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Our focus in this report is on the education of children with disabilities. We critically review the literature in order to develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the key issues and debates in the field of disability and education. Drawing on what has been achieved so far, we propose a new Three Rs model: ‘Rights, Resources and Research’. We argue that in order to achieve inclusive quality education we need to focus on these three interrelated aspects.
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Inclusive Quality Education for Children with Disabilities
Nidhi Singal
Hannah Ware
Shweta Khanna Bhutani
Inclusive Quality Education
for Children with Disabilities
Inclusive Quality Education for
Children with Disabilities
Nidhi Singal
Hannah Ware
Shweta Khanna Bhutani
Foreword v
Executive Summary vii
Reflection on terminology ix
Abbreviations x
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education 1
An overview of global mandates 1
Rationale for investing in the education of people with disabilities 3
1. Rights based arguments 4
2. Economic rationale 6
3. Inclusive schools are better schools for all 8
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability 13
Medical model 13
Social model 14
Bio-psycho-social model of disability 15
Measuring disability: Establishing prevalence rates 17
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two country overviews 23
India: Setting the context 23
The status of children with disabilities: Policy perspectives 24
Current status of education for children with disabilities:
  What do the numbers tell us? 30
Schooling trends 31
What works in inclusive education in India:
  Reflections from the literature 36
England: Setting the context 39
Understanding who the children with special educational needs
  (SEN) are in England: Addressing policy 40
Educational status of children with SEN in England:
  What do the numbers tell us? 45
Characteristics of children with SEN 47
Exploring the intersecting variables 49
Inclusive education in England: Examining the key debates 51
Impact on learning outcomes 52
What works in inclusive education in England:
  Reflections from the literature 53
Conclusion 57
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems:
Reflections for policy & practice 61
Rights 62
Resources 64
Research 67
About the Authors 70
About the University of Cambridge 72
About WISE 73
Acknowledgments 74
References 75
he United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability
of 2006 marked a milestone in advocacy for PwD. More recently, the
Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015) included a specific call for
increased commitment to education for this and other marginalized groups,
as a matter of human rights. These declarations, and others, reflect growing
recognition of ocial neglect in considering and finding solutions to the
needs of PwD globally. Many governments have come to embrace the idea that
supporting education is the most productive investment a society can make
in its people, but they are less than pro-active when it comes to supporting
education for this group. People with disabilities — of all kinds, and in all parts
of the world — are far more likely to face diculty finding work; they remain
a substantial portion of populations whose skills and aptitudes are often
underexplored and untapped.
In this report, our colleagues at the University of Cambridge provide a
comprehensive review of literature, sketching a portrait intended to deepen
understanding of disability in its various models. They explain how it may
be measured, and examine the needs for inclusive, quality education. The
authors press for greater financial commitment by government to support
stated policies and existing legislation regarding people with disabilities
of all ages. A substantial part of the report is devoted to country studies of
India and the England, outlining perspectives and priorities in these vividly
contrasting environments.
Reflecting on policy and practice, the report frames its approach with a
detailed examination of the ‘Three Rs’ — Rights, Resources, and Research. The
authors call for strong alliances among researchers and those with disabilities
as the most eective means for change advocacy. They highlight the need for
deeper research into the discrete aspects of disability — such as gender, socio-
economic status, cultural and geographic elements — to design and provide
the appropriate education choices for PwD.
This broad examination of education for people with disabilities makes a
useful contribution to the WISE Research series. Better research and evidence
to evaluate the impact of policies is key to eective, strategic activism. As our
authors explore more deeply the myriad aspects of education, we hope that
they will continue to call out government failure to keep commitments, and to
press for vigorous monitoring and accountability.
Stavros N. Yiannouka
Executive Summary
ducation for all cannot be realized without the inclusion of all marginalized
groups, and particularly children with disabilities. Inclusive quality
education is crucial to creating interconnected societies based on values of
social justice, equity of opportunities and freedom.
Our focus in this report is on the education of children with disabilities. We
critically review the literature in order to develop a deeper and more nuanced
understanding of the key issues and debates in the field of disability and
education. Drawing on what has been achieved so far, we propose a new
Three Rs model: ‘Rights, Resources and Research’. We argue that in order
to achieve inclusive quality education we need to focus on these three
interrelated aspects.
Across the globe there is growing focus on the benefits of inclusive quality
education for all children. The Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015)
make an explicit commitment to children with disabilities, and other
marginalized groups, to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education
and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (Goal 4). Despite
some progress, children with disabilities remain the most marginalized in
education. Estimates provided by various international organisations suggest
that high numbers of children with disabilities in the global South do not
go to school. Of those children with disabilities who do make it through the
door, they are half as likely to transition to secondary school as their peers
without disabilities. Gender also plays a pivotal role; girls with disabilities
are less likely to complete primary education than boys with disabilities. The
Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015) clearly recognize that this gap
must be closed, as the international community more explicitly addresses the
challenges of quality and equity.
Structure of the report
This report is organized in four sections.Section one gives an overview of
the global mandates and the developments that have been made in the past
three decades to ensure and uphold the rights of children with disabilities in
education, particularly in mainstream settings. Based on our review of the
literature we note that there are three significant and interrelated rationales
for investing in the education of children and young people with disabilities.
We highlight available evidence on each of these, namely the human rights
argument, evidence in relation to economic development and the motivation
that inclusive schools are better schools for all children.
Section two focuses on mapping out the dierent understandings of disability.
Here we track the developments in conceptualizing disability from the
medical model to the most current bio-psycho-social model, often used in
international literature. We also address the strengths and challenges in
measuring the prevalence of disability. We make the point that disability is
a social and cultural construct and that the legal definition of disability also
diers across contexts thus presenting challenges when trying to establish
cross national rates. We then discuss in detail the progress made by the
Washington Group on Disability in establishing a common language on
disability. Drawing on their work we discuss how questions on disability when
framed using a functional approach can provide significant insights into the
range of diculties that people face. Thus helping countries plan provision for
people with disabilities across a range of sectors. We conclude this section be
reiterating the World Report on Disability’s (WHO, 2011) final recommendation
that disability research much be strengthened and supported.
Section three elucidates two contrasting country contexts, India and England.
We examine these two countries, one in the global South and one in the
global North, both with strong histories of disability legislation. In the case
of India, we examine policy perspectives and provide an overview of the two
key government supported national level programs: Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan
and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikhsha Abhiyan. Despite increases in enrolment
rates for children with disabilities, our review suggests that schools remain
ill-prepared to accommodate these children and struggle to oer them quality
education. We discuss the enrolment data in detail, while also reviewing
the impairment categories used in the national school survey, the District
Information System for Education (DISE). Drawing on insights gathered
from school and classroom based studies, we identify four key areas of focus,
namely (1) training of mainstream teachers, (2) recognising special educators
as important resource for supporting mainstream classrooms, particularly
teachers, (3) promoting the use of cost eective teaching aids and adaptations
to school infrastructure and (4) supporting students with disabilities to be part
of the school culture.
In the case of England, we present legislation which has recently been
implemented, including the new Special Educational Needs Code of Practice
(DfE, 2015). We put forward the argument that the language used within the
new legislation fails to incorporate concepts from the social model of disability
and retains a medicalized lens. Similar, to the Indian case, we provide an
overview of the development of inclusive education in England and elucidate
the current educational status of children with special educational needs. We
use disaggregated data to explore dierent intersecting variables, and proer
that children with special educational needs from black and minority ethnic
groups are likely to experience multiple levels of exclusion. Additionally,
we also highlight the disparity in educational outcomes for those with
and without special educational needs. Finally, drawing on the literature
regarding what works in inclusive education in England we expand on
three key issues: (1) the nature and ecacy of support provided by teaching
assistants, (2) need for developing an inclusive curriculum and finally (3) the
need for better teacher education
Section four concludes this report by proposing the Three R’s model: ‘Rights,
Resources and Research’, which provides a framework for moving forward the
debates on inclusive quality education. We assert that if inclusive education is
to be achieved then the interrelated aspects of rights, resources and research
must all be addressed. Central to our rights argument we assert that, as well
as rights to and in education, persons with disabilities have the right to be
counted. Gathering rigorous disaggregated data on disability is essential
to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities are met. We reiterate the
importance of resources — human, material and infrastructural, in order to
develop inclusive quality education systems. Finally, we assert the need for
rigorous research involving strong alliances between researchers in the field
of disability and development and people with disabilities themselves. This
will ensure that the research conducted is inclusive and responds to real life
concerns. Finally, we highlight the challenges of influencing policy through
research. We conclude by arguing that research must be accompanied by
strategic activism if it is to eect change.
Reflection on terminology
Before we begin, we wish to acknowledge the tensions surrounding the
term ‘disability’. When writing in a general context we use the term ‘children
with disabilities’ or ‘persons with disabilities’. However, with respect to
each country context we use the appropriate terminology in line with local
policy — for India, ‘children with special needs’ and England, ‘children with
special educational needs and/or disabilities’. Both countries define ‘special
needs’ and ‘special educational needs’ rather dierently and these concepts
have been subject to much analysis and debates, highlighting various
limitations in their usage. While we raise some of these issues in various
sections of the Report, we have decided to use person first language to
forefront the individual. Additionally, we have decided to use the concept
of disability/disabilities, while being wholly mindful of the heterogeneity
of the population we are focusing on. The aim here is to acknowledge that
terminology is highly political in nature, and its usage must be person,
contextual and culturally sensitive.
Within this report, global North and South are used in order to highlight the
“fundamental economic inequality between the two blocs which results in
inequalities in the standard of living, resources available and domination by
the Northern bloc in international development” (Singal, 2010, p. 417). These
terms do not refer solely to a geographical divide; rather, they place nations
together broadly along the lines of ‘rich’ and ‘poor’. Notably, most countries
under the term global South have a colonial history. Despite some criticism
of these terms in the literature (Crossley & Watson, 2003), we have chosen to
use these to avoid the inherent bias situated within the terms ‘developed’ and
‘developing’ countries suggesting a “transmission of knowledge from so-called
developed to developing nations” and a lack of recognition of the rich histories
of many of the so called ‘developing countries’ (Singal 2010, p. 417).
ASER: Annual Status of Education Report
ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder
BESD: Behavioral, Emotional and Social Diculties
BME: Black and Minority Ethnic Groups
CFA: Children and Families Act
CPD: Continuing Professional Development
CWSN: Children with Special Needs
DCF: Data Capture Format
DfE: Department for Education
DFID: Department for International Development
DPOs: Disabled People’s Organizations
EAL: English as an Additional Language
EFA: Education for All
EHC: Education Health Care (plan)
EMIS: Educational Management and Information System
FSM: Free School Meals
GDP: Gross Domestic Product
ICD10: International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related
Health Problems
ICF: International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
IEDC: Integrated Education for the Disabled Children
IEDSS: Inclusive Education of Disabled at Secondary Stage
IEPs: Individualized Educational Plans
ILO: International Labour Organization
IQ: Intelligence Quotient
ITE: Initial Teacher Education
LAC: Looked after Child
MHRD: Ministry of Human Resource and Development
MLD: Moderate Learning Disability
MSJE: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
NCERT: National Council of Educational Research and Training
NCTE: National Council for Teacher Education
NSS: National Sample Survey
NUEPA: National University of Educational Planning and Administration
OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OHCHR: Oce of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights
ONS: Oce of National Statistics
PE: Physical Education
PMLD: Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities
PwD: Persons with Disabilities
RCI: Rehabilitation Council of India
RMSA: Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan
RMSA-TCA: Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan-Technical
Cooperation Agency
RTE: Right to Education
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals
SEMH: Social Emotional Mental Health
SEN: Special Educational Needs
SEN CoP: Special Educational Needs Code of Practice
SEN/D: Special Educational Needs and/or disabilities
SES: Socio-Economic Status
SLCN: Speech Language and Communication Needs
SpLD: Specific Learning Disabilities
SSA: Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan
U-DISE: Unified District Information System for Education
UNCRC: United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
UNCRPD: United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities
UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization
UNICEF: United Nations International Children’s Fund
UPIAS: Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation
Chapter 1
Including Children with Disabilities
in Education
he first section of this report provides an overview of the key developments
in international discourse that have supported the inclusion of children
with disabilities in mainstream educational eorts. Subsequently, based
on an analysis of the existing literature, we identify three key themes which
provide a strong rationale for the education of children with disabilities.
For this report, we have drawn on the work of prominent researchers in
both southern and northern contexts focussing on inclusive education,
and specifically, the education of children with disabilities. We drew on
academic articles in international and national peer reviewed journals as
well as academic books. Given the paucity of academic articles, in certain
areas we have drawn on grey literature to help develop various arguments.
This literature consisted of reports and case studies published by various
international and bilateral donor agencies.
An overview of global mandates
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote
lifelong learning opportunities for all.
(Goal 4, Sustainable Development Goals, UN 2015)
Education of children with disabilities is part of the international mandate,
as noted in the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs have provided a
strong directive for the global community to address the historical exclusion
of people with disabilities in all areas of life. Relating to education, Goal 4
categorically notes the need to “eliminate gender disparities in education
and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for
the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous people and
children in vulnerable situations” by 2030 (Target 4.5). It goes on to mandate
the need to “build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability
and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent inclusive and eective
learning environments for all” (Target 4.A). This explicit inclusion of persons
with disabilities in the SDGs has provided a significant impetus for action
for both international and national stakeholders working in diverse fields,
including education, health and livelihoods.
The SDGs have been particularly powerful given that the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) (UN, 2000), drafted and adopted by the
international community at the turn of the century, and central in addressing
development eorts, completely overlooked the needs of persons with
disabilities. Prior to the establishment of the SDGs, the UN explicitly
acknowledged the “invisible” status of persons with disabilities in mainstream
development, and highlighted that “greater eorts are needed to ensure that
development processes include persons with disabilities to help realize the
overall objective of the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities
in society” (UN, 2013).
The SDGs very clearly build on the many proclamations made in relation to
the education of children with disabilities. For instance, at the World Education
Forum in 2000, it was asserted that, “Education is a fundamental human right
of all people — of value in and of itself, for improving the quality of life, and as
an essential part of social and human development” (UNESCO, 2000). Article
3 of the declaration, Universalizing Access and Promoting Equity, made a
recommitment to the goals set out in 1990 observing:
The learning needs of the disabled demand special attention.
Steps need to be taken to provide equal access to education to
every category of disabled persons as an integral part of the
education system. (UNESCO, 2000, p. 75)
It is widely acknowledged that the Salamanca Conference of 1994 proposed
fundamental policy shifts required to include children with special
educational needs. A commitment was made to promote the approach of
inclusive education. Providing unequivocal support to developing an inclusive
system, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs
Education noted:
Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most
eective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating
welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and
achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an eective
education to the majority of children and improve the eciency
and ultimately the cost-eectiveness of the entire education
system. (UNESCO, 1994, Article 2. p. ix)
Over the years, there have been key international and many regional
milestones in eorts toward promoting the education of children with
disabilities, and these are outlined in Illustration 1.
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
Illustration 1. Key international mandates on the education of Children with Disabilities
Rationale for investing in the education of people with disabilities
In reviewing the literature to make the case for investing in education of
people with disabilities, three prominent themes emerged: (1) the rights
argument, (2) an economic rationale, and finally (3) how inclusive schools
benefit all children. These themes are not mutually exclusive and are
significantly interrelated in helping make a strong argument for the need to
educate all children, including those with disabilities. We develop each of
these in detail with supporting evidence.
