The Issue

The Challenges

UNICEF in Action

Resources on education


Children with disabilities and learning difficulties

© UNICEF/2011
Children with disabilities have the same right to quality education as all other children.

Across the CEE/CIS region, the total number of children who are now officially recognzed as disabled, tripled from about 500,000 in 1990, to 1.5 million in 2002.

A WHO benchmark places the number who have disabilities at 2.5 per cent of the population, or 2.6 million children in the 22 countries and territories that make up this region. However, national statistics only accont for 1.5 million children, many of whom are likely to be out of school. Even when children with disabilities are provided with education in mainstream schools, they are often placed in segregated classes, in which they are simply taught a remedial curricula or not taught at all. The reminaing 1.1 million children are unaccounted for. They are invisible - hidden away because of social stigma and a lack of eduation, health and social services.

Children with disabiltiies form one of UNICEF's priority target groups, one that is subject to severe discrimination, and exclusion from all social aspects of life, and in the region, where most countries place great value on education, children with disbailities are often unaccounted for, unwelcome or simply ignored.

Discriminaton and negative attitutudes towards disability permeate the region and the language widely used to describe disability serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes and prevents full inclusion. For children with disabiltiies, institutionalization remains the overwhelming policy approach, in large part due to a long tradition of defectology, the academic discipline governing the care and treatment of children with disabilities in the region.

Defectology, which is based upon a medical approach in which children with disabilities are considered 'defective' from the norm, stands in direct contrast to the global moral imperative of a rights-based approach to education, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities goal 'to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.' The continued practices of classification of children according to a defective lens, and the prevelent practice of institutionalization, continue to promote and encourage discriminatory practices, exclusion and stigmatization of children with disabilities in the region.

The number of children in institutional care in the CEE/CIS region is the highest in the world. UNICEF estimates that across the region, a child with a disability is almost 17 times as likely to be institutionalized as one who is not disabled. More than 626,000 children are institutionalized and the rate of children in institutions increased between 2000-2007, with approximately 60 per cent of all institutionalized children being registered as children with disabilities.

To learn more about UNICEF's engagement to advance inclusive education for children with disabilities and special educational needs, click here.  










































The Right to Education for Children with Disabilities

Moscow Conference: Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities

Click for more information about the Inclusive Education Conference in Moscow click here.

Partners Meeting on Inclusive Education 2010

Exploring collaboration in inclusive education in CEE/CIS
11-12 May 2010

In 2010, the UNICEF Regional Office for CEECIS brought together partners from the region to discuss opportunities and needs in Inclusive Eduction in the region and to agree on a way forward. More information on the outcomes of the 2010 meeting and the related documents can be found here.  The outcomes of this meeting guided the planning of a larger Conference on Inclusive Education, which was held in Moscow in September 2011. For more information on the Moscow Conference, click here.

Disability in the CEE/CIS region

Children and disability in transition in CEE/CIS and Baltic States
Published by UNICEF Innocenti Research Center



Additional resources

Children with special educational needs: Transition to inclusive education in Armenia
Developed as part of Students As Partners initiative

Chlidren with special needs: Barriers and opportunities in Serbia
Developed as part of Students As Partners initiative

OECD Resource

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan: Students with special needs and those with disabilities
Published by OECD and the Open Society Institute, 2009


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