Disability inclusive education

In realising the right to education, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 24) requires State parties to ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability.

There are a number of key factors to consider when considering disability inclusive education. These include:

  1. the removal of environmental barriers including those related to physical access, policy, communication and attitudes;
  2. provision of disability specific resources e.g. an attendant;
  3. improved teacher capacity in inclusive education pedagogy; and
  4. empowerment of persons with disabilities through independent skill development.

Resources in this section focus on guidance to ensure that persons with disabilities can access their right to an education in mainstream schools. They include peer-reviewed evidence on inclusive education, case studies and practical guidance on disability inclusive education, including modifications to physical environments, and teaching approaches.

See also: Accessible infrastructure and communications, Assistive devices, Early intervention, Early childhood development, Child protection, Humanitarian and DRR, Supporting participation at an individual level.

Sharma U, Forlin C, Marella M, Sprunt B, Deppeler J and Jitoko F (2016) Pacific Indicators for Disability-Inclusive Education The Guidelines Manual 2016 URL with tagged PDF and Word documents are both available for download. A brief overview document is

The Pacific Indicators for Disability Inclusive Education (Pacific-INDIE) were designed in collaboration with a number of stakeholders, to support the implementation of disability inclusive education in the Pacific region. The indicators were developed to assist Pacific Island countries in setting targets within program planning and program implementation to help improve the inclusion of children and youth with disabilities in education. The Guidance Manual published by Monash University provides an overview of the development of the indicators, guidance for stakeholders in the use of the indicators, and the final set of indicators with includes 48 indicators across 10 dimensions of disability inclusive education. The Guidance Manual provides practical information about how to implement and measure the indicators. There is a Brief Overview available (in several languages) which provides a summary of the manual.

Ministry of Education - Fiji (2016) Disability Inclusion FEMIS training video YouTube video

This 8.34 long video on YouTube explains the Fiji Education Management Information System (FEMIS), which is used to document children who may have difficulties in functioning and to assess the school’s accessibility. The video clarifies how to use the two documents vital to FEMIS: 1- Student Learning Profile Form and 2- School Accessibility and Inclusion Form. FEMIS assists the Fijian Ministry of Education in monitoring, planning, budgeting and reporting on a national level. The video demonstrates people filling in the paper and computer versions of the form and has scenes of parent/teacher interviews.

AQEP Disability Inclusion Film mp4 video

This is a 4.19 long video demonstrating the use of the Australian Government Funded Access to Quality Education Program (AQEP) in Fiji. Parents and teachers are interviewed and there are scenes of children, including those with disability in the classroom and engaging with other students.

Mizunoya S, Mitra S and Yamasaki I (2016) Towards inclusive education: The impact of disability on school attendance in developing countries HTML with link to PDF (495 KB)

This paper by UNICEF’s research office explores the impact of disability on school attendance. The research uses nationally representative data from 18 surveys in 15 countries to explore three questions: How common is disability among children? What is the gap between children with and without disabilities who are out of school? What are the key determinants of school attendance for children with disabilities? The paper finds that the average disability gap in school attendance is 30% in primary and secondary schools in 15 countries. The report provides evidence that disability is a critical factor influencing school attendance and that education policies in countries close to reaching universal primary education (e.g. Indonesia) are not adequately addressing the barriers to school attendance for children with disabilities. The authors call for improvements in disability data collection worldwide and a greater focus on initial school attendance for children with disabilities.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2016) General Comment No 4 - Article 24: Right to inclusive education (Adopted 26 August 2016) Word document (229 KB)

This General Comment sets out the consensus views of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding the implementation of Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Education). It identifies barriers to education, defines inclusive education, sets out the requirements of Article 24, explains how it relates to other articles of the CRPD, and how it can be implemented in practice at the national level. It also addresses the interplay between the general obligation to provide accessibility and to provide reasonable accommodation. It is an important guidance document for those wishing to ensure that support to inclusive education aligns with the Committee’s views. Note: click 'cancel' if requested to enter a password to open the document.

