners. This pity gives rise to benevolent acts of charity, which are further reinforced by the strong religious orientations existing in India, enabling society to continue to overlook its own role in the construction of disabling barriers that people face.

Furthermore, it can be argued that various NGOs working with children with disabilities are expressions of such ‘public acts’ of charity. A senior government official noted that the government has also supported this trend by absolving itself of all responsibility, and encouraging the development of NGOs through various grants.

Even though the government funds these NGOs it has been unable to develop avenues of accountability and monitoring amongst these organisations. Ironically, it is even unaware of their exact numbers. Moreover, dissatisfaction is evident in the lack of collaboration between various NGOs and the government (for example, as noted in DPEP Calling 2000).

Thus, by allocating the responsibility for people with disabilities to the NGO sector the government has in effect marginalized them from the mainstream and led to a dilution of their interests. In addition, these NGOs are seen as being driven by individualistic interests (as noted by a UNESCO official) and largely inefficient in delivering the services. The fact that many of them receive grants from the government, they are also regarded as being incapable of confronting the government head (as noted by a official at the Chief Commissioner of Disabilities Office).

Focus on welfare and care

Historically, social policy in independent India was framed on the assumptions of welfare and care of its marginalized groups. Over the decades, at a global level, there has been a shift from a focus on the individual as a passive recipient of benefits from development programmes to viewing individuals as capable of effectively shaping their own destiny when given adequate social opportunities (Sen, 1999). This change in focus is also visible in India. For                                                                                                                                                              instance, the language in planning has evolved from ‘social welfare’ (in the 1 st Five-Year Plan, 1947-1952), to ‘empowerment’ (9 th Five-Year Plan, 1997-2002). However, this shift is primarily seen in the case of SC/ST and women.   In the 10 th Five-Year Plan (2002-2007: 475) persons with disabilities continue to be grouped under ‘other special groups’ combined with ‘deviants’, and ‘other disadvantaged groups’, such as the aged, street children, orphans, and abandoned children. Furthermore, the emphasis is on the ‘care and protection of the state’ for these groups, because of ‘the breakdown of the traditional social structures and increased urbanisation, industrialisation and modernisation’. Thus, not surprisingly, children with disabilities in mainstream classroom are included based on perceptions of care and reasons other than the rights discourse. This has significant implications on their teaching and learning experiences and the opportunities available for students with disabilities to participate in (Singal, 2005).


Engaging with governmental understanding of ‘inclusive education’ and how the government has responded to perceived educational differences in the Indian context highlights some noteworthy issues. As evident from the above findings, the understanding of inclusive education is rather limiting. It is a concept that has been adopted from the international discourse, but has not been engaged with in the Indian scenario. Hence, not surprisingly, there is evidence of a range of discrepancies and conflicts in efforts towards the development of an inclusive system of education.

Governmental tendency to respond to difference by adopting a targeted approach raises some important concerns. Highlighting these groups (girls, children belonging to specific castes/ tribes, children with disabilities) as being in need of specific attention may ensure that there needs are being met, however by making them stand apart also exposes them to marginalisation from mainstream developments. For instance, a large number of children with disabilities are the responsibility of a different ministry and are catered for in narrowly focused programmes, but are not explicitly accounted for within the framework of general education. This highlights the classic dilemma of difference discussed by Minow (1990: 20), which states that the stigma of difference maybe recreated both by ignoring and by focusing on it.   Thus, children with disabilities are perceived as being different and it assumed that their needs cannot be adequately met in the mainstream; hence the focus is placed on building schools that are ‘special’. Membership to these special schools further results in stigmatisation and exclusion from mainstream society.

However, the argument that supports the development of many of the alternative systems of education in India is based on the premise that these systems provide flexible educational experiences that are suited for those learners who can not access (or cannot belong to) the mainstream. However, what is of concern here is how these systems have resulted in the dilution of learning experiences. These systems have been criticised as offering second-track, sub-quality education (for example, Nambissan, 2000 and Dreze and Sen, 1995). Berntsen (1995) argued that it is important that such systems must be recognised as the last resort and temporary stop-gap arrangements, as they are intended to be. However, the government continues to place significant emphasis on the development of these alternative systems. Even though their quality remains a major concern.

