Researching Policy and Practice

Guidelines for Inclusion: Ensuring Access to Education for All

Over half a billion persons are disabled as a result of mental, physical or sensory impairment. These individuals are often limited by both physical and social barriers which exclude them from society and prevent them from actively participating in the development of their nations. Approximately 80 per cent of the world’s disabled population lives in developing countries. The key to unlocking this potential rests in the minds of men; it is through education and the respect for the rights of all individuals that change can effectively take place.

Today there are an estimated 140 million children who are out of school, a majority being girls and children with disabilities. Among them, 90% live in lower middle-income countries and over 80% of these children are in Africa. There are countless others within the school system not receiving quality education. How many of these children who are not attending school live in your country? How can we take steps towards ensuring that these children, who have a right to education, are not left behind? This document provides guidelines and concepts for rendering National Education Plans / Education for All (EFA) more inclusive, with the objective of ensuring access and quality education for ALL learners.

This paper is intended to systematize how excluded children are planned for in education. It begins with a brief introduction, which provides a historical perspective on the origins of inclusion and describes the shift from integration towards inclusion. It is then divided into three main parts. The first provides a theoretical framework. It defines inclusion, explains how it is founded in a human rights approach and how is relates to factors such as quality and cost-effectiveness.

The second part looks at more practical changes at the school level. It outlines the key elements in the shift towards inclusion with a particular focus on the key players including teachers, parents and educational policymakers as well as curricula. The third part brings together the first two sections by providing tools for policymakers and educational planners for hands-on analysis of education plans.

These guidelines are intended to provide information and awareness, to be a policy tool for revising and formulating EFA plans, and to serve as a basis for discussion among policymakers, educators, NGOs and international organizations impacting policy in both private and public education and concerned with promoting access for ALL learners.

These guidelines attempt to demystify the notions surrounding inclusion and demonstrate that challenges can be overcome through a willingness to change attitudes regarding inclusion. By following these guidelines, those working with and analyzing National Plans for Education can identify gaps and strategies in order to take steps to ensure that inclusion is achieved within their educational systems and that every child has access to a quality education.