UNESCO’S GMR Says Children with Disabilities Most Excluded

London (January 30, 2014)  Inclusion International says that UNESCO’s  2013/4 Global Monitoring Report (GMR), released this week, offers a glimmer of hope that school systems will address the rights and needs of children with intellectual disabilities.  The report, Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all, states that children with disabilities are likely to face the most severe discrimination and exclusion but recommends remedies.

The report draws four main conclusions:  the right teachers must be selected to reflect the diversity of the children they will teach; teachers must be trained to support the weakest learners; the best teachers should be assigned to teach where the most challenges exist; and governments must provide teachers with incentives to encourage them to ensure all children are learning.

For the first time, the GMR highlights the challenges facing children with disabilities throughout the document and places on priority on addressing them.  The message first proclaimed by Inclusion International, that the goal of universal primary education could not be reached if children with intellectual disabilities were ignored, has finally become a central message of UNESCO.  The report recognizes that children with disabilities face challenges both being admitted to school and getting the support they need if they attend.  The report also acknowledges that there is little information on how much children with disabilities are learning.

The report recognizes the key role of teachers and points out that many teachers lack the “skills necessary to support children with more challenging learning needs, including those with severe physical or intellectual disabilities, in mainstream classrooms.”

The report illustrates some of the problems of existing data on school attendance and demonstrates that estimates of children with disabilities, and the data on children with children with disabilities out of school, are likely very unreliable and underestimates.

Inclusion International President Klaus Lachwitz praised the report, saying, “We are very pleased that UNESCO recognizes the exclusion of children with disabilities from education and calls for increased investment in improving their education opportunities.  We especially appreciate UNESCO’s recognition that special efforts are needed to make sure that investments in education reach these children.”

The report has several important implications for the post-2015 development agenda – the need to ensure that those who have been most marginalized benefit from education; the need for the curriculum to be adapted to ensure that all children have the chance to learn; the need for education systems to maximize the potential of all students; the need for qualified teachers and head teachers with  the skills necessary to support children with more challenging learning needs, including those with severe physical or intellectual disabilities, in mainstream classrooms; the need for classroom-based assessment tools which can help teachers identify, monitor and support learners at risk of low achievement; the need for targeted additional support for students with different learning needs and the need for better data on children with disabilities both in and out of school.

The Inclusion International report Better Education for all When We’re Included Too offers many concrete ways to follow up on UNESCO’s recommendations.

Klaus Lachwitz added, “While the GMR report offers people with an intellectual disability and their families hope that the international community will address the current widespread exclusion of children with intellectual disabilities from school, our fear is that governments won’t take the report seriously.  But if the report’s recommendations are reflected in the post-2015 goals for poverty reduction we have a chance that things will improve.”

For more information contact:

Connie Laurin-Bowie: conniel@nullcacl.ca