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
1. Rights based arguments
Writing on political theory and liberal political thought, Nussbaum (2000)
argues that all human beings “just by being human, are of equal dignity
and worth, no matter where they are situated in society” (p. 57). The notion
of all human beings being of equal worth underpins the rights based
argument supporting the education of people with disabilities. Over the
years, the coming together of various international organizations and the
proclamations of various goals have made a clear and coherent case for why
inclusion of persons with disabilities is a fundamental human right. Children
with disabilities have until recently remained relatively invisible in eorts
to achieve universal access to primary education. It has become clear that,
without targeted measures to help them overcome multiple barriers, the goals
of Education for All (EFA) will not be achieved. By focusing on educating
the most marginalized there is a strong commitment to creating schools
that respect and value diversity. The aim therefore is to promote democratic
principles and a set of values and beliefs relating to equity and social justice so
that all children can participate in learning.
At the core of inclusive education, as Sandkull (2005) highlights is the basic
right to education, which is rooted in many international human rights treaties
since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 (UN,1948).
Following this declaration, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
the Child (UNCRC) mandated, in Article 28, that every child has the right
to education (UN, 1989). Additionally, in Article 29 it states that the goal of
education is to fully develop every aspect of a child’s personality and ability,
suggesting therefore that children must have the right to fully participate in
all aspects of their education (UN, 1989). The United Nations Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) underlines, in Article 3, the
right for “full and eective participation and inclusion in society” (UN, 2006).
Moreover, Article 24 focussing on Education, decrees children should not be
“excluded” from education on the grounds of disability (UN, 2006). Therefore,
an occurrence where a child is excluded from education due to disability can
be seen as a breach of human rights.
‘Equality’ and ‘equity’ are terms often used interchangeably in education
discourse (Espinoza, 2007). Nevertheless, a clear distinction should be made
between the two when considering rights based arguments for education
children with disabilities. It has been argued that:
Equity is more than equality. As with justice, it is abstract and
less susceptible to definition. Equality on the other hand, as
a general standard conveys an element of prescription and
measurability. Whilst justice may be commonly defined as
giving everyone his due, the term equality more specifically
refers to division, partition and redistribution…equity in its
broadest sense encompasses justice, equality, humanity, morality,
and right (Alexander & Melcher cited in Johns 1979, p. 119).
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
It is equity as described here, in fact, that is mandated in the UNCRPD and
SDGs where a more equitable approach is taken decreeing that reasonable
adjustments should be made for people with disabilities and that all
facilities should be disability sensitive (UN, 2006; UN, 2015). The nuance
of equity, equality and reasonable accommodation is demonstrated in
Illustration 2 below. The left side of the illustration serves to depict equality,
where everyone is standing on the same level — the resources are equally
distributed, however only one person can reach the fruit. The right side of
the illustration highlights how equity and reasonable accommodation can
help all people to achieve the goal they desire.
Illustration 2. Understanding equity in education
Working towards equitable goals also enables one to pursue wider aims such
as social cohesion. For a number of decades, concerns have been voiced in
relation to the exclusion of persons with disabilities and the impact on society,
Booth (2003) notes:
One of the greatest problems facing the world today is the
growing number of persons who are excluded from meaningful
participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life
of their communities. Such a society is neither ecient nor safe
(p. 3)
In relation to this, it has long been cautioned that schools are shaped to ensure
the continuity of existing structures within society (Spindler, 2000; Bowles
& Gintis, 1976). In the context of EFA, it has been highlighted that education
has “the potential to be used as a vehicle in the reinforcement of authoritarian,
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
discriminatory and anti-democratic practices in society” (Miles & Singal, 2008,
p.3). Exclusion from schooling has the potential to lead to social isolation, to
prevent this Booth (2003) advocates adopting a “developmental approach
in education” (p. 4), aimed at creating an interlinked society with protective
mechanisms for those vulnerable to marginalization. Schools, it is proposed,
must be closely linked with the development of communities and wider
society. Ainscow et al. (2006) argue that it is important to regard schools as
a process through which education in communities can be further developed.
Specifically, the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first
Century underlines the need for education policies that promote a will for
all people to live together (UNESCO, 1996). UNESCO (1996) argues that
educating all children has the potential to create a better society based on “the
ideals of peace, freedom and social justice” (p. 13). Additionally, investing in
children with disabilities through inclusive quality education and inclusive
employment has the potential to contribute to creating societies that are
tolerant, accepting of diversity, equitable and cohesive, benefitting everyone
(WHO, 2011; Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014). This need to change individual
beliefs and systemic practices is crucial in developing a greater acceptance
of the rights, beyond education, of individuals with disabilities. Sidestepping
people with disabilities through exclusionary education systems is likely to
leave them in a cycle of inequality (Grech, 2008). Research based on analysis
of fourteen household surveys in the Global South, conducted on behalf of
the World Bank, highlights that strong correlations exist between poverty
and disability in adulthood where individuals have been marginalized from
education (Filmer, 2008).
2. Economic rationale
Identifying the economic returns to education broadly has been the focus
of many studies (Harmon, 2011). While education has been linked to
improvements in health, decreasing fertility rates, development of democratic
citizenship and the achievement of larger development goals (UNESCO, 2014),
the impact of education on income, both individual and national, has remained
a foremost concern in the literature. Such an economic focus has also been
an important impetus for international organizations to invest in issues of
disability as part of their eorts toward poverty alleviation (ILO, 2002).
Focusing on disability, particularly in contexts with high poverty rates is
important given that these are mutually reinforcing. For example, evidence
suggests that children from poorer households are at greater risk of
malnutrition induced impairments (World Bank, 2009). Similarly, the DFID
(2000) report titled appropriately Disability, Poverty and Development noted
that in many contexts 50 percent of disability is a result of largely preventable
factors, while 20 percent of impairments are caused by malnutrition. Over
the last few decades, there have been important shifts in the prevalence of
dierent types of impairments and in the demographic spread of people with
disabilities. At a global level, survival rates for low birth-weight infants have
increased directly aecting the prevalence of developmental conditions and
learning impairments (Fujiura & Rutkowski-Kmitte, 2001).
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
In the last 15 years, the cyclical relationship between disability and poverty
has become a central focus in development eorts. DFID (2000) noted
that “disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty” (p. 1). There is
increasing evidence to suggest that being poor dramatically increases the
likelihood of being born with impairment. This is not surprising as people
living in poverty have limited access to basic health care, have insucient
and/or unhealthy food, poor sanitation facilities, and an increased risk and
likelihood of living and working in hazardous conditions. Similarly, since
people with disabilities are systematically excluded from basic health care
services, political and legal processes, formal/informal education and
employment, they are likely to have significantly reduced income-generating
opportunities, thus leading to poverty (Yeo & Moore, 2003). Therefore,
not surprisingly people with disabilities are usually disproportionately
represented amongst the poorest of the poor.
Some of the pathways through which people with disabilities slide into poverty
and remain poor are identified in Braunholtz’s (2007) analysis of chronic
poverty more generally. Braunholtz (2007) notes that not all chronically poor
people are born into long term deprivation, rather many slide into chronic
poverty after a shock or series of shocks that they cannot recover from: these
shocks include ill health and injury. He goes on to suggest that the long-term
poor who are not economically active because of health, age, physical or
mental disability, are more likely to face enduring poverty, as the exit routes
available to them are limited (Braunholtz, 2007). Thus, not only are people
living in poverty likely to be at a greater risk of acquiring impairments, but
once disabled they are more likely to stay poor and are also at a greater risk of
passing on this deprivation to the next generation. Kothari and Hulme (2003)
also highlights similar findings through their analysis of the life history of a
poor two-person household in Bangladesh and (among other things) concludes
that disability is an “important factor in understanding why poor people stay
poor” (p. 16).
The complex relationship between disability and poverty changes based on
each country context (Mitra et al., 2011), making factors which contribute
to economic gains dicult to measure. Thus, as yet, it is dicult to make
a universalized claim about the economic benefits of taking a disability-
inclusive approach. Nevertheless, examples exist demonstrating fiscal losses.
The exclusion of people with disabilities from education and the workforce
also has a cost to society through the loss of productivity, loss of taxes, a
decreased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the need for spending on
disability-specific programs which are shown to be less cost eective than
mainstreaming (Myers, Pinnock & Suresh, 2016; Walton, 2012). In terms of
costs to the economy, it is estimated that in the Philippines exclusion from
the workforce for people with unrepaired cleft lips and palettes results in a
tax revenue loss of approximately nine million US dollars (Morgon Banks &
Polack, 2014). In Bangladesh, it is thought that the low education of persons
with disabilities and their subsequent exclusion from the workforce results in
26 million US dollar deficit to the economy (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014).
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
Thus, not surprisingly it is strongly argued that investing in education of
children with disabilities, through disability inclusive development, is likely
to lead to significant economic outcomes including increased earnings, labour
productivity and revenue (Myers, Pinnock & Suresh, 2016; Walton, 2012). Based
on educational modelling for the general population it has been suggested
that for every additional year of schooling there is a ten percent increase in
individuals earning (Psacharopolous & Patrinos, 2004). Even though there is
an absence of such analysis specifically in relation to persons with disabilities,
it is likely that there would be a similar positive eect for additional years of
schooling for people with disabilities. Recent work undertaken by Lamichhane
(2015) indicates that in the case of Nepal, educating children with sensory or
physical impairments would lead to a 20 percent wage increase. Similar results
were noted by Liao and Zhao (2013) in their research covering parts of rural
and urban areas in China; they noted that for each additional year of schooling
there is a five to 8 percent wage increase for persons with disabilities.
However, despite international mandates to leave ‘no one behind’, many
governments “lack the political will to make their education systems
disability-inclusive, and believe the returns on investing in schooling for
children with disabilities will be low” (Myers, Pinnock & Suresh, 2016, p. 10).
Loryman and Meeks (2016) argue that this belief stems from the notion of
‘Value for Money’ (VfM) often being conceptualized and utilized narrowly,
incorrectly equating “the best impact with the one that reaches the most
people for the lowest cost” (p. 5). This view of VfM, they rightly note, has a
negative impact on those who are most marginalized, often persons with
disabilities. Persons with the most complex needs and those with profound
and multiple disabilities or those intersecting inequalities are most likely to be
at risk from exclusion as they are more challenging or more expensive to reach
(Loryman & Meeks, 2016). Thus, if the aim is to reduce poverty for everyone,
educate everyone, and leave no one behind, “an intervention with a low cost
per beneficiary that only reaches those who are easiest to reach is not eective”
(p. 8). VfM must therefore transcend the notion of “a simple calculation of cost
and quantitative output” (Loryman & Meeks, 2016, p. 5); rather it should focus
on the “optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes” (National
Audit Oce, n.d.). Here the intended outcomes being the need to deliver
quality education for all children.
3. Inclusive schools are better schools for all
Inclusive schools, and inclusive education systems, go beyond ensuring
children with disabilities are fully included in all aspects of education.
Inclusive education is argued to be a process of systemic change that must
take place at every level to build classrooms, educational systems and
communities based on an “ecology of equity” (Aincow et al., 2012, p.198).
Ainscow et al. (2012) assert that student’s outcomes are not only based on
teacher’s practice, but are also connected to process’ that exist outside school,
such as socio-economic status (SES). Factors outside of school (such as SES),
as well as in school (such as teaching) must be addressed in order to achieve
inclusive education and thus more equitable and quality learning for all children.
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
Developing better schools for all aims to reduce barriers to participation,
as well as barriers to learning, for all students, not only those identified as
having special educational needs. The focus is therefore on restructuring
the education system at each level to ensure inclusive policies and inclusive
practices as well as working towards fostering inclusive school cultures.
Whole-school reform, based on the principles of inclusive education, focusses
on the whole person. This reform begins with the concept that everyone is
dierent — rather than just those with disabilities. This means, at a policy level,
putting “flexibility and variation at the centre, structurally as well as in terms
of content, with the goal of oering every individual a relevant education”
(UNESCO, 2005, p. 16, emphasis authors’ own).
Additionally, research indicates that the active inclusion of children with
disabilities in mainstream settings does not have a significant negative impact
on children without disabilities (Farrell et al., 2007). Instead, it is likely that
inclusive schools are positive for all children (Thomas, Walker & Webb, 1998).
One of the key understandings to promote inclusive education in the
classroom is “viewing dierences between children and between adults as
a resource for learning” (UNICEF, 2011, p.6). In relation to pedagogy, taking
a dierentiated approach to teaching, which accounts for student dierence,
will benefit all children and increase engagement (Sebba & Ainscow, 1996;
Visser, 1993; Tomlinson, 2014). Moreover, having children with dierent levels
of ability in one class enables pupils to gain skills in supporting each other
(Sebba & Sachdev, 1997), opening the “learning potential of each student rather
than [having] a hierarchy of cognitive skills” (UNICEF, 2011, p. 6). This is
reiterated in the work of Florian (1998) who argues that inclusive education
needs to have “a positive attitude about the learning abilities of all pupils”
(p. 21). Promoting inclusive practices involves developing “social learning
process” that change people’s actions as well as the thinking that informs the
actions (Ainscow, 2005, p. 112). Ainscow et al. (2012) highlight the need to oer
space for educationalists to reflect on deeply held beliefs that prevent moves
towards inclusive education.
Inclusive education means mobilizing resources eectively. Having adequate
resources such as “teaching materials, special equipment, additional
personnel, new teaching approaches” (UNESCO, 2005, p. 18), which are not
only for children with disabilities but accessible to every student, ensures
that all children can fully access the curriculum. Moreover, having trained
teachers and support sta who have experience of working with behavioral
needs enables every child to get the adequate support they need, not only
those identified as having challenging behavior. Ainscow et. al, (2012)
highlight the benefit of school-to-school collaboration as a way to eective
share expertise and best practice. Notably, they highlight that extensive work
research collaboration between schools has the potential to eect system wide
improvement particularly in challenging areas (Ainscow et al., 2012).
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
In addition to enriching learning process through better teaching and
system wide reform, having the opportunity for all children to learn
together is a starting point for fostering inclusive school cultures. Inclusive
education is a way to build community and instil inclusive values. Having
an environment where all children learn together, teaches children about
“tolerance, acceptance of dierence and respect for diversity” (UNICEF, 2011,
p. 6). Furthermore, beyond disability, diverse classrooms have the ability to
“eliminate social exclusion that is a consequence of attitudes and responses to
diversity in race, social class, ethnicity, religion, gender and ability” (Ainscow,
2005, p. 109). Thus, it is argued that the notion of inclusive education must
extend beyond the school gate and out into society in supporting the
development of inclusive communities. An Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2007) report entitled No more
failure: Ten steps to equity in education argued that “tackling school
failure helps to overcome the effects of social deprivation which often
causes school failure” (p. 11).
Chapter 1 — Including Children with Disabilities in Education
Chapter 2
Understanding Disability
he second section of this report provides an overview of the key
developments in conceptualizing and measuring the prevalence of
disability. This section outlines how the concept of disability has evolved
over the years, with a specific focus on discussing current approaches
to understanding disability as a bio-psycho-social condition, rather than
approaching it from an individual deficit perspective. These shifts in paradigms
are important as they have a significant impact on societal perceptions toward
disability and in shaping provision, including educational eorts.
Medical model
Historically, the most prevalent way of conceptualizing disability, the medical
model, relies on the distinction between that which is ‘normal’ and that
which is ‘pathological’ (Wade et al., 1996). It makes meaning of experiences
of persons with disabilities in terms of what it considers as objective, innate
conditions that limit their ability to participate with others. The primary
concern in such an understanding of disability is on diagnosing the source of
deviance, which is carried out by an ‘expert’ and then intervention to treat the
problem. The medicalization of disability is a central feature in this approach,
wherein the focus is on sickness, diagnosis and treatment, all carried out by a
medical or rehabilitation professional.
The medical model argues that the source of pathology lies in the individual
and hence their needs to be treated or ‘fixed’ which is best carried out in
institutions which are specifically designed for them, such as special schools
or rehabilitation centers. It is therefore assumed that children with the same
disability, diagnosed with the help of standardized measures, would benefit
from the same kinds of services and curriculum, making it legitimate to place
them in a segregated classroom with groups of children classified with the
same disability category. This reliance on specialist provision was the case
in many countries both in global South as well as in the global North. In the
1970s, there were a significant number of special schools, sometimes very
impairment specific, such as schools for the deaf, being set up by various
charitable organizations in Southern contexts.
