Expanding Inclusive Education Systems for Children with Disabilities

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In some countries around the world, children with disabilities are twice as likely to have never enrolled in school, and even those that do attend are much more likely to drop out and leave school early. The UN recognizes that children of all abilities have a right to inclusive education. This should mean that, not only are they able to physically access school buildings and facilities, but that they also study together in the same schools where learning for all is improved. Throughout their childhood, parents and supportive organizations can offer help with learning and equip children with skills to cope with their condition. However, enabling children to attend public school can also encourage understanding, improve social integration and promote greater independence.

Expanding Inclusive Education Systems for Children with Disabilities
Expanding Inclusive Education Systems for Children with Disabilities

Access to Appropriate Public Education

In the US, over 6% of children aged 5-15 are living with some type of disability, of which the most common motor disability is cerebral palsy. It can be a challenging condition and this cerebral palsy site recognizes the emotional and financial impact it can have on children and their families. As the intellectual and physical abilities of children with this condition can vary significantly, ensuring that individual needs are met in an educational setting is also crucial for personal development. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that every child should receive appropriate instruction tailored to their particular requirements, and data shows that the number of children with disabilities in mainstream education is continuing to grow.

Education Policies Promoting Inclusivity

According to figures from UNESCO, 75% of children with disabilities in India are not enrolled in school, and children with autism and cerebral palsy were some of the least likely to be in education. Of those children with disabilities that do attend school, only 9% finish secondary education with the majority dropping out in primary school. To address this issue, India’s new National Education Policy (NEP), to be implemented in all schools by 2022, takes into account recommendations from disability organizations and recognizes provisions for inclusive education where children with disabilities will be able to participate equally in the educational system. In recognizing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, schools will be encouraged to make improvements across a range of school provisions from upgrading building infrastructure to make it more accessible, to the inclusion of braille and sign language in the classroom.

Training Teachers in Inclusive Learning

Last month, the Indian Education Minister spoke in parliament and reiterated how the NEP aims to provide children with disabilities with a high quality education. He also outlined how specially trained teachers will be provided to improve tuition for children with special needs. Research has shown that out of all the factors involved in a school setting, teachers have the most impact on student achievement. As well as helping students to reach their full potential perform and make progress on attainment tests where appropriate, the best teachers also add value outside the classroom by encouraging non-cognitive skills such as self-regulation, adaptability and motivation to attend classes. Last year UNESCO published guidelines on preparing teachers to work in inclusive education settings, but noted that currently only 40% of countries have inclusion training policies. Improving access to teaching resources, investing in the employment of more specially trained teaching staff and providing a range of suitable learning materials to meet the individual needs of pupils are all necessary to achieve successful inclusive learning.

Creating Accessible School Buildings

Although teachers have the largest influence on pupil’s attainment, without adequate and accessible school buildings, children with disabilities can still find it difficult to gain an education. Many older school buildings with steps and staircases can be a barrier to wheelchair users or any child with physical disabilities, and poor access limits their ability to move freely and independently around the school. Within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to promote positive global change, targets to be attained by 2030 include building and upgrading schools buildings and facilities to create safe and accessible environments suitable for pupils of all abilities. To help achieve these changes, 157 countries have now signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, showing their commitment to inclusive education for all children.

Inclusive Systems Benefit All Children

A more inclusive education system is beneficial to all children, not just those with disabilities. As well as teaching traditional academic subjects, school is where children develop social relationships, and practice soft skills such as empathy and collaboration. In an inclusive system, children learn to become accepting and respectful of each other’s individual differences. It is also good preparation for living in a more inclusive society as adults. Research shows that despite offering smaller classes taught by specialist teachers, special education has no real advantage over regular classes in public school ,and that for children who need special attention, inclusive schools offer a more positive outcome. Here, they receive higher levels of instruction and experience greater engagement than if they were taught separately and alone.

Being able to access good quality education can have a significant impact on any child’s social development and economic future. Inclusive education recognizes individual differences and helps children with disabilities achieve their full potential. As more countries recognize the importance of education for all children by providing specialist teachers and accessible classrooms, millions of children with disabilities around the world will benefit.

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