Inclusive education

Every child has the right to quality education and learning.

A young girl in a backpack runs to school with a smile, eagerly dragging her guardian behind.
UNICEF/UN0219155/Bell

An estimated 93 million children worldwide live with disabilities. Like all children, children with disabilities have ambitions and dreams for their futures. Like all children, they need quality education to develop their skills and realize their full potential.

Yet, children with disabilities are often overlooked in policymaking, limiting their access to education and their ability to participate in social, economic and political life. Worldwide, these children are among the most likely to be out of school. They face persistent barriers to education stemming from discrimination, stigma and the routine failure of decision makers to incorporate disability in school services.

Disability is the single most serious barrier to education across the globe.

Nearly 50 per cent of children with disabilities are not in school, compared to only 13 per cent of their peers without disabilities. Robbed of their right to learn, children with disabilities are often denied the chance to take part in their communities, the workforce and the decisions that most affect them.

A young boy wearing an assistive device listens to a speaker at an awareness-raising session.
UNICEF/UN0276045/Herwig
Five-year-old Odai, who has a speech disorder, attends a UNICEF-supported awareness session in Jordan on the rights of children with disabilities.

Getting all children in school and learning

Inclusive education is the most effective way to give all children a fair chance to go to school, learn and develop the skills they need to thrive.

Inclusive education means all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools. It means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded – not only children with disabilities, but speakers of minority languages too.

Inclusive systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the classroom and allow diverse groups to grow side by side, to the benefit of all.

Inclusive education allows students of all backgrounds to learn and grow side by side, to the benefit of all.

But progress comes slowly. Inclusive systems require changes at all levels of society.

At the school level, teachers must be trained, buildings must be refurbished and students must receive accessible learning materials. At the community level, stigma and discrimination must be tackled and individuals need to be educated on the benefit of inclusive education. At the national level, Governments must align laws and policies with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and regularly collect and analyse data to ensure children are reached with effective services.

UNICEF’s work to promote inclusive education

To close the education gap for children with disabilities, UNICEF supports government efforts to foster and monitor inclusive education systems. Our work focuses on four key areas:

  • Advocacy: UNICEF promotes inclusive education in discussions, high-level events and other forms of outreach geared towards policymakers and the general public.
  • Awareness-raising: UNICEF shines a spotlight on the needs of children with disabilities by conducting research and hosting roundtables, workshops and other events for government partners.
  • Capacity-building: UNICEF builds the capacity of education systems in partner countries by training teachers, administrators and communities, and providing technical assistance to Governments.
  • Implementation support: UNICEF assists with monitoring and evaluation in partner countries to close the implementation gap between policy and practice.

Resources

Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All

This report draws on national studies to examine why millions of children continue to be denied the fundamental right to primary education.


Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Inclusive Education: Including Children with Disabilities in Quality Learning

This document provides guidance on what Governments can do to create inclusive education systems.


Towards Inclusive Education: The Impact of Disability on School Attendance in Developing Countries

Using cross-nationally comparable and nationally representative data from 18 surveys in 15 countries, this paper investigates how disability affects school attendance.


Children with Disabilities in Situations of Armed Conflict

This discussion paper explains that much more needs to be done for children with disabilities living in situations of armed conflict, and offers evidence-based recommendations.