Baglieri and Shapiro (2012) rightly contend that the view of disability as purely
medical is analogous to viewing gender as gynaecological or racial issues as
dermatological. Over the years there have been powerful accounts by disabled
people themselves (for example, Oliver 1996, Rioux 1996) of how the embodied
experiences of impaired sight, hearing, learning or movement actually cause
fewer barriers to them living their full lives than the loss of power, dignity,
discrimination and intolerance that they experience in relation to others’
perceptions of disability. These accounts, which shaped the conceptualization
of the social model of disability, have been extremely powerful in challenging
medical assumptions around disability.
Social model
Based on the work of large number of Disabled People’s Organizations
(DPOs) highlighting the need to look beyond the physiological and cognitive
aspects of disability, the 1970s saw a noteworthy shift in the conceptualization
of disability. Initiated by activists in the Union of the Physically Impaired
Against Segregation (UPIAS) in the United Kingdom and developed
academically by Vic Finkelstein (1980; 1981), Colin Barnes (1991) and most
notably, Mike Oliver (1990; 1996), the social model proposed that ‘disability’
did not lie in the individual, rather it was the economic, social and other
structures which were disabling. Thus, it was not the individual who was
‘deviant’, rather, the problem was located in societal oppression. Though this
movement was strongly anchored in Northern countries, it had strong impact
on global discourses on disability and successfully challenged the historically
individualistic and deficit oriented view of persons with disabilities. The social
model also had an impact on terminology with those ascribing to the model
of using the term ‘disabled people’ rather than ‘persons with disabilities’ to
highlight oppression, particularly in Northern contexts.
The social model moved thinking away from ‘fixing’ the individual
with disabilities to looking at modifications and changes in the broader
environment. There was greater acknowledgment that people were unable to
participate in society, not because of their inherent physiological or cognitive
condition, but rather because of societal barriers, both physical, such as
stairs rather than ramps for wheel chairs, and socio-cultural, such as stigma
and prejudice associated with disability. In the words of those in UPIAS
“Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments. Disabled people
are therefore an oppressed group in society” (UPIAS cited in Oliver 1996, p.
22). This model was highly significant in forefronting the rights of people with
disabilities and has been called the “big idea” of the Northern (and specifically
British) disability movement (Hasler, 1993). Specifically, it conceptualized
three key arguments promoting the rights of disabled people: (1) disabled
people are an oppressed group in society, (2) the demarcation of impairment
and disability, (3) disability being understood as social oppression rather than
the manifestation of impairment (Shakespeare & Watson, 2001).
However, the social model was not without criticism. One of the first criticisms
came from within the movement itself, and focused on the lack of lived
experience of impairment in the conceptualizations of this model. Morris
(1991) detailing her experience of paralysis and “acute physical pain” (p. 7),
argued that there is “a tendency within the social model of disability to deny
the experience of our own bodies, insisting that our physical dierences and
restrictions are entirely socially created” (p. 11). Disabled feminists such as
Morris (1991) critiqued the lack of space within the social model to talk about
the lived experience of being disabled and a woman. The argument that the
model enforced a fixed political ideology and identity on those who experience
‘impairment’, and that there was little space for a multiplicity of identity,
particularly those of gender, sexuality and race was raised by others (Morris,
1991; Clare, 1999; Shakespeare et al., 1996).
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
Shakespeare and Watson (2001) have argued that the prolific success of the
social model in reshaping disability (both politically and the way disabled
people think of themselves) has led to the model becoming its own weakness.
They argue that the social model has created such precedence that it has
become a “sacred cow” which is dicult to challenge (Shakespeare & Watson,
2001, p. 11). Furthermore, the politically charged nature of the social model has
led to what is often termed the ‘strong’ version where for political expedience
the social model was simplified into the slogan: “disabled by society not by
our bodies” (Shakespeare & Watson, 2001, p. 11), creating a dichotomy of
oppressors and the oppressed. To become an activist, one had to focus only
on social oppression and not on impairment. Shakespeare and Watson (2001)
argue the inconsistency as troubling, “if the rhetoric says one thing, while
everyone behaves privately in a more complex way, then perhaps it is time to
re-examine the rhetoric and speak more honestly” (p. 12).
Contemporary understandings of disability have moved beyond these
binaries of medical and social models of disability to a greater appreciation
that disability experiences are shaped both by environmental factors as well
individual bodies.
Bio-psycho-social model of disability
The World Health Organization (WHO, 2002) has been a key player in
furthering this approach through the development of the International
Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The ICF proposes
an integration of the medical and social approaches. It considers disability
and functioning as outcomes of interactions between health conditions
(diseases, disorders and injuries) and contextual factors (WHO, 2002). Among
contextual factors are external environmental factors (for example, social
attitudes, legal and social structures, natural and built environment, products
and technology); and internal personal factors, which include gender, age,
coping styles, social background, education, profession, past and current
experience, motivation and self-esteem all of which can influence how much a
person participates in society (WHO, 2002).
In the ICF, problems with human functioning are categorized in three
interconnected areas: (i) impairments are problems in body function or
alterations in body structure — for example, paralysis or blindness; (ii) activity
limitations are diculties in executing activities — for example, walking
or eating; (iii) participation restrictions are problems with involvement
in any area of life — for example, facing discrimination in employment or
transportation (WHO, 2002). Disability refers to diculties encountered
in any or all three areas of functioning. Fundamentally, disability is
conceptualized as being the result of the interaction of health conditions
with contextual factors — environmental and personal factors as shown in
Illustration 3 below.
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
Illustration 3. ICF model of disability (WHO, 2002, p. 9)
The ICF adopts neutral language and does not distinguish between the type
and cause of disability — for instance, between ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ health.
‘Health conditions’ are diseases, injuries, and disorders, while ‘impairments’
are specific decrements in body functions and structures, often identified as
symptoms or signs of health conditions (WHO, 2002).
It is universal because it covers all human functioning and treats disability
as a continuum rather than categorizing people with disabilities as a separate
group: disability is a matter of more or less, not yes or no. It is also an essential
planning tool, in instances where policy-making and service delivery might
require thresholds to be set for impairment severity, activity limitations, or
participation restriction (WHO, 2011). It has been successfully used for a range
of purposes, including the development of health and disability surveys.
This view of disability, which positions it as part of the human condition is
central in the discussions of the World Disability Report (WHO, 2011). There
is growing acknowledgement that almost everyone will be temporarily or
permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive to old
age will experience increasing diculties in functioning. Therefore, it is
no surprise that disability is commonly regarded as a multi-dimensional,
dynamic and complex construct. Disability is not homogeneous or static in
nature. People with disabilities are highly heterogeneous and have diverse
personal characteristics with dierences in gender, age, socioeconomic
status, sexuality and ethnicity, which intersect in a multitude of ways making
disability a hugely personal experience. While disability does correlate
significantly with disadvantage and exclusion from various aspects of life,
not all people with disabilities are equally disadvantaged. Here issues of
gender, where women with disabilities are more likely to be at a disadvantage
than men with disabilities; type of impairment, for example a person with
diculties in walking and lifting will be more disadvantaged in a rural
agrarian setting, and so on, are likely to play out. Conversely, wealth and
status can help overcome activity limitations and participation restrictions.
Contextual factors
Body Functions
& Structure
(disorder or disease)
Health condition
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
Such a nuanced approach toward understanding disability has been very
powerful in changing current discourses around ability and disability. This
is most powerfully captured in discussions on how to measure disability.
Nevertheless, the social model still remains politically salient and powerful
within the disability movement itself.
Measuring disability: Establishing prevalence rates
Countries define disability dierently; the definitions change within a country
with evolving legal, political and social discourse. Notably, challenges
exist not only in establishing cross-national rates, but dierences also exist
between national contexts due to varying definitions of disability used in
surveys. For example, in India, Jeery and Singal (2008) explain how the
census and NSS used radically dierent definitions for four of the five major
kinds of impairments. Linguistic challenges in gathering data on disability in
dierent settings is also discussed by Lwanga-Ntale (2003). Reflecting on his
research on chronic poverty and disability in Uganda, Lwanga-Ntale (2003)
noted that defining disability was “rather problematic” (p. 4), as the term when
translated into the local language was commonly used for those with physical
impairment, mostly of upper and lower limbs. Hence there was an increased
likelihood of ignoring those with learning diculties, blind, deaf, epileptic, etc.
He observed that in most dialects, there was no single word that translated
into the English word ‘disability’ (Lwanga-Ntale, 2003). Similarly, in Hindi the
word “viklang” used commonly for ‘disability’, does not encompass all types
of disabilities, but is only indicative of physical disabilities. Moreover, some of
the language that is used to identify people with disabilities is stigmatizing in
itself. Kiarie (2004) notes that the original Kiswahili word “wasiojiweza” (p.18),
used to refer generally to persons in all categories of disabilities, embodies
an assumption that the individual is incapable of gainful employment and
incapable of caring for themselves.
Other studies aimed at establishing prevalence rates of disability suggest
that not only local perceptions and definitions of disability influence the
identification of disability, but “social dynamics, particularly those of gender
and age; type of disability and the associated social implications and stigma
of that disability” also influence identification.. This was clearly evident in the
findings of Kuruvilla and Joseph’s (1999) study in rural South India. Similarly,
Erb and Harris-White (2001) established that in rural Tamil Nadu the reported
rates of disability were significantly biased toward upper caste Hindus. They
inferred that “scheduled caste people have to be more severely disabled than
inhabitants of the caste settlement before they will publicly acknowledge
their infirmity” (p. 16). It’s not clear why this discrepancy exists. However, it
is likely that a greater willingness to define one as disabled exists when there
are certain benefits in doing so. For instance, in richer industrialized countries
where social security benefits are available, the issue of stigma is balanced
against the advantages in identifying oneself as disabled (Yeo & Moore, 2003).
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
Another factor which influences people’s decision to disclose information
regarding disability in family-oriented cultures is related to the presumption
that there will be an inevitable transfer of the ‘damaged’ life of the individual
with disability to that of the other individuals in the family network. Here, Das
and Addlakha’s (2001) notion of “connected body-selves” is very useful as it
first links the physicality of the body to an individual’s identity and experience,
and second, the meaning of personhood is fused to a network of other body
selves. Thus, by acknowledging the existence of an individual with disabilities
in the household there is an increased risk of the exclusion of other members
from the community. Elwan (1999) notes that “having a disabled person in the
family is sometimes thought to damage marriage prospects” (p. 29), and such
an observation is supported by anecdotal evidence from India and Kenya.
Given the diculties noted above, it is not surprising that a common
observation in a range of research papers, and national and international
reports is the lack of data on disability (WHO, 2011). Traditionally, data on
disability has been gathered by asking a generic question on disability to all
members of population, as part of a national census. In India, like in many
other countries, it was common in the census to ask the question (or its
variant)–‘Are you disabled?’ However, over a period of time such an approach
has been criticised for being limiting given that the underlying assumptions
draw on a medical approach to disability, where disability is seen as a
consequence of disease or an individual’s inability to do something that is
considered ‘normal’. Additionally, disability in such a framework is assumed to
be dichotomous in nature, identified purely by the presence or the absence of a
condition, and hence does not capture its complexity.
In recent years, eorts have been underway to address these gaps by
attempting to operationalize the ICF model in a manner which can assist in
forming a common language around disability which can be incorporated
into population based surveys. The Washington Group (WG) on Disability is
a United Nations sponsored City Group commissioned in 2001 specifically
to improve the quality and international comparability of disability measure.
The first task that the WG undertook was to develop a short set and long
set of questions on disability for adults (Washington Group, 2017a and b). In
2006 and 2009, it successfully adopted these sets of questions for use across
dierent countries.
The WG short set questions ask whether people have diculty performing
basic universal activities in six functional domains: (i) walking, (ii) seeing,
(iii) hearing, (iv) cognition, (v) self-care and (vi) communication (Washington
Group, 2017a). These questions are not designed to measure all aspects of
diculty in functioning that people may experience, but rather these domains
of functioning are those which are likely to identify a majority of people at
risk of participation restrictions. The short set is recommended to be used in
larger surveys. The Extended Set of Functioning (ES-F) covers more domains
of functioning: vision, hearing, mobility, cognition, aect (anxiety and
depression), pain, fatigue, communication, upper body functioning. Using this
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
extended set also captures information on the use of assistive devices/aids,
functioning with and without the use of devices/aids where applicable, age
at onset of functional diculty and the impact of the diculty on certain life
activities (Washington Group, 2017b).
Both the Short Set and the Extended Set are to be used with an adult
population. It was in 2009, that the WG began work on developing a set of
questions intended to measure child and youth disability in surveys. The
Washington Group and UNICEF partnered to propose a Module on Child
Functioning and Disability (Washington Group, 2017c).
The primary purpose of the questions in the module is to identify children
with functional diculties. Doing so is important as these functional
diculties may place children at risk of experiencing limited participation in
an unaccommodating environment, when compared to other children without
these functional diculties. This module focuses on children aged two to
17 years, with two separate versions for children aged two to four years, and
those between five and 17 years, to account for dierences in very early stages
of development. The functional domains identified in the five to 17 years age
group are listed in Illustration 4.
Illustration 4. Washington Group functional domains
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
All child questions in the WG module are meant to be asked of parents
or primary care givers. In order to reference and focus the respondents on
the functioning of their own child in reference to that child’s cohort, where
appropriate, the questions are phrased with the clause: “compared with
children of the same age…” (Washington Group and UNICEF, 2017). Moreover,
given that disability is conceptualized on a continuum from minor diculties
in functioning to major impacts on a person’s life, therefore the answer
categories are designed to reflect this continuum. The response categories for
the majority of the domains are (Washington Group & UNICEF, 2017):
° No diculty
° Some diculty
° A lot of diculty
° Cannot do at all
The module underwent extensive cognitive testing between 2012 and
2014 in India, Belize, Oman, Montenegro and USA in line with established
Washington Group validation procedures. More recently, a draft version of the
module was also used in an independent field test in Cameroon in 2013 and
India in 2014.
Together these developments have provided greater impetus to our ability
to gather reliable data on disability. For instance, the Washington Group
(Madans et al., 2011) highlighted that the 1991 Brazilian census reported
only one to two percent disability rate, but the 2001 census, which used
the WG questions, recorded a 14.5 percent disability rate. Similar jumps
in the measured rate of disability have occurred in Turkey (12.3 percent)
and Nicaragua (10.1 percent). The World Report on Disability (WHO, 2011)
categorically states that the existing “lack of data and evidence…often
impedes understanding and action” (p. 263) in the field across various sectors,
including education. As its final recommendation the report notes the “need to
strengthen and support research on disability” (p. 267).
Chapter 2 — Understanding Disability
Chapter 3
Inclusive Education:
Two country overviews
his section presents two country contexts, India and England.¹ We
illustrate these countries to show the strengths and challenges existing in both
the global South and North. India is an emerging economy, which is regarded
as having one of the strongest legislation focusing on the educational rights
of children with disabilities. The government has undertaken key programs
aimed at including children with disabilities at all levels of the education
system. England, an established economy in the global North, has a strong
historical focus on disability and the British disability movement has had
significant impact shaping international debates both on disability and
inclusive education. Nevertheless, key challenges exist in relation to the
education of children with disabilities. Both countries have been significantly
researched (though with varying degrees) and therefore have considerable
rigorous research published in English which we draw upon in the section
interrogating the literature on inclusive education.