Another noteworthy concern that is raised by the emphasis on developing alternative systems is the issue of resources. Taking this purely economic standpoint it can be argued that developing these alternatives takes away precious resources that could be channelled into bringing about radical developments in the general education system. While the provision of smaller classes and greater resources may been seen as aiding the goal of greater equity for children studying in special schools, however findings suggest that if these extensive and expensive provisions are maintained in regular schools that enrol children with disabilities then it will have significant benefits for all (OECD, 2003). This issue of more effective use of resources is especially pertinent in developing countries like India, where the pool of resources is very small and demands on it are rather high.

Also, essential to highlight here is that in the development of an inclusive system concerns cannot be limited to issues of distribution of resources or access. As highlighted earlier, the government’s approach to addressing educational difference in India is primarily anchored in the distributive notion of justice. The focus as pointed out earlier is mainly on providing aids, appliances and other resources. However, such a notion of justice shaped by distribution is not the whole of justice. The distributive view, as originally proposed by Rawls (1972), has been criticised as adopting an individualistic perspective. Christensen and Dorn (1997) argue that working with such individualism implies that disability is inherent in the individual - the deficit that is the target of Rawlsian redistribution. Moreover, adoption of a re-distributive focus results in attention being focused away from the questioning of social structures and institutional contexts, which uphold patterns of injustice.

However, it can alternatively be argued that in India such a focus on redistribution of resources and access is desirable and important. This is because many children with disabilities belong to the lower economic strata, and without these special schemes they will remain deprived of basic essentials, as India does not have a social services system, for example, like that of UK, which can respond to such needs.

Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that working on a distributive account fails to deliver justice, as illustrated by Gale (2000). When discussing the case of a child with severe cerebral palsy, he notes:

Equal opportunities to communicate with and learn alongside his peers, for example, were not facilitated simply by his inclusion in the same classroom; access does not automatically deliver equality.

(Gale, 2000: 264)

This resonates with a government official’s reflection on provision being made by the government for children with disabilities in India. She stated:

What has been asked for till now is only a physical space. This has not resulted in any changes, and it is not asking for changes that will be beneficial.

(Interviewee: S)

Reducing inequality is thus about more than simply providing money and better resources; it is about providing the chance to share in the commonwealth of the school and its culture (Thomas, 1997).

Even though the primary focus of efforts in inclusive education is related to access and resources, it cannot be overlooked that a few interviewees and some government documents highlighted changes in organisational and educational issues to develop an inclusive system. For example, a DoE official perceptively stated, ‘Inclusion is more than enrolment’, whereas the SCERT official referred to inclusion as ‘primarily a pedagogical shift’. Some interviewees commented on the need to make changes in pedagogical activities, issues of curriculum and attitudinal barriers amongst school management, teachers and parents. However, these concerns did not seem to translate into concrete and cohesive plans. For instance, the Diploma in Elementary Teacher Education offered in Delhi, has an optional paper on ‘education for children with special needs’, rather than being an integral component of teacher training. Moreover, the main focus in training programmes, such as those run by RCI remains on identification and diagnosis, rather than equipping teachers to respond to diversity in their classroom. These programmes do not challenge or change existing negative attitudes amongst teachers.

The challenge for inclusive education is not only to bring about changes in the policies, programmes and organisational structures, but also in the attitudes and values that society holds. As noted earlier, the perception of people with disabilities as being passive recipients of care and welfare further has an impact on the nature of services provided for them. Rioux (2001: 38) argues that, ‘providing services and care do not lead to empowerment’. Rather to be a passive recipient of services, income and care disempowers an individual.

In conclusion, engaging with government’s understanding of difference has highlighted various issues of concern. However, it also suggests some important ways forward. It is important that we begin to see inclusion as a resolution of dilemmas that extend well beyond the boundaries of traditional special education and are endemic within mass education as a whole. Our response to difference helps us examine some fundamental issues of values and purposes in our education system. The ‘ghettoization’ of inclusion as a disability of special education issue is a missed opportunity to address these issues (Clark, 48). It is important that we engage with dilemmas and tensions arising from difference. Only then can we begin to develop   ‘effective schools for all’ (Ainscow, 1991). Unarguably, these developments cannot take place within the existing structures of thought and practices; much more needs to be done to develop schools that welcome diversity.


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