Effective Principles of Inclusion and Disability Programming
August 22, 2011 — 1:45 p.m.
||Judith Heumann, Special Advisor to the U.S Department of State, International Disability Rights
||Anthony Bloome, USAID Office of Education
Judith Heumann noted that in spite of the recent renewed focus of USAID and others on disability, programmers and implementers lack substantial information on how to move forward with inclusive education. The main issue is how to share knowledge about successful inclusive education as a guide that enables other countries to promote the effective practices necessary to meet the education needs of all children, including children with disabilities (CWD).
The World Health Organization estimates that fifteen percent of the world’s children can be categorized as disabled. Heumann discussed the factors that need attention to make education for the disabled an essential part of the greater effort for universal education. Appropriately trained teachers are critical. However, special education teachers are not needed as much as regular classroom teachers with effective pre-service teacher development that prepares them to address the diverse range of learners. Persons with disabilities and parents that are driving forces for improved services for their children need to be supported in their advocacy efforts to influence social change. Effective inclusive education demands collaborative efforts of all donors and implementers. Physical accessibility of schools is a key factor that needs to be kept in mind when focusing on providing education. Technology that is accessible to persons with disabilities and improves their learning opportunities needs to be supported in development and expanded on a greater scale.
General discussion after the presentation focused on the possibility of future USAID funding for inclusion efforts when disability is not mentioned in the new education strategy. Responses from the presenter and others noted that disability can be included holistically in initiatives in other sectors, e.g. health, economic growth, and democracy and governance, thereby creating a space to identify and focus attention on disability issues. When stakeholders see the benefit of inclusive efforts in other sectors, the need to expand inclusive education gains prominence. The discussion stimulated participants to share examples of programming in the health and economic growth sectors that successfully involved persons with disabilities and led to an understanding of how practices can be expanded across sectors and into education.
Key take away points highlighted the collaborative efforts between donors and implementers needed for effective practices in inclusive education to be shared between countries. Thorough assessment is essential to collect baselines for the participation of the disabled. Objective information about effective inclusive practices on a country-level is needed to guide national scaling efforts and program expansion. Data on education of CWD, including academic performance scores, should be included at all reporting levels so teachers and schools are accountable for education of children with disabilities. Effective inclusive education needs to be based on the understanding that all children benefit from education and concentrated efforts in the sector should ensure that the learning needs of all children are being met.
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