For each country, we begin by setting the policy context by reflecting on key
policy documents and identifying the children with disabilities, however
they are termed in these contexts. We then discuss their educational status,
examining available statistics around enrolment trends, progression and other
relevant indicators. We conclude by critically engaging with the literature,
reflecting on the key strengths and challenges around inclusive education in
each country. Our reflections highlight how some of the key issues in relation
to the education of children with disabilities largely remain the same in both
these very dierent economic, socio-cultural and political settings.
India: Setting the context
India is the largest democracy, home to 17 percent of the world’s population
(Oce of Registrar General, 2011). Currently, around 200 million children
are enrolled in the elementary classes (NUEPA, 2016a). Over the years,
significant progress has been made in improving access to education and
enrolment levels have reached near universal levels. Moreover, India’s
educational inequality has also significantly decreased (Planning Commission,
2013). However, there is great variation in terms of educational participation
based on linguistic, socio-economic and cultural factors, which can result in
significant inequalities in relation to educational access, participation and
achievement for certain groups, particularly those belonging to scheduled
castes, scheduled tribes (SC/ST),² girls and children with disabilities.
Indian school education structure, while common in most states, has slight
variations. Primary education in most states includes, five years (six to 11
years), the next three years are termed as upper primary (11-14 years). These
eight years of education, known as elementary education, are guaranteed as
fundamental rights by the Government of India under the Right to Education
Act, 2009 (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2009). Pre-primary level education is
1. This section only comments on England rather than the entirety of the United Kingdom (UK) due to dierent education
guidelines in each of the four countries constituting the UK.
2. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe are groups of people in India recognized by the Constitution of India as disadvantaged.
Special provisions have been granted to remove barriers for these groups by the government of India.
not compulsory and provisions vary significantly between rural and urban
areas. In parallel to the formal system, the National Institute of Open School
(NIOS) exists, where education is provided through a distance model.
While significant gains have been made, many concerns continue to be raised
particularly in relation to increased drop-out rates, low attendance, and poor
quality of teaching and learning (De et al., 2011; ASER, 2017). For example,
in 2016, ASER³ noted that only 41 percent of class 5 government school
students could read class 2 text as compared to 62 percent of private school
class 5 students. This percentage has more or less remained constant over
the last few years.
According to DISE, three-quarters of the country’s total elementary enrolment
is in rural areas (NUEPA, 2016a). Recently, there has been an increase in the
number of private education providers particularly low fee paying schools, in
areas all over the country, but more so in urban areas. On the whole, education
in the Indian context at elementary level is dominated by government schools
in rural areas and private schools in urban areas (NUEPA, 2016a)
As mentioned earlier, India is recognized as a country that has a strong
positive legal framework in relation to its focus on education of children with
disabilities. In this section, we examine key policies and programs supporting
their education. We then focus on the current educational status and main
challenges facing the education of children with disabilities. We conclude this
country analysis by critically examining the research literature pertaining to
the education of children with disabilities, identifying factors which seem to
support the inclusion of children with disabilities.
The status of children with disabilities: Policy perspectives
Historically, education for children with disabilities has been a part of the
Indian policy discourse. The Kothari Commission (MHRD, 1966) recognised
this in 1966 when it stated that, “education of the handicapped children should
be an inseparable part of the education system” (MHRD, 1966,, 6.43). It also
went onto note that in addition to eorts aimed at getting some children
with disabilities into schools, eorts should also be aimed at setting up “one
good institution for the education of handicapped children in each district
(MHRD, 1966, 6.46). This twin track approach to the education of children
with disabilities has continued in subsequent education policies including
the National Education Policy, 1968, (MHRD, 1968) and the revised National
Education Policy (1986, with revised Plan of Action in 1992) (MHRD, 1986).
This dual approach exists even at the ministry level with general education
managed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the
training of special educators and special education controlled by the Ministry
of Justice and Empowerment (MSJE); thereby “sandwiching the disabled
children between the two ministries” (p. 113, Ghai, 2015).
3. An annual survey assessing the learning of primary school children in rural India.
4. Kothari Commission was set up in 1966 to undertake a comprehensive review of the Education system of the country and
provide principles to guide the education at all levels in the country.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
In more recent years the term ‘inclusive education’ has found its place in
Indian ocial documents. However, there is no consistent definition of
inclusion as indicated in a comprehensive policy analysis undertaken by
Singal (2005, 2006). Both the Action Plan for Inclusive Education of Children
and Youth with Disabilities, (MHRD, 2005) and the National Policy for People
with Disabilities (MSJE, 2006) focus on inclusive education, specifically the
Action Plan states:
Inclusive education as an approach, seeks to address the
learning needs of all children, youth and adults with a specific
focus on those who are vulnerable to marginalization and
exclusion. It implies all learners, young people- with or without
disabilities being able to learn together through access
to common pre-school provisions, schools and community
educational setting with an appropriate network of support
services (MHRD, 2005).
Indian policies and programs on disability have been influenced by the
international declarations on inclusive education (such as the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child; Jomtein Conference, Salamanca Statement). In
1974, the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Integrated Education for the Disabled
Children (IEDC) was one of the first programs addressing the educational
needs of children with disabilities. This scheme, while it provided for financial
assistance for education of children with disabilities, aids and appliances,
salaries of special teachers, cost of setting up of resource centers, had limited
impact because it operated in a project mode and failed to bring systemic
changes (Ghai, 2015).
Over the years, the education of children with disabilities has become a part
of the mainstream education as indicated in Illustration 5, which outlines
the major policies and programmes in India, and discussed further in the
following section.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Illustration 5. Timeline of Indian legislation relating to the education of Children with Disabilities
The 86th Amendment to the Indian constitution determined education
as the fundamental right of children between the age group of six to 14
years. In 2009, this was legalized through the Right of Children to Free and
Compulsory Education Act (RTE) (2009). The act states that every child
between the age of six and 14 years shall have the right to free and compulsory
education in a neighborhood school between grades 1 and 8. While this act
covers all children, children with disabilities were only specifically included
in the act through an amendment passed in 2012 and were defined as a
“disadvantaged group” (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2012).
While there is little evidence in relation to the impact of RTE, a study carried
out by the NGO Arth-Astha (2013) provides some useful reflections. Based on
data collected from 150 poor families with a child with disabilities from Delhi,
Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, it was argued that while admission was no longer
a barrier, the lack of preparedness of the school system, such as absence of
transport facilities, drinking water and toilets were significant barriers (Arth-
Astha, 2013). These findings are very similar to that of Singal (2017) who noted
that the biggest concerns that parents of children with disabilities noted
were to do with the lack of learning in school, rather than barriers to access.
Nonetheless, the RTE (2009) has been significant in providing the legal
mandate to support education of all children.
A key legislation supporting the education of children with disabilities has
been the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (Ministry of Law and
Justice, 2016). After India ratified the United Nations Convention of the Rights
of the Persons with Disabilities (UN, 2006), concerns were raised in PwD Act
(1995) with regard to the lack of coverage of all the rights recognised under
UNCRPD (Singal, 2015). This led to the passing of a new act, “Rights of the
Persons with Disabilities Act” (MLJ, 2016). Illustration 6 highlights specific
measures identified in this act in order to facilitate the education of children
with disabilities (see Illustration 6).
5. The primary unit of implementation of the RTE Act is the government school (schools run by the national and state
governments). Further, government aided schools also have an obligation to provide free and compulsory education subject
to a minimum of 25 per cent annual recurring expenses. Private management schools (not funded by government) are only
obligated to admit children from weaker and disadvantaged group up to 25 percent of the strength in class I.
6. Children with disabilities as identified in the PwD Act (1995) and National Trust Act (1999) are to be provided support under
this Act. However, with the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 being passed, PwD Act (1995) has been repealed.
Therefore, it can be assumed that now all the 21 disabilities covered in the new act will be included.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Illustration 6. Measures enlisted in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016) to promote and facilitate inclusive education (information
from MLJ, 2016)
This Act reiterates the twin track approach by stating that, “every child
with benchmark disability between the ages of six to eighteen years shall
have the right to free education in a neighbourhood school, or in a special
school, of his choice” (MLJ, 2016, p.13). Nonetheless, it is interesting to
note that while issues around quality of education have become important
in mainstream debates on education, the focus in relation to children with
disabilities continues to be on increasing access. This is not to say that access
is not important, given that children with disabilities continue to be most
marginalized (as we will show later), but it is important to acknowledge that
children with disabilities also have a right to quality education.
In order to operationalize education policy objectives, the government
currently supports two national level programs, the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan
(SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikhsha Abhiyaan (RMSA). Both these
programs focus on improving access, quality and outcomes for all children at
primary and secondary level, and within each program there is a strong focus
on children with disabilities (MHRD, 2011; MHRD, n.d.) Illustration 7, below,
gives an overview of each program.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Illustration 7. Overview of Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikhsha Abhiyaan (RMSA)
Both of these programs provide a strong policy impetus for supporting the
education of children with disabilities, however as we highlight in the next
section, significant issues remain in relation to successful implementation.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Current status of education for children with disabilities:
What do the numbers tell us?
We now focus on current enrolment and progression figures of children
with disabilities. In doing so we draw on data collected through the national
Educational Management and Information System (EMIS). The Unified
District Information System for Education (U-DISE) was developed by
National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA)
supported by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) to
collect data from all schools providing education from classes 1 till 12. Data
is collected individually from every school on an annual basis. Each school
is provided with a data capture format (DCF) which covers dierent school,
teacher and pupil characteristics.
Thus, DISE is the most comprehensive annual source of ocial data gathered
at the school level across India and is the only source for data on disabilities.
Schools are asked to provide information on number of children with special
needs enrolled by class and gender and by nature of disability (NUEPA,
2014a). The categories of disability used in the identification process can be
seen in illustration 8.
Illustration 8. Categories of disability (information from NUEPA, 2014a)
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
While we do use this data for our analysis, it is important to highlight that the
manner in which this data is collected raises some important issues, especially
around identification of children. For example, in some cases an assumption
is made that children will have a formal diagnosis of their condition, which
is rarely the case (Jeery & Singal, 2008). Therefore, in the absence of formal
assessments or disability certificates, teachers are required to ‘identify’
children without any formal training. The criterion to categorise children with
dierent disabilities is enlisted in a document prepared by NUEPA and RMSA-
TCA (NUEPA, 2014a) which is provided to all schools. This is an interesting
document which in itself raises some concerns. For example, in identifying
if a child has mental retardation, the document notes that in the absence of
an IQ assessment, the teacher can categorise a child as having mild mental
retardation if the parents have reported the child as having a history of
delayed development in following areas before reaching age of six years:
1. Neck holding not achieved by three months
2. Sitting not achieved by nine months
3. Standing not achieved by 1.5 year
4. Speaking words not achieved by 2.5 years
5. Toilet training not achieved by five years
These symptoms even if present at some point time do not necessarily indicate
presence of mental retardation. The criterion list appears to be too simplistic
to aid a diagnosis. Nonetheless, the U-DISE data is the most widely available
data on educational access for children with disabilities.
An important point on terminology, ocial documents in India tend to use the
term ‘children with special needs’ (CWSN): this is in all cases seen as being
synonymous to children with disabilities. In this section of the report, when
discussing data from India we will use this ocial terminology.
Schooling trends
Since the mid-1990s there has been a significant increase in the enrollment
of children with special needs in primary education (NUEPA, 2014b). The
following figures (1 and 2) show the percentage of children with special needs
to total student enrollment from classes 1 to India at the national level, and
also for key states in India including Delhi, Kerala, Maharashtra and Odisha.
These states have been chosen in order to account for the diversity among
dierent states in India. The data shows that generally there is a trend toward
increasing numbers of children with special needs being enrolled in primary
education. However, from the academic year 2014-15 a decrease in enrollment
is noted.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Figure 1. Percentage of children with special needs in elementary school for India 2011-16 (Authors’ calculations based on NUEPA state report
cards for respective years)
Figure 2. Percentage of children with special needs in elementary schools for select states 2011-16 (Authors’ calculations based on NUEPA state
report cards for respective years)
While there is generally a positive trend in the enrolment of children with
special needs, the data reveals that children with special needs form a very
small proportion of the total pupil enrolment. Variations in the proportion of
children with special needs across states are evident in Figure 2. Kerala has a
significantly higher proportion of children with special needs in comparison to
the national average and other states. It is a state which also has overall strong
educational indicators, for example female and male literacy rates are at 92
percent and 96 percent respectively, which is higher than the national literacy
rate of around 70 percent.
7. The disaggregated data for CWSN at national level for 2010-11 is not available in the state report cards. Also, the children
with special needs figures available in two dierent tables in 2010-11 analytical report does not corroborate. Therefore, data for
2010-11 has not been plotted.
2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16
2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16
Delhi Kerala Maharashta Odisha
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
A low proportion of children with special needs when compared to the total
pupil population is further evident at the secondary and higher secondary
levels as indicated in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Percentage of children with special needs enrolled in education versus the total pupil population 2013-16 (Authors’ calculations based
on NUEPA state report cards for respective years)
Gender is a key factor in the enrollment of children with special needs in
primary education. More boys with special needs are enrolled in primary
education in all states compared to girls with special needs. At the national
level, over the last five years, approximately 42 percent of children with special
needs have been girls whereas 58 percent have been boys, as indicated in
Figure 4.
Figure 4. Proportion of children with special needs enrolled in elementary education 2015-16 disaggregated by gender (Authors’ calculations,
NUEPA 2016a)
2013–14 2014–15 2015–16
Upper Primary
Higher Secondary
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
The type of impairment a child has plays a crucial factor in the likelihood
of the child being enrolled in elementary education. The national level data
indicates that children with mental retardation, low vision and physical
impairment have the highest proportion of school enrolment amongst children
with special needs. Children with autism and cerebral palsy are least likely to
be enrolled in elementary education as indicated in the Figure 5.
Figure 5. Enrollment of children with special needs disaggregated by impairment for India in elementary education 2012-16 (Authors’
calculations based on NUEPA state report cards for respective years)
Transition is another key challenge. The data for the school-year 2015-16
indicated that a significant number of children with special needs are enrolled
in lower primary education however, only half as many children with special
needs are represented in upper primary. Figure 6, shows the distribution of
children with special needs across primary, upper-primary, secondary and
higher secondary at the national level in 2015/16 highlighting the low numbers
of children with special needs in upper years of schooling.
Figure 7 indicates that this distribution trend is consistent across all states,
however, in Delhi the numbers of children with special needs in both primary
and upper primary for children with special needs appears consistent. In
reviewing the data for classes 5-6 we deduce that at the national level only
ten percent of children without special needs failed to move to class 6 as
compared to 20 percent of children with special needs. Similar patterns are
visible across Maharashtra and Odisha where between six and 18 percent of
children with special needs failed to move to class 6. Interestingly, in Delhi,
the enrolment of children with special needs increased by 22 percent in class 6
when compared to class 5; in Kerala the increase was of 16 percent.
cerebral palsy
multiple disability
speech impairment
hearing impairment
learning disability
low vision
mentally retarded
2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Figure 6. Distribution of children with special needs across all educational level in India 2015/16 (Authors’ calculations, NUEPA 2016)
Figure 7. Distribution of children with special needs across education levels in India and select states 2015/16 (Authors’ calculations, NUEPA 2016a)
In contrast, changes in school infrastructure have been significant. For
example, given the high focus on access, the last five years have seen a steady
increase in the number of ramps in schools. Figure 8 indicates the percentage
of elementary schools that have ramps when required to do so. Notably, in
Delhi 100 percent of ramps exist in schools where they are required to do so.
