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South Asia and Disability Studies

Redefining Boundaries and Extending Horizons

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Shridevi Rao and Maya Kalyanpur

Incorporating scholarship that addresses the social, economic, cultural, and historical facets of the experience of disability in South Asia, this book presents the reader with a comprehensive, cogent, and nuanced view of the constructions of disability in this region. In doing so, it focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities and their families, analyzing such disabling barriers as poverty, caste, and other inequities that limit their access to education, employment, equity, and empowerment. It addresses the interpretations of disability within different South Asian contexts including policy, family, educational systems, films, and literary narratives. Situated in an interdisciplinary perspective that spans areas such as cultural studies, law, disability studies in education, sociology, and historiography, South Asia and Disability Studies presents a rich and complex understanding of the disability experience in South Asia. The organization of topics parallels the discourse in areas within disability studies such as identity construction, language, historical constructions of disability, and cultural representations of disability.
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Chapter 3: Mind the Gap: Special Education Policy and Practice in India in the Context of Globalization

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The message to “mind the gap” of the few inches between railway platform and train carriage, first introduced in 1969 on the London Underground commuter railway system in Britain and now in use in the metro system in New Delhi, India, built in 2002, is an apt metaphor for this chapter: The movement of this phrase from the North (developed country and former colonial power) to the South (developing country and former colony) reflects the spatial transfer of ideas within the context of globalization. The cautionary note also reminds us of the contextual and temporal gaps that can occur from an uncritical, decontextualized transfer of ideas and the importance of minding these gaps. This chapter describes the context for globalization that has resulted in the transfer of special education policy and practice and analyzes the implications of an uncritical transfer for children with disabilities in India. It argues that the colonial legacy of English as a medium of instruction in schools in the context of Education For All and the emphasis on classifying disabilities and assessing students founded on concepts borrowed from the North have created greater social divisions based on economic disadvantage and resulted in a new class of students diagnosed with learning disabilities.

The Context of Globalization

Globalization has been defined as “the tendency for human activities which occur at places geographically remote from each other nonetheless to interact with each other so that local practices—in terms, say, of culture, politics or economics...

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