The Bombay High Court has directed all schools, boards and educational institutions to carry out the task of detecting specific learning disabilities in children at the earliest stage, preferably, when they are in primary schools or after they complete the age of nine years.
A bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice AK Menon said these educational institutions may delegate this task to teachers and other selected persons to do the job of detecting these learning disabilities.
Apart from that, the court said essentially all children should undergo the tests prescribed under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, for the purpose of detecting specific learning disabilities.
The court passed these directions in a suo-motu PIL and writ petition that are being heard together with Dr Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist as the amicus curiae.
Dr Shetty submitted before the bench that Section 16 of the said Act mandates that all educational institutions detect specific learning disabilities in children at the earliest and take suitable pedagogical and other measures to overcome these disabilities and also monitor participation, progress etc. in respect of every student with disability.
Section 16 of the said Act imposes the duty on educational institutions to carry out certain tasks and Section 17 imposes an obligation on the appropriate government and the local authorities to take the various measures for the purpose of implementing Section 15.
Dr Shetty also submitted that the CBSE and other boards used to carry out the task of detecting learning disabilities in the 9th standard, but by that time, the child has undergone trauma and suffered psychologically on account of non-detection of these learning disabilities.
He said these children, having learning disabilities, do not secure good marks and, as a result, are punished by both parents and teachers and this creates a permanent trauma in their mind.
The bench observed that apart from conducting medical tests of these students to find out whether they have learning disabilities or not, one other method which can be deployed by the school authorities is to examine these students who had fair performance earlier in the studies and who have not done well in studies in the recent years.
“This would certainly create lesser burden on the schools and it would be an easier method to identify such children from this category. It is further clarified that this process of identification should be done on a confidential basis and the information of the result or identification of a child, who is having learning disability, may not be disclosed in public,” the court said.
The Directorate of Health Services has been directed to inform the court about the number of trauma centres across Maharashtra so far and how many of these were functional.
Read the Order here.