Higher Secondary
Upper Primary
Higher Secondary
Upper Primary
Proportion of CWSN in Indian Education System:
2015-16 (India & Select States)
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Figure 8. Percentages of ramps present in elementary schools where required 2010-2015 (Authors’ calculations based on NUEPA
for respective years)
Thus, data from India highlights that while strong policies and programs exist
in relation to the education of children with special needs, there continues to
be a large number of children who remain out of school. A World Bank study
(2009) noted that children with disabilities are the most excluded group of all
the marginalized groups. Additionally, intersecting variables of gender and
types of impairment have a significant impact on access too, wherein girls
with disabilities have greater barriers to access and children with autism and
cerebral palsy continue to be least likely to be in the education system (World
Bank, 2009). While there is not much evidence on learning outcomes, a study
by NCERT (2012) which involved tests and questionnaires being administered
to a sample of 1.2 million Class 5 students, and 10,851 teachers from 6,602
schools across 27 states and four union territories, noted that “physically
challenged students do substantially worse than the rest of the population” (p.
113). Findings from the study suggested that children who reported to have a
physical impairment scored, on average, 12 scale points less than their peers in
reading comprehension even after controlling for background characteristics.
What works in inclusive education in India: Reflections from the literature
In India, educational research does not have the same status or funding as
seen in other more developed economies. Thus, the amount of literature
available in the field is very limited. In this review, being conscious of
the limited amount of studies in international journals, we made specific
eorts to seek out nationally available literature by visiting the two most
prominent national libraries, National Council for Educational Research and
Training (NCERT) and National University of Educational Planning and
Administration (NUEPA). The purpose was to identify papers published on
this topic in national journals, but also any masters and doctoral theses, which
would have relevance to this review.
2010 2011 2012 20142013 2015
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Our review highlights that most papers currently focus on discussing the
definitions and concept of inclusive education (Punani, 2004; Singal 2005;
Bindal & Sharma, 2010). Numerous studies focus on issues of teacher attitudes
and self-ecacy, highlighting trends toward identifying barriers to educational
access (Singal, 2008; Das & Kattumuri, 2010; Sharma et al 2009; Das et al 2013;
Bhatnagar & Das, 2013). There is very limited research aimed at assessing the
quality of schooling and impact of interventions on the educational outcomes
of children with disabilities. Researchers from within the Indian context,
such as Das and Kattumuri (2010), Singal (2015), Srivastav et al. (2015), have
highlighted the need for more robust research on inclusive education in India.
Based on our review we have identified factors highlighted as being essential
in eorts to achieve inclusive education. We have clustered these around four
key themes: (1) the training of mainstream teachers, (2) the importance of
special educators, (3) the use of cost-eective teaching aids and adaptations to
the school infrastructure and finally (4) supporting children with disabilities
in mainstream school.
1. Training of mainstream teachers
Evidence from the field notes low levels of confidence and lack of clarity
among mainstream teachers in relation to teaching children with disabilities.
While teachers don’t necessarily have negative attitudes, poor infrastructure,
large class sizes, lack of para-professional sta, lack of competence, and
academic achievement are challenges experienced by them toward inclusion
of children with disabilities (Sharma et al., 2009; Singal, 2008; Das et al., 2013;
Shah et al., 2013). Further, Das et al. (2013) found in a survey of 223 primary
school and 130 secondary school government school teachers in Delhi, that
70 percent of teachers had not received training in special education, nor did
they have prior experience of teaching children with disabilities. Moreover,
87 percent of the teachers didn’t have access to support services in their
classrooms (Das et al., 2013). Teachers working in private schools also
highlighted similar concerns. Bhatnagar and Das (2013) in a study of 470
secondary school teachers in Delhi private schools revealed that 95 percent
of the teachers had not undergone any training in special education. Teachers
who had received training in special education did express fewer concerns in
relation to educating children with disabilities (Bhatnagar & Das, 2013). This
is similar to Sharma and colleagues’ (2009) finding in their study on pre-
service teachers’ attitude toward inclusive education in schools in the city
of Pune. They highlighted that negative attitudes toward inclusion can be
overcome once teachers are made aware of policies, given adequate support
and resources. Lack of training can result in teachers being less likely to
meet the learning needs of children with special needs (Bindal & Sharma,
2001; Singal, 2008; Das & Kattumuri, 2010). Based on their work with training
teachers in Tamil Nadu, David and Kuyini (2012) noted that long-standing
in-service training programs were much more eective than short stand-alone
programs. Others have noted that it is vital to strengthen pre-service training
of elementary teachers in India (NCTE, 2009), more generally which will have
a significant impact on the quality of teachers and their ability to meet the
needs of a diverse student population (Singal, 2008; Das & Kuttumuri, 2010;
Sharma et al., 2009; Das et al., 2013).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
2. Special educators: an important resource for mainstream teachers
Special educators or resource persons (as referred to in SSA above) for
inclusive education are a critical aspect of various programs on inclusive
education in India. Teachers and children with special needs are provided
support through special educators in mainstream schools, as they provide
help in preparing individualized educational plans (IEPs), supporting
general teachers in lesson planning, coordination of dierent activities and
also at times providing one-to-one ‘remedial’ teaching (Singh, 2010; Das &
Kattumuri, 2010). While studies have highlighted the significant role and
need for special educators, concerns around shortage and lack of availability
are highlighted by many. Singal, De and Bhutani (2016) in their analysis of
the RMSA noted the significantly low numbers of special educators being
currently trained in relation to the need. Similarly, Sawhney (2015) in her case
study of a government and a private school in Hyderabad noted the absence
of any support for the mainstream teachers. The private school only had a
visiting counsellor who was unable to guide the teacher in relation to teaching
and learning processes in the classroom. In contrast in Mumbai, Das and
Kattumuri (2010) noted that all seven private schools in their sample had
one special educator (approximately 1:25 CWSN), in fact one school had nine
special educators (1:4 CWSN). However, these schools were charging students’
very high fees, thus raising questions around the costs of such support.
In addition to issues of shortage, various challenges in the roles and
responsibilities of special educations were highlighted by Singh (2010). In
her research with itinerant support teachers in government schools of Uttar
Pradesh district, she noted issues around very large workload and the long
distances travelled to reach schools (often around six to ten miles away)
without adequate transport in rural areas. Additionally, many educators
expressed concerns around the fact that they had been trained in a single
disability, and hence found it dicult to help children with other disabilities.
Finally, significant concerns around challenges faced when collaborating with
teachers were also raised. Nonetheless, the issue of supporting mainstream
teachers has been highlighted by many and alternatives models and
arrangements to address this need to be sought (Myreddi & Narayan,1999;
Singal, 2008; NCTE, 2014; RCI, 2015).
3. Use of cost eective teaching aids and adaptations to school infrastructure
The role of assistive technology in enhancing the functioning of people with
disabilities has long been emphasized (WHO, 2015). However, there are
various barriers to their successful implementation and uptake. In India, aids
and appliances for people with diculties in mobility and sensory aspects
have been provided under the SSA. While there is little research on the use
of assistive technology in classrooms to support children with special needs,
Ahmad (2010), examining the use of assistive devices in schools in Delhi,
notes that while there were simple ways of developing cost-eective teaching
and learning materials to support the inclusion of children with disabilities,
such as index cards, color-coding, display charts, highlighters, word games,
clay, sand-tray etc. there was little support to do this.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
As noted in the earlier section, ocial data suggests that physical
infrastructure of schools has undergone significant changes in recent years.
However, in many cases, faulty design of provisions such as ramps makes
it dicult to use (SSA, 2015). In a small scale study in Hyderabad, Sawhney
(2015) reported a lack of infrastructure for children with disability in both
private and government schools. For example, in one private school children
with physical disability were excluded from any sports or games as the large
playground field was not accessible to wheel chair users.
4. Supporting children with disabilities in mainstream schools
Various studies have reported that children with disabilities experience
exclusion with regards to teaching-learning and activities undertaken in
mainstream classrooms. Das and Kattumuri (2010) reported that regular
teachers did not take an interest in the learning and performance of children
with special needs as they believed it would compromise their teaching time
for ‘regular students’. Additionally, some studies (for example, Sawhney, 2015)
have noted that children with special needs may also commonly be excluded
from friendship groups, might eat alone, and not be invited to be part of
playing activities. Similar findings were also reported in a study undertaken
in Mumbai private schools by Das and Kattumuri (2010) wherein children
with special needs found it dicult to make friends and were teased and
bullied, thus negatively aecting their self-esteem. In combatting this, it was
noted that schools need to focus on peer sensitization and empathy building
as critical aspect of inclusive strategies (Das & Katturmuri, 2010). Similarly,
David and Kuyini (2012) observed that children were more likely to accept
their peers with special needs when teachers were using more inclusive
practices, such as peer tutoring programs.
England: Setting the context
England is one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom (UK). The
current population estimation for England stands at 54.8 million (ONS, 2016),
with approximately 8.56 million children on the school roll (DfE, 2016a).
In England, as well as the rest of the UK, formal education is compulsory
until the age of 16 (OECD, 2014). Free early years education and child care
provision begins for all children at the age of three with a universal allowance
of 15 hours per week (DfE, 2017a). Additional early education and child care
provision exists for families on low-incomes (DfE, 2017a). Compulsory formal
education begins during the year a child turns five, and schools are legally
obliged to start admitting children in the September following their fourth
birthday (DfE, 2014).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Despite eleven years of compulsory education, there is still disparity in
educational outcomes for dierent socio-economic groups. According to
the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, the
gap between the highest and lowest attainers (top and bottom ten percent)
in England is “over eight years of schooling” (DfE, 2016b, p.6). This gap
is more significant than in the majority of Organization for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD) countries (DfE, 2016b). The dierence in
educational attainment is reportedly due to socio-economic and citizenship
status (DfE, 2016b). Despite the inequality in outcomes for the lowest attainers,
the average PISA results for science, mathematics and reading have not
changed since 2006 (DfE, 2016b). Science and reading results are above
the OECD average, although reading is only marginal, mathematics scores
however, only meet the OECD average (DfE, 2016b).
The OECD (2014), using data from the 2012 Survey of Adult skills, reports
that the “parents’ level of education still has a strong influence on their child’s
educational attainment” (p. 4). Children whose parents have completed
their upper secondary education are 2.2 times more likely to pursue tertiary
education in comparison to the children of parents who have not completed
this stage of education (OECD, 2014). According to OECD (2014), the United
Kingdom has one of the biggest dierences in earnings based on education
attainment–a person who has not completed their upper secondary education
in the UK is likely to earn only 70 percent of what a person who has completed
their upper secondary education earns.
Generally, in the case of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) there
are even more marked disparities in terms of educational attainment. The
Equality and Human Rights Commission (2016) reports that in the school year
2012/13 “children with SEN were over three times less likely to achieve at least
five A*-C GCSEs or equivalent including England and mathematics compared
to children without SEN (23.4 percent compared with 70.4 percent)” (p.3).
Importantly, this gap is larger than it was in the school year 2008/9 (Equality
and Human Rights Commission, 2016). Children with SEN are almost seven
times as likely to be excluded from school in comparison to children without
SEN (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2016).
Understanding who the children with special educational needs (SEN) are in
England: Addressing policy
Within England, disability is a protected category under the 2010 Equality Act
(EA) (UK Government, 2010). This means that all people, including children,
who are considered under the act to have a disability are protected by law
from discrimination. The act mandates that a person has a disability if they
have a “physical or mental impairment” which has “a substantial and long-
term adverse eect” on the person’s “ability to carry out normal day-to-day
activities (UK Government, 2010, section 6). Most recently, the Conservative
government, which has been in power as a coalition since 2010, and as a
8. It should be noted that PISA only examines students who are 15 years of age, and tends to exclude students with SEN
due to sampling.
9. The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) are the exams, and subsequent awards, given at the end of
secondary school.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
majority government since 2015, has enacted two key pieces of legislation
specifically concerning children with special educational needs and/
or disabilities (SEN/D): the 2014 Children and Families Act (CFA) (UK
Government, 2014) and the 2015 Special Educational Needs Code of Practice
(SEN CoP) (DfE, 2015).
The CFA (UK Government, 2014) and the SEN CoP (DfE, 2015) define a child
of compulsory school age as having a learning diculty or disability if they
have “significantly greater diculty in learning than the majority of others
of the same age” or, “a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from
making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age
in mainstream schools” (p.20). The CFA (UK Government, 2014) specifically
notes that a child or a young person does not have a learning diculty or
disability solely because the native language spoken at home is dierent to
the instructional language in school. The SEN CoP (DfE, 2015) delineates
a child or young person as having SEN “if they have a learning diculty or
disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or
her” (p.15). The term SEN has four categories (Illustration 9): communication
and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health
and, finally, sensory and/or physical needs.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Illustration 9. SEN categories in England (information from DfE, 2015)
The CFA (UK Government, 2014) and SEN CoP (DfE, 2015) have significantly changed
the way that children are identified as having learning diculties and disabilities.
Previously there were three assessments of SEN: school action; school action plus; or, a
statement of educational need (statement) (Bernardes et al., 2015). As of 2014, children
can either be on SEN support or, be assessed for an education health care plan (EHC)
(Department for Education, 2015). It’s also possible for children to be categorised
as having SEN support but no specialist assessment of type of need (Department
for Education, 2016c). SEN support is mandated when a child is identified as having
special educational needs and is in need of necessary special educational provision;
children on SEN support are identified and managed by their school (DfE, 2015). In
these cases, provisions such as educational interventions, transition planning and
therapeutic programs may be used. If there is little, or in some cases, no progress, then
specialist assessments may be needed, a child can only be assessed for a EHC plan¹ if
no progress has been made using SEN support. An EHC plan is an assessment carried
out by the local authority that determines the educational, health and care needs of the
child (DfE, 2015). Additionally, this plan entitles the young person to a personal budget
as detailed in the EHC plan, managed by either parents, local authority or educational
institution (DfE, 2015). The personal budget can be spent on services collated by the
local authority under the term ‘local oer’ (DfE, 2015).
As highlighted earlier in the report, the country and cultural context has a
10. The legal test of whether a child needs an EHC plan is still the same as it was for a statement and this is outlined in the 1996
Education Act.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
significant eect on the conceptualization of disability. The UNCRPD, which
the UK ratified in 2010, recognises that “disability is an evolving concept and
that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments
and attitudinal and environmental barriers” (UN 2006, preamble). In
comparing this transnational model of disability, which has been influenced
by the ICF and social model of disability, definitions found within English
legislation appear to have a more medicalized lens. Specifically, the definitions
in the 2010 Equality Act (UK Government, 2010), the 2014 Child and Families
Act (UK Government, 2014) and the 2015 SEN CoP (DfE, 2015) locate disability
within the individual and their perceived inability to access facilities and/or
services: “disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of
facilities of a kind generally provided” (DfE, 2015). Moreover, these definitions
fail to acknowledge societal barriers. In the context of education, it has been
suggested that the term special educational needs was implemented to try to
move away from a deficit focused model (Norwich, 2014). However, Norwich
(2014) rightly underlines that the change in terminology has failed to lessen
the deficit focus based on current individualistic definitions in educational
policy. The development of terminology, and move towards special educational
needs, is summarized in Illustration 10.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Illustration 10. A timeline of SEN policy in England
Educational status of children with SEN in England:
What do the numbers tell us?
As of January 2016, there are 8.56 million pupils on the school roll in England¹¹
(DfE, 2016a). Of those, 1.2 million are identified as children with SEN–14.4
percent of the total pupil population (DfE, 2016c). The majority of children
with SEN (0.9 million) are identified as being on SEN support (11.6 percent of
pupil population), only 235,805 children have an EHC plan (2.8 percent of the
pupil population) (DfE, 2016c) (see Figure 9).
Figure 9. Student population in England with SEN 2016 (Authors’ calculations based on DfE, 2016c)
The amount of children with an EHC plan has risen by 640 pupils since
2015. However, the percentage of children with an EHC plan in relation to
the total student population remains the same (2.8 percent) (DfE, 2016c). The
Department for Education (2016c) reports that the percentage of children with
EHC plans (or statements), in relation to the total student population, has
remained stable since 2007. The number of children with SEN who do not have
an EHC plan has fallen over the last six years from 18.3 percent in 2010, to 11.6
percent in 2016 (DfE, 2016c) (Figure 10). It is possible that this is in response
to Ofsted’s (2010) assertion of an over identification of children with SEN and
the changing government administration (Figure 11).
