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Education and

Inclusion and Disability

Key message

All means all – and education is for everyone.


Children and young people with disabilities have high expectations for themselves; they want to go to school, finish their education, and contribute to society. An inclusive quality education can help children reach their full potential and become active members in their communities. When children with disabilities are included in mainstream education, they learn at higher levels than when separated from their peers of similar ages and abilities. When education includes children with disabilities, it creates a more diverse experience for all learners and deepens a young person’s appreciation of differences, reduces discrimination, and improves cooperation. When schools and teachers embrace inclusive education, this can be a catalyst for school-wide transformation towards quality education for all.
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Key challenges
  • Disability is the most significant barrier to quality education, outweighing other individual and household characteristics. Nearly 50% of children with disabilities are out of school, compared with only 13% of those without disabilities
    (Mizunoya et al., 2016).
  • Approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability. At least one in 10 people with disabilities are children and 80% are living in developing countries
    (WHO, 2011).
  • Children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school. Children with a sensory, physical or intellectual disability are 2.5 times more likely to have never been in school than their peers without disabilities
    (GEM, 2020).
  • Even when in school, students with disabilities are more at risk of not learning. In 10 low- and middle-income countries, children with disabilities were 19% less likely to achieve minimum reading proficiency compared with those without disabilities
    (GEM, 2020).
  • Changing laws and policies to support inclusive education is not enough, it is essential to invest more resources into both mainstreaming and need-specific support In Fiji, lack of resources to provide a good inclusive education meant that the needs of students with intellectual disabilities were better addressed in special education settings
    (GEM, 2020).
  • Exclusion of children with disabilities has high economic costs. In Bangladesh, the lack of schooling and employment for learners with disabilities and their caregivers costs an estimated US$1.2 billion annually, or 1.74% of GDP
    International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016  World Bank, 2008
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Make the case
  • With proper support, students with disabilities can learn just as well as any other student. More than 80% of students with special needs meet the same academic standards as other students, as long as schools give them the access, accommodations, instruction and support they need
    (Thurlow et al., 2011).
  • Students with disabilities have high expectations for themselves but must overcome an enormous ‘belief gap’ by adults 85% of students with disabilities in the US expect to graduate with a high school diploma
    (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2014).
  • Inclusive education is the most effective method for children with disabilities. When students with disabilities can learn in inclusive classrooms, they have higher maths and reading scores, less disruptive behaviour, and increased future employment opportunities
    Hayes & Bulat, 2017  Hehir et al., 2016  Myklebust, 2007
  • Inclusion makes a difference for students with special needs. In Norway, students with disabilities in inclusive education are 75% more likely to earn a vocational or academic credential compared with students in special classes
    (Hehir et al., 2016).
  • Students without disabilities also learn better in an integrated classroom. A meta review of 26 studies in the US, Australia, Canada, and Ireland found that 81% of the findings reported positive or neutral academic effects on non-disabled students when they can learn with peers with disabilities
    (Hayes & Bulat, 2017)
  • Inclusive education is also the most financially efficient way to educate students with disabilities. Segregated education systems can cost seven to nine times more than inclusive education
    Hayes & Bulat, 2017  Labon, 1999
  • Inclusive education does not require a lot of additional resources. A quality inclusive education system, with well-trained teachers and strong peer support, can provide education access to as many as 80-90% of learners with disabilities in mainstream schools with only minor additional support
    (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016).
  • Providing education to children with disabilities has many social benefits. It has been linked to lower crime rates, improved health and family planning, and increased citizen participation
    (Hayes & Bulat, 2017)
  • Educating children with disabilities has high returns on investment. In the Philippines, returns on education for people with disabilities in terms of higher earnings can reach more than 25%
    International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016  Mori & Yamagata, 2009
  • When people with disabilities receive higher levels of education, their household will be less likely to live in poverty. In low- and middle-income countries, for each additional year of schooling that an adult with a disability has, the likelihood that their household belongs to the two poorest quintiles falls by 2-5%.
    International Disability and Development Consortium, 2016  Filmer, 2008
  • Early disability-inclusive education is a great investment with strong economic and life-changing benefits. Early identification and intervention can lead to long-term gains in higher academic performance and increased chance of graduating school
    Hayes & Bulat, 2017  Heckman & Masterov, 2005
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Key opinion
Fabrice Houdart
Fabrice Houdart
Managing Director Out Leadership
The single most important channel to overcome intolerance, discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people is through education and the exposure to different life expereiences and viewpoints that it offers. Advancement in education is part of the recipe for social change that led to a radical shift in public attitudes on LGBTQ inclusion we witnessed in many parts of the world.
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Key talking points
  • It is estimated that 90% of children with disabilities in low-income countries have never been to school.
  • Inclusive education has been shown to be the best method for educating children with disabilities, rather than segregating them into special schools or classes.
  • Inclusive education is a low-cost investment with high returns.
  • Mandating the integration of children with disabilities into the regular classroom is not enough. It also requires more teacher training and additional need-specific support and resources.
  • Only 10% of countries have laws supporting full inclusion in education
  • When people with disabilities receive higher levels of education, their household will be less likely to live in poverty.
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