Rieser R, Stubbs S, Myers J et al (2013) Educating Teachers of Children with Disabilities: Mapping, Scoping and Best Practices Exercise in the Context of Developing Inclusive Education PDF (83.5 MB) (Note: very large file)

This comprehensive document reports the findings from UNICEF’s Rights, Education and Protection (REAP) project that investigated how teachers are educated to teach children with disabilities in inclusive environments across lower and middle income countries. Given that studies have shown that teachers’ attitudes, knowledge, skills and understanding are major factors in the effective inclusion of children with disabilities, this report is a helpful resource to guide and promote disability inclusive education. It identifies ways that teachers are educated to teach children with disabilities in inclusive environments, and makes recommendations based upon the findings. The report is based on a sound review of relevant literature, surveys and consultations.

Wapling L (2016) Inclusive Education and Children with Disabilities: Quality Education for All in Low and Middle Income Countries – Full Report Pdf (1MB) – Word version available on request

This systematic literature review concerns primary level education of children with disabilities in low and middle income countries (LMICs). The review aimed to produce a synthesis of the most effective approaches for education of children with disabilities. However, a lack of articles focused on the outcomes of inclusive education limited the extent to which conclusions could be drawn on the most effective approaches. Despite this, the review identifies a range of key issues that should be considered when supporting inclusive education in LMICs including: - Conceptualising inclusive education; - The role of policy and funding, - The role of special education; - The role of support teachers and services; - The impact of impairments on inclusion; - The importance of teacher preparedness and - Assumptions about cost effectiveness of various models.

CBM (2016) Inclusive Education and Children with Disabilities: Quality Education for All in Low and Middle Income Countries - CBM Policy Brief PDF (565KB) – Word version available on request

This policy brief arose from a systematic literature review about primary level education of children with disabilities in low and middle income countries. The review aimed to produce a synthesis of the most effective approaches for quality educational outcomes for children with disabilities. This brief outlines key issues drawn from the systematic review and provides a range of practical suggestions for partner governments, donors and the international development community to further strengthen educational outcomes for children with disabilities. The review found that children with disabilities are not being well served by the current situation in respect to inclusive education. A tendency to focus purely on rights to access rather than educational outcomes, confusion around terminology, donor funding practices, and issues around training teachers and curriculum development are also discussed.

Booth T and Ainscow M (2002) Index for inclusion (PDF 328 KB) Prepared for the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)

The Index for inclusion is a resource developed in the UK for supporting the development of learning and participation in schools for all children, regardless of gender, ethnic group, disability or other potential marginalised category. This resource has been adapted for a range of developing country contexts such as India and South Africa. This tool offers a broad application in supporting schools on the journey towards inclusion, however is not focused on specific inclusionary strategies. It is a useful resource for commencing inclusion discussions.

UNESCO (2009) Policy guidelines on inclusive education (PDF 1.5 MB)

These guidelines provide policy and planning guidance to policy makers and education planners in regards to inclusive education systems at a national level. Part 1 contextually situates inclusive education and relates it to current international educational frameworks and targets. Part 2 covers the translation of national inclusive education policy into inclusive policy at a community level. In its totality, this resource provides a comprehensive coverage of inclusive education policy issues.

The University of the South Pacific (2009) Inclusive education in the Pacific (2.58 MB)

This book (available online) was the outcome of a regional workshop on inclusive education in the Pacific held in 2007. This foundational workshop led to the creation of recommendations regarding inclusive education which were endorsed and adopted by the Forum Ministers of Education and have since been added to the Forum Basic Education Action Plan. The book is authored by a number of influential education and disability leaders from throughout the Pacific. It contextualises inclusive education in the Pacific, providing cultural discussions and application, policy recommendations, guidelines for inclusion at a school level, and a variety of perspectives on inclusive education in the Pacific. Inclusive education case studies from Samoa, Tonga and Palau are also included.

