In response to international agreements, recent Indian legislation has raised expectations that all children, regardless of need or ability, should gain access to formal education that is inclusive and addresses their social and learning needs. Initiatives designed to support the implementation of this legislation have been undertaken in several parts of India. Reports related to such initiatives have largely focused upon developments in large urban connotations, with studies in rural areas being less in evidence. This paper reports a small-scale study conducted in Telangana a state in the south-central part of India. Through the application of semi-structured interviews data were obtained to enable a comparison to be made of the experiences of two purposive samples of families of children with disabilities and special educational needs, and the professionals who support them. The first sample was located in Hyderabad, a large metropolitan city, the capital of Telangana State. The second was situated in villages in Sangareddy, a single rural district of the same state. Interviews were conducted either in English or in Telugu, the state language with all interviews transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis. The findings, which will be used to support further development in the area, reveal a willingness on the part of professionals to support the education and social welfare needs of children with special educational needs and their families and an awareness of current national legislation aimed at achieving this objective. A disparity exists between the availability of professional support services available to families and children, with those living in the rural district experiencing greater difficulty in accessing appropriate support than their counterparts in the metropolitan city. The lack of opportunities for training and professional development is perceived to be a major obstacle to the progress of inclusive education as required by national legislation in both locations. Recommendations are made for further research that is closely allied to changes in practice, for the development of professional development of teachers and other professionals, and for the development of centralised provision in rural areas to address the needs of families.
- inclusive education; education in India; educational equity; disability; special educational needs