11. 4,615,170 pupils are on the roll for state funded primary schools.
EHC Plan
SEN Support 2.8%
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Figure 10. Percentage of Students on SEN Support 2007-2016 (Authors’ calculations based on DfE, 2016c)
Figure 11. Percentage of students on SEN support 2007-2016 with government administration indicated (Authors’ calculations
based on DfE, 2016c)
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Prevalence (%)
2007 2008 2009 2010
Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition
Conservative Majority
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Prevalence (%)
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
There are 1,039¹² (maintained and non-maintained¹³) special schools in
England (DfE, 2016c). Currently there are 109,180 children learning in both
maintained and non-maintained special schools, approximately 1.3 percent
of the total school population (DfE, 2016c). Figure 12 highlights the number
of special schools since 2006 showing a slight reduction in the number of
special schools which then increases after 2013 (1,033 in 2006; 961 in 2013 and
973 in 2016) (DfE, 2016c). It’s likely this change is due to frequent changing
positionality of special education in diering government’s education policies.
For example, in 2011 the Conservative-Liberal coalition suggested, in a
preliminary report, that they sought to “remove the bias to inclusion” (DfE
2011, p17), which may have contributed to the increase in special schools in
England (Norwich, 2014).
Figure 12. Number of special schools in England (Authors’ calculations based on DfE, 2016c)
Characteristics of children with SEN
The most common primary need for all children with SEN is moderate
learning disability (MLD). 26.8 percent of children on SEN support and 25.9
percent with an EHC plan have an identification of MLD respectively (DfE,
2016c). However, characteristics such as gender, age, socioeconomic status,
language status and ethnicity can change the rate at which young people are
identified with SEN.
12. 654 schools are approved as providers for children with AS. 556 schools are approved as providers for pupils with SLD and
531 for pupils with MLD.
13. Maintained special schools are government funded and run by the local authority. Non-maintained special schools are either
fee-paying, or government funded schools not run by the local authority.
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
More boys than girls continue to be identified as having SEN, and this is the
case for both SEN support and EHC plans. 14.7 percent of boys compared
to 8.2 percent of girls are on SEN support whilst four percent of boys
compared to 1.5 percent of girls have an EHC plan (or statement) (DfE, 2016c)
(Illustration 11). Gender also plays a role in the diagnosis of impairments.
Boys with EHC plans (or statements) are much more likely to be identified
with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than girls (30 percent and 14.8 percent
respectively) (DfE, 2016c) (Illustration 11).
Illustration 11. SEN data disaggregated by gender
Age significantly aects the likelihood of being on either SEN support or
having a formal assessment through an EHC plan. Ten-year-old children are
most likely to be on SEN support, while 15-year-olds are most likely to have an
EHC plan (or statement) (DfE, 2016c). When looking at the primary category
of special educational need there is also variation in age. Over 60 percent of
three-year-olds are on SEN support for speech language and communication
needs (SLCN) but this drastically reduces as the child ages with less than ten
percent of 15-years-olds having SEN support for SLCN (DfE, 2016c). Specific
learning disabilities (SpLD) (such ADHD or dyscalculia) are more frequently
identified in older children. twenty-five percent of 15-year-olds with SEN support
have been identified as having SpLD in contrast only 10.8 percent of seven-year-
olds with SEN have been assessed as having SpLD (DfE, 2016c). Similarly, older
children are more likely to be identified as having a moderate learning disability
(MLD) or social emotional mental health (SEMH) (DfE, 2016c).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
The current data from the Department of Education (2016c) shows children
with SEN are more likely than those without SEN to receive free school meals
(FSM), the indicator used to show socio-economic status (SES) (Illustration
12). A child with SEN is more than twice as likely as a child without SEN to
be eligible for FSM (27.2 percent and 12.1 percent respectively). Moreover, 33
percent of pupils with SEN support and 42.5 percent of pupils with an EHC
plan eligible for FSM have SEMH as a primary need (DfE, 2016c).
Illustration 12. SEN and free school meals (DfE 2016c)
Exploring the intersecting variables
Scant research has been undertaken on ethnicity and SEN. Of the research
conducted, the findings suggest that people from Black and minority
ethnic (BME) groups face barriers in accessing the services and provision
they need in England (Hubert, 2006). Furthermore, it has been argued
that institutionalized racism in England creates tensions between service
providers and families from minority ethnic groups (Rizvi, 2015). Evidence
also suggests that there is disproportionality for some children with BME
backgrounds assessed as having SEN in England. Specifically, there was found
to be an overrepresentation of Black Caribbean students identified as having
behavioral, emotional and social diculties (BESD)¹ (Strand & Lindsay, 2009).
Within the current category of social emotional mental health (SEMH), Black
Caribbean children (SEN Support) and child travellers of Irish heritage (EHC
plan) are most likely to be identified (DfE, 2016b). As indicated above children
with SEMH (both SEN support and EHC plan identification) are most likely to
receive free school meals (FSM). Here, the intersection of ethnicity, disability
and poverty could present multiple levels of oppression which could present
significant challenges in the classroom (Rizvi, 2015; Oliver & Singal, 2017).
Children with Pakistani heritage were also found to be overrepresented in the
assessment of profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) (Strand
14. As of 2014, the new Code of Practice reconstructed Behavioral Emotional and Social Diculties (BESD) as Social Emotional
Mental Health (SEMH) (DfE, 2014).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
& Lindsay, 2009). Examining the current DfE (2016b) data for the category
of PMLD, Pakistani children are still most likely to be identified with PMLD
on an EHC plan. The identification rate for Pakistani children with PMLD
stands at 9.5 percent, in comparison, the percentage of white British children
with PMLD stands at 3.7 percent. This data suggests that seven years later
overrepresentation of specific ethnicities continues, meaning that some
children with some heritages are more likely to be labelled than others.
The 2015 SEN CoP makes it clear that having English as an additional
language should not solely be used as an identifier of SEN. Therefore, it is
particularly interesting to note that there is a higher prevalence of children
with English as an additional language (EAL) in some SEN categories than in
others. A third of children identified with PMLD have English as an additional
language. In comparison, only 7.3 percent of children with ASD have
English as an additional language (Figure 13). It is currently unclear why the
dierence prevalence rates of EAL speakers exists in dierent SEN categories,
but it may be aected by dierent cultural conceptions of disability along with
diagnostic tools, such as ICD 10, designed for Euro-North American contexts
(Rizvi, 2015; Haque, 2010; Bass et al., 2007).
Figure 13. Prevalence of SEN support in relation to native language (Authors’ calculations based on DfE, 2016c)
English as an
additional language
English as an
additional language
English as an
additional language
English speaker
English speaker
English speaker
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Inclusive education in England: Examining the key debates
For the literature review we have primarily relied on a review undertaken
using the British Education Index. Dates were used as exclusion criteria and
only peer reviewed articles published after 2010 were included. The search
terms used were “inclusive education” and “England”. In scoping the literature
on inclusive education in an English context it became clear that the notion
of inclusive education itself is still debated. The need for a demarcation of
inclusion is highlighted as “part of the diculty is that terminology around a
definition of inclusion is by no means consistent and this leaves the issue open
to confusion” (Paliokosta & Blandford 2010, p. 179). Following on from this
need, within the literature many authors articulate their conceptualization of
inclusive education within the specific educational context they are working
in. Wilde and Avramidis (2011) propose “inclusion is… a process that combats
educational exclusion in all its forms” (p. 84). Humphrey and Symes (2010)
argue inclusion is “presence, participation, acceptance and achievement of all
pupils in school” (p. 82). In an early years context Theodorou and Nind (2010)
argue inclusion is about “active involvement and participation in play” (p.99).
Paliokosta and Blandford (2010) citing the work of Campbell (2002) describe
“the key aspects of the inclusion debate as being about a balance between
individual needs and the needs of the majority, the active participation of
pupils, a state of aairs or an ongoing process and its relation to exclusion
(p. 179). In line with the international documentation on inclusive education
(Corps et al., 2012; Heijnen-Maathuis, 2016; Save the Children, 2014; Stubbs,
2008; Saebones, 2015; UNICEF, 2011), there is generally a consensus within
the academic literature acknowledging a move away from a focus on children
with SEN to a vision that encompasses all children (Humphrey & Symes, 2010;
Bhopal, 2011). Despite this, Paliokosta and Blandford (2010) highlight that SEN
is still a key focus in policy documentation in England.
Within the literature many tensions are highlighted surrounding inclusive
education. Three key tensions will be discussed here: the politics of
identification and provision, the conflicting nature of competition and
inclusion, and lastly the recent rise in special schools. The socially constructed
nature of disability is highlighted, and arguments are made to suggest that
the categorization of disability is a “policy decision” and thus, borrowing
the words from Booth (2009), the notion of inclusion in England is “a moral
and political project” (p. 127). School itself is challenged as a mechanism
for reproducing ideologies dominant in society and therefore placing it as
a critical turning point for either social inclusion or exclusion (Paliokosta
& Blandford 2010). To this end, educational policy changes have an impact
on inclusive education. Burton and Goodman (2011) highlight how the
Conservative push for growth of academies has led to more schools operating
outside of the control of the local authority. This leads to an anxiety over
the provision of services for children with SEN and consequently inclusive
education (Burton & Goodman 2011). The increasing autonomy of schools
along with a drive to end a ‘bias towards inclusion’ suggests that there is a
move to maintaining a “more discrete, specialist provision for student with
SEN and away from inclusive education” (Burton & Goodman, 2011, p.135).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
The tensions between the government’s policy on inclusion and a focus on
league tables and results is also highlighted in the literature. Bhopal (2011)
argues that the “culture of competition” (p. 468) present in schools means
that inclusion is juxtaposed with the need for high attainment in exams.
Therefore, as schools are “pressurised by the eects of the standards agenda,
they are less likely to encourage pupils who may be seen as ‘failing; or at risk
of exclusion to attend their schools” (Bhopal, 2011, p. 468). Moreover, fiscal
competition and the need for system eciency also impacts inclusion. Wilde
and Avramidis (2011) highlight that while discrimination laws exist to protect
people with disabilities, this does not necessarily translate into the protection
of children with disabilities. They argue that it is “possible for discrimination
to exist on the basis of parental choice, suitability of schools, cost and
resources, and when the education of the particular child is not compatible
with ecient education for the children with whom he would be educated”
(Wilde & Avramidis, 2011, p. 84).
As indicated earlier there has been a recent rise in the number of special
schools and calls to remove a bias to inclusion repositioning special schools
within the English educational landscape and some researchers have
commented on this (DfE, 2011; DfE, 2016b). Wilde and Avramidis (2011) cite
a resurgence of special school as the “renascence of pro-segrative ideas”
(p. 84), and critique Baroness Warnock’s 2005 report. The report argues it
is inevitable children with SEN will be bullied in mainstream school and
suggests that children learning in special schools will have better self-esteem.
Wilde and Avramidis (2011) argue this mentality will lead to social segregation
and overlooks the critical “links between schools, local communities and
friendship networks” (Wilde & Avramidis 2011, p. 84). Nevertheless, the
Department for Education (2017b) highlights the clear and significant disparity
in educational achievement for children with SEN learning in mainstream
school in relations to children without SEN. Consequently, Theodorou
and Nind (2010) rightly underline that the mere placement of children in
mainstream schools “does not necessarily amount to inclusion” (p. 99).
Impact on learning outcomes
The educational attainment for children with SEN is significantly lower than
for children without SEN at every level of the national curriculum (DfE, 2017b),
an overview of this can be seen in Illustration 13. In key stage one (the initial
two years of primary school), pupils with SEN (both SEN support and EHC
plans) had significantly lower attainment than children without SEN (DfE,
2017b). The biggest attainment gap in was in writing, while the smallest gap
was in science (DfE, 2017b). In the school year 2015/16 only 14 percent of
children with SEN reached the expected attainment level for reading, writing
and maths, in contrast 62 percent of children without SEN reached this
benchmark (DfE, 2017b). The attainment levels for looked after children (LAC)
with SEN were even lower, with only 11 percent of these children reaching the
expected levels.
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Illustration 13. Attainment of children with SEN in England
Absence and exclusions are a significant factor in the educational experience
of children with SEN. Children with PMLD missed the most lessons due to
absences (DfE, 2017b). For the school year 2015/16, 22.2 percent of pupils
with EHC plans (or statements) were classified as persistent absentees¹ in
comparison to 8.8 percent of children without SEN. Children on SEN support
are almost twice as likely as children with EHC plans (or statements) to be
permanently excluded from school (0.29 percent and 0.16 percent respectively),
and over seven times as likely as children without SEN (0.29 percent and 0.04
percent respectively) (DfE, 2017b). Moreover, children with social emotional
and mental health (SEMH) needs are the most likely of all children to be
permanently excluded.
What works in inclusive education in England: Reflections from the literature
In order to identify what works in inclusive education, an examination of
the current literature from England highlighted a range of factors. Drawing
on some of these findings we have clustered reflections on ‘what works’
under three themes, namely: (1) support provided by teaching assistants; (2)
developing an inclusive curriculum and (3) the need for better teacher education.
We discuss these as they are fundamental to many debates in the field.
15. A child is considered a persistent absentee when they miss more than ten percent of possible sessions (DfE 2017b).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
1. Support provided by teaching assistants
Within the literature there is a general consensus that, when correctly
deployed, teaching assistants (TAs) (or learning support assistants) have
the potential to have a positive eect on the learning of primary school aged
children. The importance of eective training and deployment of teaching
assistants cannot be overstated (Devecchi et al., 2012; Farrell et al., 2010;
Webster & Blatchford, 2013). Devecchi et al., (2012), among others, highlight
the need for the continued support and training of TAs. Additionally, it has
been suggested that working on a 1:1 basis or with small groups of children
may be the most eective deployment of TAs (Ferrell et al., 2010). However, it
has been cautioned that the use of TAs can lead to the educational experiences
of pupils with SEN being characterised by experiences of segregation
(Webster & Blatchford, 2013). Webster et al. (2011), reporting on a longitudinal
study highlight that the widespread use of teaching assistants leads to
“unintended negative eects” (p.17) on supported pupils attainment. Webster
and Blatchford (2013) suggest that the current way of expressing student’s
learning support needs in terms of hours usually means that this is converted
directly into TA supported hours and limits the type of support which is
implemented. Instead, they argue, support should be implemented through
changes to pedagogy rather than solely through TA assisted hours (Webster
and Blatchford 2013). Webster and Blatchford (2013) conclude that pedagogical
process and dierentiated learning strategies have the potential to improve
educational outcomes.
Farrell et al. (2010), in reviewing the literature, argues that research
undertaken comparing the eectiveness of TAs against teachers suggests that
TAs are equally successful in promoting children’s learning and attainment.
However, purely increasing TA numbers in school on the basis of TA
eectiveness will not work. Rather, TAs must be employed to carry out specific
objectives and must be utilized in order to enact targeted interventions
(Farrell et al., 2010). Webster and Blatchford (2013) also advocate for school
to reconceptualize the role of the TA by ensuring that TA intervention does
not lead to pupil separations. Teachers should be primarily responsible for
teaching pupils with EHC plans (or statements) and should not allow TAs to
routinely remove students from class (Webster & Blatchford, 2013). In line
with these recommendations, improvements must be made to the pre-service
and in-service training of teaching assistants, moreover, teachers must also
be trained in how to eectively manage and support a classroom with TAs
(Devecchi et al., 2012; Farrell et al., 2010).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
2. Developing an inclusive curriculum
Glazzard (2013; 2014) argues that focus on performativity within the education
system marginalizes learners with special educational needs and can be a
barrier to both participation and achievement. He suggests that education
policies articulating inclusion through raising academic attainment “reflect
integration rather than inclusion through their failure to critically deconstruct
notion of what constitutes achievement and transform the curriculum and
assessment processes which learners are subjected to” (Glazzard, 2013, p. 186).
