Thumbnail Image

A Critical Examination of Policy and Practice in the Transition Experience for Students with Math Learning Disabilities in Mumbai, India

Although some research has examined the experiences of students with learning disabilities in Indian secondary schools (see Karande, Sholarpurwala, & Kulkarni, 2011; Karande, Mahajan, & Kulkarni, 2009), the role of policy in students’ transition into post-secondary education has been largely unexamined. This study is a preliminary effort at providing an investigation of special education policy in Mumbai and the impact on students’ transition to post-secondary education, especially in regards to mathematics. This study extends the current knowledge of students with learning disabilities in Mumbai by 1) taking an in-depth look at students with math learning disabilities specifically, 2) focusing on the transition between secondary and higher secondary education, and 3) examining the impact of current policies and procedures through the lens of critical pedagogy. In this study, I gathered data on the math proficiency of secondary students with MLD and their typically achieving peers in Mumbai. Additionally, I conducted interviews with secondary students and post-college adults with MLD, as well as interviews with secondary math teachers and college lecturers in mathematics. I also observed post-secondary math classes in various colleges, collected survey data from math lecturers, and reviewed documents from educational institutions all over Mumbai. The data from this mixed methods study revealed that, for this sample of students in Mumbai, secondary students with MLD do have gaps in their conceptual and procedural knowledge of mathematics as compared to their peers without MLD, especially in the areas of fractions, decimals, pre-algebra, and word problems. Through interview and survey data, secondary students with MLD also expressed frustration with geometry and algebra. The data also revealed that post-secondary students who take Secretarial Practice in place of math in junior college are not prepared for the degree college math course that follows. Additionally, post-secondary students with MLD expressed feelings of fear and judgment when asking for help in mathematics from college lecturers and peers. This suggests that there is a need for professional development among all educators, from primary to post-secondary, to raise awareness of MLD. Also, trying to mediate students’ difficulties at the secondary or post-secondary level is too late; early identification of MLD and early intervention are necessary. These findings will be useful for inclusive education advocacy groups in India as they work with policy makers and enforcers at the national and state level, as they revise policy and procedures for students with learning disabilities in Maharashtra and India.