Centre must notify norms of teacher-pupil ratio: SC

SC issues orders to fix norms for schools teaching students with special needs

The top court said a 'multi-pronged approach' needs to be adopted by the concerned authorities with immediate effect

Supreme Court of India. Credit: PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed all state governments to fill up vacancy of special teachers and rehabilitation professionals in schools for children of special needs within six months. It also also ordered the central government forthwith to fix up norms including pupil-teacher ratio in such schools or institutions admitting children with special needs, (CwSN) also known as 'Divyang'.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar directed that until the competent authority formulated a comprehensive action plan, as a “stop-gap arrangement”, the recommendations made in 2019 by State Commissioner for persons with disabilities, National Capital Territory of Delhi, should be adopted.

The 2019 recommendations fixed generally accepted pupil-teacher ratio of 8:1 for children with cerebral palsy, 5:1 for children with intellectual disability, and specific learning disabilities and 2:1 for deaf and blind.

"It is essential for the concerned authority and more particularly for the schools imparting education to CwSN, to ensure that a just pupil¬teacher ratio is maintained without exception," the bench said.

The court passed its judgement on petitions filed by Rajneesh Kumar Pandey and others espousing the cause of teachers having BEd (special) and DEd (special) degree or diploma courses and fully trained to cater to the requirements of CwSN.

The top court said a “multi-pronged approach” needs to be adopted by the concerned authorities with immediate effect, including to create commensurate permanent posts as per the just ratio to be specified by authority for rehabilitation professionals or special teachers who can cater to the needs of CwSN.

The court noted that the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 made no distinction between general schools and special schools, but the norms and standards specified for general schools cannot be replicated for special schools, which are governed by special laws in respect of rights of persons with disabilities.

It pointed out the persons with disabilities in India constituted over 2.21 % of the total population, as per 2011 census figure. At present, there are only 1,20,781 special educators as against around 22.5 lakh CwSN in the country. 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 children with special needs.

Among a slew of directions, the court ordered the state commissioners appointed under Section 79 of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, to forthwith initiate suo motu enquiries regarding compliance and then make recommendation to the appropriate authority. 

It posted the matter in first week of March 2022 for consideration of the reports to be received from the state commissioners. The bench also issued notices to the secretary of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Secretary of the Ministry of Education.

The court noted a dearth of rehabilitation professionals or special teachers, recognised and registered by the council, who alone can impart education and training to handicap person or CwSN, saying this disparity would have to be addressed by National Council for Teacher Education.

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