DFID (2010) A DFID practice paper: Education for children with disabilities - improving access and quality (PDF 1.27 MB)

This guidance note, primarily designed for donors, provides information on how to improve educational access and quality for children with disabilities. It gives an overview of the global context, provides best practice case studies and clearly signposts practical tools and resources. It is collated into three sections to provide i) a synthesis of information relating to educating children with disabilities, ii) recommended actions to take examples ideas that can be taken to move systems towards greater inclusion, and iii) an outline of relevant online resources for further reference. The strength of this document is in the easy reference summary of the context. However it does not provide practical guidance on how to implement policy into practice.

CBM Australia (2012) Inclusion made easy: A quick program guide to disability and development- Part B- Education chapter (PDF 756 KB, Word 155 KB)

This chapter, within Part B of the Inclusion made easy manual, gives brief programming guidance for including children with disabilities in education. It provides practical strategies to support a variety of education approaches (for example full inclusion, partial integration and special schools operating in developing countries to educate children with disabilities). Also included are case studies and helpful checklists. This resource has been designed for implementing partners, particularly program managers and officers within international development agencies. It is also useful for organisations involved in program review and interactions with implementing partners, as it provides guidance for key activities required to support inclusion of children with disabilities in education. It does not cover teaching strategies for education inclusion.

Asian Development Bank (2010) Strengthening inclusive education (PDF 718 KB)

This is the operational guide for the education sector staff of the Asian Development Bank. It outlines the history of inclusive education as well as illustrating how and why inclusive education should be strengthened in the Asia-Pacific region. It analyses patterns of exclusion by subsector of education and by subregion in Asia and the Pacific. It is a useful resource for education ministries, governments, donors and other educational stakeholders, particularly as it goes beyond describing inclusive education policy, and analyses and critiques inclusive education initiatives in the region.

International Federation of Hard of Hearing (2013) Draft paper: Education Issues (Word 81 KB)

International Federation of Hard of Hearing is the global peak body for persons who are hard of hearing. (World Federation of the Deaf represents Deaf people). IFHOH believes that persons who are hard of hearing have the right to an inclusive and accessible education, and should have equal opportunities to participate in post-secondary and adult education programs. This draft paper outlines the technological and human supports essential to creating a conducive learning environment that will provide equality of opportunity and equity of outcomes for persons who are hard of hearing. (See also the position paper of WFD in the 'Disability specific education' resources to understand the differences of policy and approach.)

Reiser R (2012) Implementing inclusive education: A Commonwealth guide to implementing Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2nd edition) (PDF 8.59 MB)

This online book (available for purchase only) explains the link between the UNCRPD and the policy and practice of inclusive education, from an education system level to the school and community level. It also explores various models of disability and how these perspectives influence educational participation for children with disabilities. This resource also includes case studies, however these are limited to Commonwealth countries. It includes developing and developed country responses to inclusive education.

EENET Enabling education network

The Enabling Education Network (EENET) is an online inclusive education information-sharing network and resource site, maintained by a member network which includes teachers, parents, students, NGOs and policy makers. The resource site promotes and shares information and documentation originating in developing countries. The resource section collates lists of key documents under thematic and country categories. Of most practical value are the case studies on practical implementation of inclusive education.

Monash University (2016) Pacific Indicators for Inclusive Education (Pacific-INDIE): Case Studies

There are four case studies presented from Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and Solomon Islands, the four key countries involved in the development of the Pacific INDIE final set of indicators Each of the four countries have made varying progress towards inclusive education and face their own contextual challenges. Common challenges across all four countries include the translation of policy to practice, the need for ongoing advocacy and the need for training of teaching staff. The case studies highlight how the Pacific INDIE indicators are expected to assist in the implementation by facilitating improved understanding of inclusive education; improving the delivery of quality inclusive education and learning outcomes; and improving monitoring, reporting and accountability. The case studies provide an overview of the local context, progress made on inclusive education, challenges faced to achieving education for all, and the way forward for each country.

