Ensuring equal opportunities in education in India

Law Quest and Dentons teamed up with Sol’s Arc, India’s first parallel school offering special education, to extend educational concessions for children with disabilities in Maharashtra, India.

Many children with mental disabilities in India wish to sit the secondary school board examinations in Maharashtra State, but face difficulties due to the limited concessions made for their participation, and countless procedural hurdles. Even though intellectual disabilities are recognised in the Persons With Disabilities Act, mentally challenged children remain stripped of equal educational opportunities. Concessions for children with intellectual disabilities are currently limited to just 20 minutes of extra time per hour for the state exam.

Sol’s Arc has relentlessly campaigned for legal reform, including continuous negotiations and a formal proposal submitted to the Secondary School Certification Board.  Lack of progress on the issue spurred the educational non-profit to approach TrustLaw for legal assistance to fuel their campaign. They were partnered with LawQuest and Dentons who provided a thorough review of disability laws, and examples of litigation cases concerning disability. These resources provided  the backbone for a fortified advocacy campaign to ensure the right to education and equality are enforced and delivered by the government.

The pro bono partnership is ongoing, yet Sol’s Arc unyielding advocacy efforts have already propelled the Maharashtra government to pass additional concessions for secondary school exams with plans to extend these concessions to Grade 12. The concessions include increased extra time, grace marks, the selection of alternative subjects and a special curriculum suitable for students with special needs.

“One of our students, Tanuja, who is diagnosed with Down syndrome, has successfully completed her grade 10 exams last year thanks to the concessions and is now preparing for her Grade 12 exams”, shares Sonali Saini, President of Sol’s Arc. “She looks forward to completing a course in Bakery and Confectionery and dreams of getting a job in in-flight catering. Stories as such are priceless and what makes this project one where the impact has been tremendous, and that too in such a short amount of time.”

Central government bodies in education are also joining this positive change process:  the National Institute of Open Schooling has already adopted the new reforms, while the Central Board of Secondary Education is evaluating procedural changes for children with special needs. These incremental, but crucial reforms allow millions of children with intellectual impairments to complete their secondary school and receive the educational qualifications necessary to strive for a better life.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation News

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