As per Census 2011, about 2.68 crores of the people in India are ‘disabled’ which is roughly around 2.2% of the population. The actual number of people with disabilities (PWDs) in India is estimated to be higher than what is reported officially. Even if we go by the published numbers, there are a minimum of 70 lakh children with disabilities in India under the age of 19 years and all these children have the right to education. According to The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016, it is the duty of educational institutions to admit children with disabilities and provide them the required education. However, not all educational institutions have qualified teachers who could provide education to children with disabilities.
All qualified teachers may not necessarily have the skills to provide education for children with disabilities. It is a special field which requires specialists. The types of disabilities mentioned in RPWD Act, 2016 includes Physical disability, Intellectual disability and others. Physical disability includes Locomotor disability, Visual impairment, Hearing impairment and Speech and Language disability. Intellectual disability includes Specific learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder and others. There are many children with comorbid conditions and multiple disabilities. To educate children with these different types of disabilities, we need qualified teachers (Special Educators) who understand the abilities as well as the limitations of the children with disabilities and be able to educate them.
According to an estimate, there are around 95,000 qualified Special Educators in India whereas we need a bare minimum of 10,00,000 Special Educators, considering a pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of 7. For children with disabilities, the PTR cannot be greater than 7 or 8. So, there is a huge gap (~90%) between the available number of qualified Special Educators and the required number of Special Educators to provide education to Children with disabilities.
Today, we find that a large number of students make Engineering as a career choice but many of them remain unemployed. Youth should come forward to explore other career options and Special Education is a field which will provide them an opportunity to make a meaningful career choice.
There are more than 600 institutions approved by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) offering a variety of courses in the field of Special Education. The eligibility varies according to the choice of the course and most of the Diploma courses will require a minimum of 50% marks in Grade XII to apply.
A qualified Special Educator with a Diploma can expect a starting salary of ₹ 18,000 to 20,000 per month. The salary varies based on the choice of the institution and those with additional qualifications and experience could expect a much higher starting salary.
A job in the field of Special Education is expected to provide a stable and satisfying career but it also requires willpower and commitment to serve children with disabilities. It may not be an appropriate choice for those who only have monetary considerations. However, there will always be a demand for Special Educators with the right qualifications, skills and experience.
(The author has a blend of corporate and social sector experience of over 30 years and currently serves as an Advisor to ‘Not for profit’ social sector organizations)