‘What the CBSE does not understand is that the absence of hearing power also affects other important faculties’

New Delhi Oct 1 : The Central Board of Secondary Education recently came out with a comprehensive draft policy for differently-abled children to address the challenges faced by them in schools and during examinations. It is likely to be approved in the upcoming winter session. The policy contains disability-specific exemptions for the various types of differently-abled children. It will not only change how their examinations are conducted but also provide for their specific requirements in the curriculum. It will be applicable to all CBSE-affiliated schools in the country. The Chandigarh Administration is also in the process of finalising a similar policy for the local schools. The policy is an outcome of an ongoing litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court filed in October 2017 by Jyoti Sehgal, the mother of one such student in Zirakpur. Chandigarh Newsline spoke to her

What was the immediate reason to file the case?

The CBSE schools earlier had the power to hold class X examination on the basis of Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) meaning they could make changes in the exams for the differently-abled children at their own level. But the policy was changed in the previous session and replaced with the Board examination. My son was in class X and all along had been taught in a different manner. The examination to be conducted by the CBSE was same for everyone and not in accordance with the manner he had studied. We approached the High Court against this new policy.

How would the uniform policy have affected your child’s results in the examination?

My son has 100 percent hearing loss by birth and was studying in a school otherwise meant for non-disabled children. Since the beginning of his schooling, the question papers were specially set for the students like him at the school and the papers only contained MCQs and other short-type questions. They could not suddenly have coped up with this new system which were not in accordance with their needs. The CBSE was silent regarding the children with hearing impairment and we had to approach High Court. The High Court in the first order itself noted that the new system would deprive these children of equality in the
examination process.

How did he appear in the examination then? Did High Court pass any interim order in your favour?

Because of an order passed by the High Court in urgency in February, they were provided a scribe of their own choice. The examination was held as per the new pattern only. He passed the class X examination because of the choice of scribe. The policy has been framed now after the examination which is to be implemented from next year.

How difficult is the schooling for children like your son?

What the CBSE does not understand is that the absence of hearing power also affects other important faculties. My son was not accepted in special schools because they took the excuse that he can hear with the aide of a device but it is not limited to a single thing. The children face problems in comprehension and communication as well when compared with other children. They are not able to memorise also and this has to be understood. My concern is that the CBSE in my son’s case is taking a ground that he can read and write so he doesn’t require a scribe. But my only argument is that he can read but he is not able to understand the words. How will he write long-type questions when he cannot even understand the questions.

The hearing impaired persons do not hear environmental noises and they lose a great deal of crucial information which affects their vocabulary and are not at the same stage with general students. We have to explain him each and everything with examples and it takes time. The CBSE is saying they will only provide readers for such children and provide extra time but he can read himself also. There are allied problems. The total damage in one sense affects other four senses also. They have to be provided scribes. This is reflected in his half-yearly examination of class XI where he could not do well because the paper had only long-answer type questions. The CBSE has to look at a larger picture for such
children.

How difficult is for the differently-abled children to adjust to the mainstream schools and society in general?

There are no special schools for them. He was not accepted by the deaf and dumb school saying he can speak even if not properly. Most of the normal schools also hesitate in giving admission to these children saying they will not be making any changes in curriculum for them. He was lucky to find a school which understood his requirements. People often argue that open schools are for such children but my only argument is that they are also the part of this country and have a right to go to a normal school.

Why should we put them within the four walls of the house by choosing the open schooling. They have a right to live in the normal environment. They have to be provided exemptions to help them grow in a normal environment. The children obviously face problem in social adjustment too which also makes the complete integration in a mainstream school difficult. The grades are not everything. When such children are put in a mainstream school, they at least learn the basics of life. Had we confined him to the house, he would not have learnt
anything.