Equal rights to education for children with Learning Disabilities in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has accomplished many significant education milestones, including achieving a primary enrollment rate of 98% (World Bank, 2013). Yet despite ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which committed to ensuring that children with disabilities can access quality inclusive education without discrimination, children with learning disabilities* in Sri Lanka find themselves excluded from mainstream education, and experience high school ‘drop-out’ rates.
We believe this must change.
Watch ‘Every Mind: Equal rights to education for children with Learning Disabilities in Sri Lanka’ to learn more about the situation for children with learning disabilities in Sri Lanka, and the key actions that must be taken to ensure that every child, whoever they are, wherever they live, no matter their ability, enjoys the benefits of a quality education.
* A learning disability is defined as a condition which gives rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, due to reasons other than physical handicaps. Learning disabilities result from impairments in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning.
Watch the 3 minute trailer
The situation for children with learning disabilities in Sri Lanka.
Too many children living with disabilities are missing out on the benefits of education. In 2016, UNICEF Sri Lanka commissioned the ‘Learning Disabilities in Sri Lanka’ report, and it found that:
- 23.5% of children aged 5-14 with disabilities are excluded from mainstream education (DCS, Statistical Data 2012) and amongst those who do attend mainstream schools, participation in educational activity reduces with age.
- Around 55.4% of the disabled population aged 15-19 and 86% of the disabled population aged 20-24 are not engaged in any educational activity or vocational training.
- The main challenges for children living with disabilities in benefiting from education cited a lack of skilled teachers, a lack of appropriate infrastructure in schools, limited scope in curricula and the overall quality of education.
In Sri Lanka, the main providers of education for children with special needs are special education units attached to schools, special schools under the Ministry of Education, and a limited number of private institutions. In keeping with the Gazette proposals of 1997, the Ministry of Education has issued circulars to schools and regional offices to ensure that children with learning disabilities in each educational division have access to special schools and special education units.
At present Sri Lanka currently has:
- 27 special schools and 704 special education units catering to students with a variety of learning disabilities.
- 8 special schools and 450 special units catering to children with learning disabilities such as downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism.
- A government-run Autism centre in Maharagama.
The number and quality of these schools and units is insufficient and requires expansion and quality improvements, meaning that children are missing out.