Disabilities

Education

UNICEF Image: Rwanda, 2007: Jean de Dieu Habimana and Vincent Uwirereye, both 12, draw in an art class at the primary.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-1387/Giacomo Pirozzi
Rwanda, 2007: Jean de Dieu Habimana and Vincent Uwirereye, draw in an art class at primary school.

Children with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination which leads to their exclusion from society and school. Attitudes toward children with disabilities, as well as a lack of resources to accommodate them, compound the challenges they face in accessing education. While lack of access to school is an issue, an equal concern is the inability of the education system to ensure quality education for children with disabilities. 

While the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Education For All framework aim to meet the learning needs of all children and youth, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recalls those obligations and further specifies that “States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children”, and “ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning” (articles 7 and 24).  

To ensure quality education for children with disabilities the following must be addressed:

  • Promote accessible and inclusive learning spaces - Ensure physical accessibility for children with disabilities, including commuting and moving around in the school environment as well as having safe access to water and sanitation facilities whilst at school.  Likewise, learning materials need to be made available in accessible formats to suit the needs of children with different types of disabilities. 

  • Invest in teacher training for inclusive education - Where available, approaches to education for children with disabilities have changed over the years. While the initial emphasis was on ‘special schools’, there has been a shifting that indicates a preference towards inclusive education. Preparation and orientation of teachers for inclusion should happen through teacher training which, besides the child-centred pedagogy will also address attitudes towards children with disabilities, and how to prepare/support families for them to be encouraged to keep their children in school and informed about their children’s potential.

  • Take a multi-sectoral approach - Barriers that prevent children with disabilities to access education are located both within and outside the education system, for example transport, social services for assistive devices, health etc.

  • Involve the community - The education of children with disabilities must include a strong involvement from community as well as from parents, being two key factors which determine the success of IE.

  • Collect data for evidence building and progress monitoring - In order to have evidence to advocate for inclusion and create a baseline for monitoring progress in disability mainstreaming in the educational system, it is required to collect and disaggregate data on the patterns of enrolment, attendance, completion, attainment and drop out as a result of having a disability (in addition to gender, ethnicity, income level, geographical location etc.).  Also other qualitative and quantitative studies, like one on Out Of School Children, provide important baselines and as such must become a regular component of monitoring education standards.  Research findings are helping to define strategies to ensure specific target groups are reached.

Key References:

  • The Right of Children with Disabilities to Education: A Rights-Based Approach to Inclusive Education. UNICEF, 2012
  • International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) policy paper Teachers for All: Inclusive Teaching for Children with Disabilities (Full version);              Summary, IDDC 2012
  • Education for Children with Disabilities - Improving Access and Quality. Document can be found at Department for International Development, United Kingdom, 2010.
  • Schools for all: including children with disabilities in education - Primarily for educators, focusing on including children with disabilities in schools, but also helpful for NGOs, Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) workers, DPOs and community groups involved in advocating for and helping to design inclusive education efforts, Save the Children, 2002.
  • Enabling Education Network (EENET) - One of the most comprehensive websites on inclusive education, with heavy emphasis on publications written by and for experts and advocates for inclusive education from the global south. Regularly updated, the website provides information on a wide range of education related topics– education for children with different types of disabilities, issues of family, the girl child, teacher education and evaluation of different approaches.
  • Inclusive Education - This report brings together experience from a wide range of countries. It identifies underlying principles, which inform practice across a wide range of contexts, and provides brief illustrations from a number of countries. It aims to help education administrators and decision-makers to move beyond the making of policy commitments towards the implementation of inclusive education, UNESCO, 2002.
  • The Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education - The Salamanca statement is a major international policy document, outlining the global consensus on the needs for educational reform and the policies and strategies needed to include children with disabilities in the education system, UNESCO, 1994. 
  • Making schools inclusive: how change can happen, Pinnock H, Lewis, I. - How non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can help school systems in developing countries become more inclusive. Taking examples from 13 countries around the world it describes case study programmes that: target specific groups of vulnerable children; build inclusive school communities; promote change throughout an education system; and address financial barriers to inclusive education, Save the Children, 2008.
  • Inclusive education: where there are few resources, S. Stubbs Oslo, Norway, 2008.
  • Special Needs Education (SEN). Country Data 2012 -  Every two years European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education conducts a data collection exercise with all Agency member countries. We collect key quantitative data about the numbers and placements of pupils recognised as having SEN, as well as accompanying qualitative information to put the statistics into context, European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2012.

 

 

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