Every learner matters: Unpacking the learning crisis for children with disabilities

The World Bank today launched the paper ‘Every learner matters: Unpacking the learning crisis for children with disabilities’ which was developed in in partnership with Leonard Cheshire and Inclusion International.  The paper aims to provide an evidence-based review of educational participation of children with disabilities and to establish a case for focusing on learning achievements for students with disabilities. Inclusion International commends the World Bank for recognizing the value of the knowledge of persons with disabilities and their families and inviting Inclusion International to be full partners in the development of the report.

Sue Swenson, President of Inclusion International, said, “At last the international community is recognizing that children with intellectual disabilities have an equal right to be included in quality education in regular classes in their communities.”

In recent years there has been some progress made to include children with disabilities in education; however, the barriers around ensuring educational access, meaningful participation, equal and personalized learning opportunities remain. Children with intellectual disabilities are still most likely to be out of school.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals require that education systems be ready to teach a diverse range of children with disabilities. If we continue at the current pace, we will fail millions of children with disabilities and will not meet Sustainable Development Goal 4. There is a need for differentiated curriculum, more individualized learning plans, and teachers who have been trained to teach children with varied learning needs.

We know from some good examples of inclusive classrooms where teaching strategies are designed to meet a range of needs that all children have better learning outcomes. This paper makes an essential contribution to the conversation about inclusive education by tackling the misconception that ‘access’ means ‘inclusion’. Only when classrooms, schools, and education systems are designed to meet the needs of a diversity of learners, can we hope to realize the goal of ‘inclusive and equitable quality education’ for all.

The paper is now available online and we invite you to read it. Its recommendations provide an important starting point for accelerating efforts towards inclusive education worldwide.