What is special education?
Special education refers to the education of individuals with special needs. Individual with special needs refers to any individual with needs that vary from the accepted normal. This could include gifted individuals as well those with physical and intellectual challenges. Special education is relatively new field and the result of several different social, economic, philosophical and political changes that have taken place over the last few centuries in different parts of the world. This is part of larger changes in the social, economic and political ideas and practices of family life, childhood and education.
In many parts of the world, individuals who deviated from an accepted normal, be it physically, intellectually or socially, were generally marginalised, stigmatized and deprived of rights and privileges. However, a significant shift is seen in the understanding of individuals with special needs, especially those with physical and intellectual challenges. This is evident in post-Enlightenment Europe, with France playing a central role. These early efforts were driven more as a mean of extending charity rather than provide an education. However, they provided an important beginning to meet the needs of individuals of special needs.
Special education in India
Through the enactment of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, the Indian constitution is committed to enabling the full participation and equality of individuals with disabilities. This, and other related policy, provides a legal framework for the provision of education facilities, employment opportunities, provision of social security and to prevent discrimination in accessing the rights enshrined in the constitution.
The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) was established in 1986, which became a statutory body in 1993 with the enactment of the RCI Act, 1992. The act was amended in 2000 to expand its scope and mandate of regulating and monitoring services to persons with disabilities. The RCI also maintains a register of all qualified professionals working in the field of rehabilitation and special education.
Margaret A. Winzer. 1993.
The History of Special Education: From isolation to integration. Gallaudet University Press
Dianne L. Ferguson, Philip M. Ferguson and Steven J. Taylor (Editors) 1991.
Interpreting disability: A Qualitative Reader. Teachers College Press