Fundamentally, Glazzard (2013) argues that the current education system is
designed to identify and categorise learners by their “inability to meet a set
of norm-related standards” (p.186). In order to achieve social justice through
inclusion, Glazzard (2013) advocates for policy changes where dierent forms
of success are valued. He concludes that “unless there is a fundamental policy
change schooling will continue to produce exclusion, as it has always done so in
the past, and inclusion will simply remain policy rhetoric” (Glazzard, 2013, p.186).
A study examining the digital media presented to primary school-aged
pupils in England found a “virtual absence” of disabled people (Hodkinson,
2012, p. 256). In contrast, primary school children are most commonly
introduced to the image of a “White, non-disabled adult male” (Hodkinson,
2012, p.256). Where images of disabled people were found (n=34), the most
common depiction with physical disabilities, no images were found where
a person had an “obvious intellectual disability” (Hodkinson, 2012, p. 256).
Hodkinson (2012) argues that the construction of disability observed within
the electronic media presented to children is deficit-focussed. Furthermore,
Hodkinson (2012) recommends that for inclusion to be eective there must
not only be a focus on “the deliverance of service orientated responses
but also by a confrontation of resources and facilities so as to overcome
the ‘current injustice (within schools, which are) based upon continued
practices of privilege and power’ (Lipsky & Gartner, 1995, p. 1)” (p.259). The
marginalization of disabled people within electronic media used in school,
Hodkinson (2012) argues, is synonymous with the “cultural dominance of
non-disabled people within our society” (p. 259). In order to enact inclusion
digital media used in school must be carefully constructed, those involved
with education “should seek to support a culturally responsive pedagogy that
would observe disabled people being more prominently and more positively
located within the material that support the teaching and learning of pupils
within our primary schools” (Hodkinson, 2012, p.259).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Finally, in relation to an inclusive curriculum, recently, there has been a surge
in research related to inclusion and physical education (PE). Haycock and
Smith (2011) argues that within PE the focus on “competitive, performance-
orientated and heavily sport-based structure of many PE programs has come
to limit pupils’ participation in, and experiences of, the subject” (p.297).
Moreover, Haycock and Smith (2011) actually posits that the focus on inclusion
within PE has “created the opportunity for pupils’ experiences of PE to become
more unequal, rather than being more inclusive” (p. 297). To combat this,
Haycock and Smith (2011) ague that “there is an obvious need to think more
clearly, analytically and less emotionally about the inclusion of young disabled
people and pupils with SEN in PE” (p. 304).
3. Need for better teacher education
The literature suggests that eective teacher education is vital to the process
of inclusive education (Black-Hawkins & Amrhein, 2014; Ekins et al., 2016;
Alexiadou & Essex, 2016; Robinson, 2017). Black-Hawkins and Amrhein (2014)
found, in their research with student teacher, that while there was strong
support for inclusive education many student teachers felt ill-prepared to
teach classrooms of diverse learners. Hence, it is argued that “successful
training and continuing professional development to help all teachers to feel
more confident in meeting the needs of all children with SEN” is needed
(Ekins et al., 2016, p. 246). Furthermore, the call by UNESCO (2009) for more
“innovative research in teaching and learning processes related to inclusive
education is reiterated by academics in the field” (p.20), is echoed in the work
of Black-Hawkins and Amrhein (2014).
Ekins et al. (2016) argue that currently initial teacher education (ITE) is
generally based on an “additional model–where information about SEN and
Disability is ‘added on’ rather than built fundamentally within the course as
a whole” (p. 246). Instead, she recommends a move toward a “content-infused
model, where the attitudes, skills and knowledge traditionally included in
the separate additional teacher education model are spread throughout a
number of units in an initial teacher education program” (Ekins et al., 2016,
p. 246). Ekins et al. (2016) argues that this model “could enable teachers
throughout their career to regularly review and consider how they might
respond to individual dierences in every Key Stage in ways that avoid the
stigma of judging some children as less able and instead promote positive
models of dierence and diversity” (p. 246). Changing teacher’s beliefs was a
key recommendation found in other literature. Robinson (2017) recommends
that “field experiences alone are not sucient to enable” teachers to teach
inclusively, rather, “pedagogic frameworks for inclusive teacher education
must be underpinned with support for intellectual engagement and critical
thought” (p. 175). Additionally, Robinson (2017) focussing on teacher education
observed that “the concept of ‘inclusion’ would trigger diversity discourses
(which celebrate diversity and uniqueness), but ‘SEN’ would trigger disparity
discourses (where diversity is associated with pathologizing, dierential
treatment and dierent expectations” (Robinson, 2017, p. 173). He argues
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
for the inclusion of “a critical theoretical dimension in teacher education”,
suggesting that situating “practice within the wider social, historical and
political context can reveal new ways forward whilst enabling more positive
professional identities for SEN and inclusion” (Robinson, 2017, p. 175). Enabling
student teachers time to reflect and discuss ideas is also echoed in the work
of Black-Hawkins and Amrhein (2014) who identify that student teachers
benefitted from discussion enabling them to see each other’s thoughts.
Another key recommendation found in the literature links to self-ecacy.
Ekins (2016) study on self-ecacy in teachers working in dierent key stages
found the teachers who worked with younger children had higher levels of self-
ecacy than the teachers who worked with older children. She argues that ITE
and continuing professional development (CPD) which focuses on “developing
their knowledge of laws and policy pertaining to SEN and disability, and
provide meaningful experiences of teaching learners with SEN may increase
levels of self-ecacy within the profession” (p. 246). Similarly, Robinson (2017)
also advocates for the promotion of experts through “career long research
orientation” and “a collaborative approach to professional learning and
development” (p. 175).
This section provided an overview of the current educational status of children
with disabilities in India and England. India has one of the strongest disability-
inclusive educational frameworks in the global south. However, while in
many states enrolment rates are increasing for children with disabilities,
there are variations in relation to gender and types of impairments. Most
significantly, schools themselves remain ill-prepared to eectively include
children with disabilities. In the case of England there is an established multi-
track educational system providing both specialist and mainstream schools.
However, one of the key issues is the significant disparities in educational
attainment for children with SEN across various levels of the education
system. Moreover, children with SEN remain more likely to be permanently
excluded from school (DfE, 2017b). Additionally, children with SEN from BME
groups and those looked after are also more likely to experience multiple
levels of oppression (Oliver & Singal, 2017).
In presenting these two very contrasting country case studies the intention
has not been to compare, but to highlight that while both settings have
made significant eorts in improving the educational status of children with
disabilities, there is still more work to be done. Drawing on the literature
available in both contexts presents an opportunity to highlight and contrast
current discourses on inclusive education. Despite the limited literature in the
Indian context, primarily due to lack of funding and the status of educational
research, it is particularly striking to note the similarities and tensions in
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
discourse across the two settings.
Within both countries the concept of inclusive education is constantly
evolving and neither country has consistent definitions that are widely used.
Instead, within the literature many researchers proer a context-specific
understanding of inclusive education. In both India and England, the literature
underlines a significant need for improving teacher education. In India this
is underlined in the need to train mainstream teachers in special education,
while in England the literature focuses on improving teacher education.
Evidence from both contexts suggest that teachers lack confidence and do not
feel fully prepared when teaching classrooms with diverse learners (Singal
2008; Shah et al., 2013; Robinson, 2017). As a result, the literature in England
focuses on ways to improve the pedagogy of teacher education to enable
student-teachers to reflect and situate the practice within wider theoretical and
socio-political contexts (Robinson, 2017). In the Indian context the literature
calls for pre-service training to be strengthened, as currently the majority
of teachers have had little to no special training to prepare them to work
with children with disabilities (NCTE, 2009; Das et al., 2013). The literature
points out that it’s not necessarily beliefs and values that stand in the way of
eective inclusive education, but rather the poor infrastructure, both human
and material, which causes significant challenges in the classroom and leaves
Indian teachers often ill-prepared to work with diverse classrooms (Singal
2008; Das & Bhatnagar, 2013).
In the Indian context, the literature calls for progress to be made in the
provision of resources, specifically special educators, and assistive technology
(Singal, De & Bhutani, 2016; Sawhney, 2015; Ahmad, 2010). However, the
English literature focuses more on addressing the excluding mechanisms
within the curriculum. Calls are made to facilitate a curriculum that is
inclusive and representative of all (Glazzard, 2013; Hodkinson, 2012). Within
the Indian literature some studies comment on the need to work on peer
sensitization and empathy building in order to help the social inclusion of
children with disabilities (Das & Kattumuri, 2010). Conversely, in an English
context, the need to strengthen classroom management and the training of
teaching assistants has been highlighted so as to not cause social segregation
(Webster & Blatchford, 2013).
Chapter 3 — Inclusive Education: Two countr y overviews
Chapter 4
Developing Inclusive Quality Education
Systems: Reflections for policy & practice
nclusive quality education needs to be at the core of eorts to educate
children with disabilities. While debates on inclusive education have been
central in positioning issues and concerns around education of children with
disabilities at the global centre stage, now is the time for more considered
action in making these promises a reality.
While some progress has been made in increasing access for children with
disabilities in many contexts within mainstream settings, there is still a long
way to go. Children with disabilities continue to face challenges in accessing
primary education, and in completion and transition to secondary education
and beyond. While concerns of access are firmly on the global agenda, as
noted in previous sections, there is little current reflection on the quality of
schooling experienced by children with disabilities. Our notion of quality
here encompasses both issues around (i) learning basic literacy and numeracy
skills to enable (ii) full participation in the life of the classroom, the school and
the wider community. Inclusive quality education places an onus on education
to not simply be inclusive but also be of quality to enable individuals to lead
participatory and empowering lives.
In this concluding section of the report, drawing together dierent insights
from our analysis, we propose the Three Rs model — ‘rights, resources and
research’. We argue that in order to deliver inclusive quality education we need
to look at interrelated aspects of rights, resources and research (Illustration 14).
We discuss each of these in detail.
Illustration 14. Three Rs model
Children with
Central to eorts aimed at making education a reality for children with
disabilities is the need for national legislation to recognize their right to
education. Framing education of children with disabilities in line with the
human rights framework is imperative. This inclusion into education should
be based on the foundations of equity and social justice and cannot be driven
by a charity based approach. This also means that services for people with
disabilities should no longer be regarded as the responsibility of the charity
or non-governmental sector, as continues to be the case in many countries.
Governments need to plan and adequately fund programs supporting the
inclusion of persons with disabilities as part of mainstream development eorts.
Persons with disabilities have a right to be counted. Gathering
disaggregated data is essential for human rights from the perspective of
meeting the obligations of non-discrimination and equality (OHCHR, 2015).
In the data revolution report A World That Counts (UN, 2014), it is explicitly
noted that:
No one should be invisible. To the extent possible and with due
safeguards for individual privacy and data quality, data should
be disaggregated across many dimensions, such as geography,
wealth, disability, sex and age… Disaggregated data can provide
a better comparative picture of what works, and help inform and
promote evidence based policy making at every level (p. 22).
Over a decade ago, Robson and Evans (2005), in their work based on a
comprehensive review of dierent international data sets examining the status
of children with disabilities concluded, “Good data sets do not currently exist.
Existing data sets are fragmentary and inconsistent in their definitions of
disability. They provide little basis for meaningful international comparisons
and, with some exceptions, are of unknown reliability and validity” (p. 35).
This observation still holds true.
To ensure adequate planning and resourcing there is a growing call for
collecting more reliable data on children with disabilities disaggregated
by gender, age and type of disability etc. The WHO (2011), in addition to
other key international organizations, have noted that the lack of such data
is a key barrier to holding governments and donor agencies accountable
to the implementation of the UNCRPD. The work being carried out by the
Washington Group on Disability Statistics, discussed in considerable detail
earlier in this report, is highly pertinent. The Costing Equity Report, as one
of its main recommendations, notes that dierent stakeholder groups should
work collaboratively, using the WG/UNICEF Child Module, to strengthen
national surveys, censuses and Education Management Information System
(EMIS) data to ensure disability-disaggregation and collection of information
on environmental barriers to education (Myers et al., 2016). Reliable data will
allow for eective planning and policy recommendations. Recognition of
individual health needs and adaptations in the environment are important.
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
Right to education is important and so is a right in education. As discussed
previously in the report, various international declarations and national
frameworks have highlighted a commitment to the right to education for
children with disabilities. However, the emphasis on participation and
learning in school gets overlooked. Based on research evidence gathered
at the school level, Singal (2009) argued that in order to develop inclusive
quality education there should be a focus on issues of “entry, engagement
and empowerment”(p.203). The rationale underpinning this framework is
that all children should be part of an education system, and should have the
opportunity to access and participate in it. They must find the experience of
being in school engaging and joyful. Schooling should have a positive impact
on lives; it should be empowering, that is, it should foster agency so that
individuals are able to use rights, capabilities, resources and opportunities
to make strategic choices and decisions. Indeed, as Krishnamurti (1978)
espoused “…school is a place of learning and not merely a place of
accumulating knowledge... After all school is a place where one learns not
only the knowledge required for daily life but also the art of living with all its
complexities and subtleties” (p. 50).
This framework is in line with the commonly used principles of rights to
education, rights in education and rights through education. However, relying
solely on a rights discourse is problematic as discussed at length by Robeyns
(2006), who amongst other issues, raises concerns about these being seen as
merely theoretical, largely legal (rather than moral) and consequently being
exclusively government-focused. By using an approach emphasizing the
interrelated dimensions of entry, engagement and empowerment, the aim is to
move the discussion away from a purely rights perspective to a more critical
analysis of the status of education of children with disabilities to issues central
to eective development of educational systems.
One of the most significant gaps in current knowledge is the lack of
information on the experiences and impact on the learning of children with
disabilities who are attending schools. There are few robust studies which
examine the learning of children with disabilities in mainstream schools and
we know virtually nothing about how children with disabilities are learning in
special schools. Only very recently, some eorts have been made to identify
and include children with disabilities in large scale assessment surveys.
Singal and Sabates (2016), based on an analysis of children’s achievement on
basic learning in reading, arithmetic and English tests administered as part
of the ASER survey in Pakistan, concluded that children with disabilities are
least likely to be learning. Findings from the survey showed that across the
dierent types of disabilities, children reported as having moderate to severe
disabilities were at the lowest level of the learning scale. These children were
unable to read basic letters or recognize single digit numbers. The percentage
of children with disabilities assessed at this level in the reading task was
nearly five times larger than those reporting mild or no disabilities.
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
These low levels are not an indication of the individual’s ability. Instead, they
raise important concerns around the ecacy of education systems into which
these children are being placed. Evidence of such low levels of learning
makes it even more pertinent that we hold systems accountable to delivering
not just access, but also to ensuring that they have a positive impact on
children’s learning outcomes. Similarly, Hegarty (2001) argues that “children
have an inalienable right to high-quality, appropriate education. This should
be provided in as inclusive a manner as possible, but there are times when
inclusion is dicult or even impossible and must be set aside. The right to
high-quality, appropriate education can never be set aside” (p. 248). Thus,
Hegarty suggests that every child, including those with disabilities, have a
central right to quality education and in some cases in order to achieve this
inclusion in mainstream settings might not be appropriate.
While there is no argument against the goal of providing all children access
to a learning environ ment which is engaging and empowering, it’s still not
clear how this is best achieved. Slee and Allan (2001) note that “the question
is essentially about choice and out comes” (p. 116). They go on to highlight that
through constant questioning there is a need to “create the possibility for a
range of educational settlements that do not reinforce the powerlessness of
minority groups through and in schooling” (Slee and Allan, 2001, p. 116).
