The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has pulled up its schools for not adhering to affiliation rules that make appointment of special educators to cater to differently-abled students compulsory.

Mumbai schools said there was a shortage of qualified teachers in the city, because few universities offer specialisations in it. 

A special educator needs to work with children and young adults who require additional support to learn. 

Appointment of special educators was made mandatory in 2015 under rule 13(11) of the board’s affiliation by-laws to promote inclusion of students with disabilities/special needs in schools according to the provisions of the “Persons with Disabilities Act 1995” and in conformity with the National Policy of Education. 

Observing that many schools were not following the rule, Jaiprakash Chaturvedi, deputy-secretary of affiliation, said in a recent circular, “The management and the head of CBSE-affiliated schools are hereby directed to strictly follow the provisions and arrange to appoint special educators in schools.” He added that the schools will have to inform their managing committees about the provision for stricter compliance. 

But city schools said it was difficult to meet this condition. DAV School, New Panvel, has been advertising for a special educator for the last two years, but did not find any qualified professionals. “We have been trying to hire a special educator since 2015. This year, we advertised twice but still did not get anyone good,” said Jayashree Khandekar, principal of the school. 

Educators blamed it on the lack of courses available for special education. In Mumbai, only SNDT Women’s University, Churchgate and Juhu, offer a full course in special education, while few other private colleges offer short-term certificate courses. 

There are barely 300 special educators in the state for more than 16 lakh children with learning disabilities, said Dr Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist who suggested that instead of mandatory appointments, the board can train regular teachers on basic remedial education. “This way, the existing faculty can be used for remediation, while authorised centres can carry out the tests,” he said. He said the human resource development ministry needed to start more courses on special education. 

Some city schools are using counsellors in place of special educators or hiring them part-time. “We are unable to find full-time special educators, so our counsellor helps in remediation,” said Deepshika Srivastava. She added that although teachers have been sensitised in identifying students with learning disability, they could not pay individual attention to all because there were 40 to 50 students in each class.