Various (2017) Strengthening Inclusive Education in Fiji – Lessons Learned from AQEP: Changing attitudes about disability PDF

This policy brief discusses attitudinal barriers in children with disabilities in accessing education. Changing attitudes about disability is a significant component in children with disabilities receiving a quality education in Fiji. Without attitudinal change, the right to education for all children will not be realised. The recommendations offer ways to continue the transformation in attitudes that is already occurring in communities and schools. 1. Continue awareness raising workshops and roadshows in schools and communities to improve attitudes about disability and to facilitate children with disabilities’ access to educational opportunities in mainstream schools. 2. Ministry of Education to work together with Disabled People’s Organisations to develop advocacy strategies to raise awareness about disability through different media that education is a right for all children.

Various (2017) Strengthening Inclusive Education in Fiji – Lessons learned from AQEP: Making schools disability-friendly PDF

This policy brief demonstrates that improvements made to existing school structures enables children with disabilities to participate in inclusive education activities. The findings imply that making schools disability-friendly is a determining factor in whether or not children with disabilities attend school. Recommendations include: 1. School management committees to be trained by MoE regarding how to manage maintenance issues related to accessibility. 2. AQEP to share designs and standards of disability accessible schools with MoE to ensure future school refurbishment and reconstruction are suitably designed for children with disabilities. 3. MoE to provide classroom equipment that is compatible to specific disabilities. 4. Schools to use grants to fund equipment and assistive devices required by specific children with disabilities, and to replace and/or repair school equipment and assistive devices that are damaged in a timely manner.

Various (2017) Strengthening Inclusive Education in Fiji – Lessons Learned from AQEP: Resourcing schools for effective inclusive education in Fiji PDF

This policy brief found that resourcing schools with qualified teachers and teacher aides, as well as providing appropriate knowledge resources, to which staff can refer when faced with challenging situations, are essential for ensuring positive educational outcomes of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. The success of inclusive education was determined by the utilisation of teacher aides in classrooms, teacher expertise in inclusive education, and practical resources to guide and support classroom activities. Equipping schools with qualified teachers and teacher aides, and practical resources are critical for expanding and sustaining inclusive education in Fiji. Recommendations included strategies for increasing staff capacity and improving teaching and support resources.

Various (2017) Strengthening Inclusive Education in Fiji – Lessons learned from AQEP: Strengthening Teacher Training Institutions to support Inclusive Education PDF

This policy brief analysed Fiji’s teacher training institutions to determine how teacher trainees were exposed to information regarding special and inclusive educational techniques and modalities. Courses were different and had a limited effect in preparing teachers to teach students with different needs. Recommendations included: 1. Pre-service training in inclusive education should be compulsory in all educational programs offered by all of Fiji’s teacher training institutions. 2. Fiji’s Ministry of Education should develop standards which require all teacher training institutions to develop/use curricula that educate every intending teacher about inclusive education. 3. Pre-service teacher education curricula for all teacher training institutions should be revised or developed so that all teacher trainees are aware of, and supported towards, inclusive education learning goals. 4. Formal training must be provided to teacher aides.

Save the Children UK (2008) Making schools inclusive: How change can happen (PDF 4.15 MB)

This is a compilation of case studies from 13 different Save the Children inclusive education initiatives across the globe. The case studies cover programs that have targeted specific groups of excluded children, developed inclusive school communities, promoted change in the education system, or addressed financial barriers to excluded groups. These case studies are useful references points for policy makers, education planners, governments and donors.

Washington Group on Disability Statistics technical presentation

Jennifer H. Madans Ph.D., Associate Director for Science, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Mitchell Loeb,
Health Scientist, NCHS from the secretariat of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics delivered a technical session
on how to use the Washington Group questions in monitoring data systems and how to disaggregate data by disability
followed by a question and answer session at the University of Melbourne on Thursday, 30 April 2015. The presentation
was organised by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Presentation from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics
Picture of a young boy from Tanzania who uses a wheelchair. He is smiling and is surrounded by his classmates who are crowding around him.

Photo: Thomas Einberger, 2010

Moses*, (aged 7) who has spina bifida, is surrounded by his school friends, Tanzania. (*Pseudonym used) Copyright: CBM/argum/Einberger