The Supreme Court has issued directives to state and central governments for forthwith notification of the standard pupil-teacher ratio for Children with Special Needs (CwSN) in special schools. The directives also specify norms for the appointment of special teachers for CwSN admitted in general schools. Additionally, the authorities have been directed to create commensurate permanent posts for special teachers and to initiate appointment procedures to fill such vacancies within six months from the date of the Supreme Court order.
The order was passed by the bench of Justices AM Khanvilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar in the last week of October. The bench was considering a civil writ petition filed by Uttar Pradesh based Rajneesh Kumar Pandey and Others in a representative capacity. The petitioners alleged that the state authorities are committing illegalities in the appointment of special teachers on a contract basis without certainty of tenure. They also stated that in their home state alone, there was a need to appoint 73,888 special teachers on a regular basis to teach the 3,69,443 CwSN so as to fulfil the ideal pupil-teacher ratio of 5:1. s
The petitioners also alleged that they tried to raise their concerns with competent authorities multiple times. However, no heed was paid to their demands and most special teachers continued to be appointed on a contractual basis. “This is despite the obligation of the State to ensure that pupil teacher ratio is maintained in the recognized schools, by appointing an adequate number of trained teachers on regular posts,” stated the petitioners in their plea.
The reliefs prayed in the civil writ petition broadly encompassed the following points:
- To direct the respondents to ensure free and compulsory education for all CwSN as per the Scheme of Integrated Education for the Disabled Children 1992, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, and Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016.
- To issue a writ, order, or direction, commanding the authorities to initiate the appointment of special teachers in permanent positions to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio of 5:1.
- To command the authorities to utilize skill and eligibility of the writ petitioners, having requisite training and certificate from the Rehabilitation Council of India in the interim.
In the landmark Supreme Court judgement, Justice AM Khanvilkar observed that “At present, there are only 1,20,781 special educators registered with the Rehabilitation Council and 22.5 lakh CwSN in the country. Further, only 4.33 lakh general teachers have been trained to teach CwSN in addition to teaching general children, and only 28,535 special teachers are available for CwSN.”
He acknowledged that there is a dearth of rehabilitation professionals or special teachers recognized and registered by the Rehabilitation Council, who alone can impart education and training to handicapped persons/CwSN. This disparity, he opined, will have to be addressed by the National Council of Teachers Education that comes under a different department i.e., DSEL, and developing holistic mechanisms in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Council to enhance the number of special teachers to overcome the deficit. “In view of the above, a multipronged approach needs to be adopted by the concerned Authorities with immediate effect,” he concluded.