As noted previously in this report based on the two country reviews, there is
evidence to suggest that education of children with disabilities benefits greatly
from partnerships between special and mainstream schools, collaboration
between various professionals, improved teacher skills and better learning
environments. In order to achieve these, resources (not just financial, but also
human and material) are crucial. Crucially rights need to be accompanied with
robust systems of monitoring and accountability.
Resources, including human, material and infrastructural, are crucial to the
development of inclusive quality education systems.
Teachers. All children benefit from having well-trained teachers, and
investing in teacher education is central for delivering on the promise of
inclusive quality education. Evidence from our two country cases and research
more generally suggests that teachers are not necessarily negative in their
attitudes toward children with disabilities; rather they commonly report
their lack of preparation in responding to diversity of learner needs in their
classrooms. Therefore, there is an urgent need to review and upgrade curricula
in teacher education to include principles of inclusive teaching and learning.
It’s important that teachers are provided with practical knowledge which
also corresponds to their local realities, especially in contexts where we are
aware of the multitude of challenges that teachers already face due to poor
infrastructure, lack of teaching and learning materials, and large class sizes.
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
There is also a need to support teachers not just through continuous
professional development opportunities, but also through support provided
by other professionals, such as itinerant teachers (such as in Malawi, Uganda),
or inclusive education resource teachers (as is the case in India). This model
usually entails teachers who are either special educators or mainstream
teachers, who have been provided additional training, and who have visited a
cluster of schools to work in partnership with class teachers to support them
in meeting the needs of children with disabilities. While results of research
studies on the eectiveness of such models is mixed (Lynch et al, 2011; Lynch
et al., 2014) they do hold promise in supporting teachers.
Parents. Various international declarations, such as the Salamanca Statement
(UNESCO, 1994), conceptualized parents of children with disabilities
as “privileged partners” (p. 38) in the education of their child. It noted
their inherent rights to be consulted and promoted their participation in
the planning and provision of their child’s educational needs. However, at
times parents are viewed as barriers in the education of their child with
disabilities due to such reasons as being overprotective of their child’s safety,
not understanding the value of education, or being neglectful of their child
(Plan International, 2013). However, recent years have revealed a shift in
some settings. Contrary to commonly held assumptions, evidence clearly
highlights that parents of children with disabilities, across dierent socio-
economic strata, invest significant personal time and energy in ensuring that
their child with disabilities can attend school. Drawing on their work with
high achieving young women with disabilities in Pakistan, Hammad and
Singal (2015) found that the single most important factor in a young women’s
educational success was the support she received from her mother. Another
such example of positive parental support can be found be Botts and Owusu’s
(2013) study in Ghana. Johansson’s (2015) work with middle class families
in urban India with a child with autism support similar findings. In Kenya,
parents of children with disabilities living in rural communities noted (Mutua
& Swadener, 2011) that it was the poor quality of schooling that dissuaded
them from sending even their children without disabilities to the local school,
and not any fear of neglect. Thus, there is a need to recognize the potential of
working with parents and position them not merely as carers or recipients of
service, but rather as partners in their child’s education (Singal, 2016). A clear
indication of the potential of parents, even though largely restricted to those
from more auent groups, is the role they have played in Southern contexts,
where in the absence of state driven provision they have taken on the role of
service providers by setting up special schools or other community outreach
programmes for children with disabilities (Alur & Bach, 2012). Parents have
also played a central role in setting up advocacy groups and lobbying for the
rights of children with disabilities.
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
Material. Schools, teachers, and all students need high quality, appropriate
and accessible teaching and learning materials. Advances in technology
and the rapid decline in costs of producing digital textbooks, mobile readers
and tablets provide opportunities for developing exciting digital materials.
Developing accessible materials is most eectively achieved by making better
use of existing resources to support learning, particularly in poorer settings.
For example, many teaching materials that significantly enhance learning
processes can be locally made (UNESCO, 2003).
Proper access to appropriate assistive technology is a precondition to ensuring
that people with disabilities achieve their human right to participate in all
aspects of life. However, according to a WHO report (2015), in many low-
income countries only five to 15 percent of children with disabilities who need
assistive technology have access to it. Assistive technology includes products
that support communication, mobility, self-care, household tasks, family
relationships, education, and engagement in play and recreation. However
current barriers, such as limited awareness among families of these products
and services, short supply of such resources¹ and inequities in access due
to intersecting variables such as gender, age, language and culture are also
evident (WHO, 2015). Moreover, in cases where an assistive device has been
obtained it may be dicult to eectively use it due to poor infrastructure, for
example, using a wheelchair on dicult terrain, or trying to enter a building
that only has steps (WHO, 2015). Financial barriers often reduce the likelihood
of access to assistive technology because the devices must be replaced or
adjusted as the young person grows (WHO, 2015). The WHO report proposes
that in providing for assistive technology there is a need to consider the
principles of ‘5AandQ’ — “availability, accessibility, aordability, adaptability,
acceptability and quality” (p. 22).
Financial. Inclusive quality education is not a cross cutting measure but is
cost-eective. Despite growing interest in educating children with disabilities
and also the evidence highlighting the cyclical nature of poverty and
disability (DFID, 2000), there is a lack of financial commitment. It’s a common
occurrence that government policies for supporting education of children
with disabilities do not have matched resources. An interesting example is
the analysis of the IEDDC Scheme in India undertaken by Singal et al., (2016)
which clearly noted the significant under resourcing of the government’s own
program. Similar trends are highlighted at the global level in the analysis
of the Costing Equity Report. The report notes that budgeting for children
with disabilities remains very low on the agenda of both international donor
agencies and national governments (Myers et al., 2016). It’s important to
acknowledge here that there are initial costs in moving towards inclusive
systems, such as investing in material resources (ICT, accessible classrooms,
adapted curricula, etc.) and human resources (better training for teachers etc),
however these initial investments outweigh long term benefits.
16. The 2005 Global Survey on government action on the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of
Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, found that 53 percent of the 114 responding countries had not initiated programs
providing assistive technology (WHO, 2015 pp. 18-19).
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
In moving forward, governments, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders,
urgently need to provide domestic financing to close the persistent gaps
between inclusive education policy and practice. There is a need to adopt a
twin track approach with a focus on funding systemic change (such as in
practices and attitudes), alongside specific initiatives to support the needs of
learners with disabilities (for assistive devices to individuals). There is a need
for better use of available resources to target disability issues and greater
accountability in the system. The international donor community could take a
leading role by making disability responsiveness a core criterion in education
funding and programs.
Most significantly, while a focus on cost eectiveness is important it cannot
be the only measure of success. Rather ‘value for money’, as Loryman and
Meeks (2016) have argued, should be reconceptualised from a mere focus on
an assessment of cost versus quantitative outputs, to an assertion that ‘value’
is only achieved when benefits reach the most marginalized.
While there is growing acknowledgement of the need to provide education for
all, there is also a realization that there is little understanding of how best to
achieve this. The World Report on Disability (WHO, 2011) categorically states
that the existing “lack of data and evidence… often impedes understanding
and action (p. 263) in the field across various sectors, including education.
As its final recommendation the report notes the “need to strengthen and
support research on disability” (WHO, 2011, p. 267). Fundamentally, high
quality research on disability is needed to uphold and achieve the rights of
people with disabilities as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) (UN, 2006). Article 31 of the
convention (UN, 2006) notes research is central to addressing discrimination,
changing perceptions and combating stereotypes and prejudices. It
encourages member states to gather research data that can inform policy and
monitor progress toward realization of the rights of people with disabilities.
The article goes a step further in emphasizing the need for people with
disabilities to monitor and evaluate the impact of UNCRPD on their lives and
hence advocates for all research being available and accessible.
However, in low and middle income countries, not only is there a lack of
reliable data on prevalence and enrolment, there is also an issue with the
quality of research available. The majority of the evidence has been generated
by international organizations and is more likely to be published as reports,
rather than being submitted for critical scrutiny through academic peer review
processes. For example, available studies have broadly tended to interrogate
the concepts and definitions of ‘inclusive education’ (Alur & Timmons, 2009).
Notably there is also an overrepresentation of issues related to teacher
attitudes and self-ecacy. This, one could argue, is indicative of where
the debates are in relation to education of children with disabilities, as the
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
focus has primarily been on increasing access. Thus researchers have been
preoccupied with identifying barriers and increasing access to basic education.
This has meant that there is very little focus on the quality of schooling
received by children and virtually nothing on learning outcomes for children
and young people with disabilities.
This absence of rigorous evidence which can be used to evaluate the impact
of current policies and shape future programs remains one of the biggest
challenges in the field. A systematic review (Bakshi et al., 2013), funded by
AUSAid, the Australian aid program, on identifying approaches that increase
the accessibility to education for children with disabilities across dierent
countries noted that given the lack of rigorous research “it is not possible to
draw any firm conclusions about the most eective approaches (in terms of
impact or indeed cost) to increase the accessibility of education for children
with disabilities” (p. 34). Similarly, the DFID (2014) funded Learning Guide,
concluded that “…Evidence on implementation and on learning outcomes is
scattered and inconclusive” (Howgego, Miles & Myers, 2014, p. 6). Based on
our review of the existing literature for this report, an obvious issue is the
need for robust research into pedagogical practices. There is a pressing need
to understand how good teachers teach all children and in particular those
with disabilities. Such empirical insights will enable strong evidence-based
recommendations to be made to improve teacher training and also help
teachers develop eective pedagogical skills.
This lacuna in rigorous quantitative and qualitative research most strongly
impacts the field of disability and education in low and middle-income
countries where implementation eorts are still in an early phase. The
research gaps are not surprising, given the low priority accorded to funding
disability education research. Developing a more coherent, evidence based
policy agenda must be based on rigorous research findings.
There is a need to build alliances between researchers in the field of disability
and those in development to frame more sophisticated and complex questions
to support our understandings of the lives of people with disabilities.
‘Nothing about us without us’ is a phrase often cited in the disability studies
field reflecting the important need for people with disabilities to have
more prominence in society and especially in research. An integral part
of mainstreaming disability and moving toward a more equitable society,
is to involve people with disabilities in setting agendas for research. The
positioning and dynamics of research must be changed so that people with
disabilities also ask the questions rather than solely occupy the position of
being researched. As Oliver (2002) states, “failing to give disabled people
through their own representative organizations complete control over research
resources and agendas inevitably positions disabled people as inferior to those
who are in control” (p. 5).
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
Finally, it is important to acknowledge that influencing policy through
research evidence is not something that researchers can simply do by
themselves. There is a need to form strategic alliances with other key
stakeholders. Swartz (2014) reflects that “good research …will not on its own
change the world. It needs to be accompanied by sophisticated and strategic
activism” (p. 5). It is fair to acknowledge that not everyone has the same set
of skills, that is, activists are not necessarily good researchers, and neither
are researchers necessarily good activists. However, alliances based on
mutual respect and an appreciation of the value of research in advocacy
can be powerful. Shakespeare (2006) observes that while focus in disability
research has primarily been on oppression, more attention needs to be paid to
partnerships and alliances.
While such partnerships among academics and practitioners primarily
driven by demands for evidence-based logic and demonstrable impact of
research are growing, there are tensions which need to be acknowledged.
On examining Academic-NGO Collaboration in International Development
Research, Aniekwe et al. (2012) note key challenges exist arising from dierent
perspectives around research, institutional time frames and philosophies, and
also dierent outcome expectations and requirements.
Albert and Harrison (2005), in their Messages From Research, make a very
useful distinction around how researchers “should be ‘on tap’ not ‘on top’” (p.
8). In addition to this ‘on tap/on top’ distinction, Singal (2017) adds the ‘on shelf’
distinction, suggesting that research which is left on the shelf and accessible
only to a few is not worth pursuing. Meaningful research that can support the
inclusion of people with disabilities is needed. Researchers have an ethical
obligation to ensure that the research they undertake reaches a wide breadth
of stakeholders, and this would mean being aware of the pathways through
which to get findings heard. Thus, researchers not only need to be proficient
in research literacies but also a range of academic literacies so that their
messages can be disseminated. Indeed, the ethical dimension of research
dissemination needs to be brought forward in current debates and developed
(Robinson-Pant & Singal, 2013). The role of research in fostering change can no
longer be undermined or overlooked, but there continues to be a need to make
sure that research (and researchers) is respectful of people and their contexts,
while being rigorous in gathering evidence.
By proposing the ‘Three Rs model’ we are highlighting the urgency for
diverse stakeholders, such as policy makers, researchers, NGOs, to work in
partnership in order to systematically address the global commitment toward
inclusive quality education. The possibilities through education are immense,
with high returns both to the individual and society. Thus, redressing the
educational status of children with disabilities needs to be central in global
eorts toward developing equitable and eective education systems.
Chapter 4 — Developing Inclusive Quality Education Systems
About the Authors
Dr Nidhi Singal
Reader in Education, Faculty of Education
University of Cambridge
Nidhi is a Reader at the Faculty of Education, University
of Cambridge. She has worked extensively with children
and young people with disabilities in South Asia and
Africa. Her research has focused on the educational
experiences of children with disabilities, the quality
of teaching and learning in mainstream classrooms,
and the impact of schooling on dierent learning outcomes. She was
part of the working group on Towards a disability inclusive education for
the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. Nidhi has worked with
various international donor agencies and international non-governmental
organizations such as, Handicap International, SightSavers, assisting them in
developing research projects, programme evaluation and policy work. She has
published widely in international academic journals and book chapters, and has
edited various books.
Nidhi is a Fellow at Hughes Hall and is actively involved in various college
related activities. She served as the acting vice-president in 2013. She is
also a trustee of the Cambridge Trusts, the largest provider of funding for
international students at Cambridge. Nidhi did her MPhil and PhD at the
Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Prior to this she did her Master’s
and Bachelor’s in Applied Psychology at the University of Delhi, India.
Hannah Ware
PhD Researcher, Faculty of Education
University of Cambridge
Hannah is currently pursuing her PhD at the Faculty of
Education, University of Cambridge. She is researching
the self-concept and belonging of children identified as
having SEN/D learning in schools in England. She also
has a Master’s of Education in the Management of Special
Education in Developing Countries, from the University
of Birmingham. Previously, she has worked in the disability and education
sector in England, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Shweta Khanna Bhutani
Shweta has been working in India in the disability and
education sector for the last ten years. She undertakes
projects as a research analyst and facilitates training
sessions. She specializes in the inclusion of children
with disabilities and children’s mental health in
schools. She has worked with schools and development
organizations supporting inclusion of children with
disabilities. She has an MPhil in Inclusive Education
from the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. She also holds a PG
Diploma in Child Guidance & Counselling and a Master’s in Psychology from
Delhi University, India.
About the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge Faculty of Education is committed to the highest
standards of research and teaching and is a significant contributor to the
improvement of educational policy and practice in partnership with schools,
colleges and other educational agencies both in the UK and internationally.
The Faculty is one of the largest groups of educational researchers and teacher
educators in the UK. This reflects a strategic commitment by the University of
Cambridge to contribute to excellence in all phases of public education, both
nationally and internationally. The Faculty of Education has a commitment
to conducting research of high quality and practical value. Our research is
underpinned by a strong set of values which give it purpose and direction.
Particular eort is directed towards the improvement of education with a
central focus on teaching and learning, informed by principles of inclusivity
and social justice, and valuing the contribution of user groups, especially
practitioners, in collaborative research partnerships.
About WISE
The World Innovation Summit for Education was established by Qatar
Foundation in 2009 under the leadership of its Chairperson, Her Highness
Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. WISE is an international, multi-sectoral platform
for creative, evidence-based thinking, debate, and purposeful action toward
building the future of education. Through the biennial summit, collaborative
research and a range of on-going programs, WISE is a global reference in new
approaches to education.
The WISE Research series, produced in collaboration with experts from
around the world, addresses key education issues that are globally relevant
and reflect the priorities of the Qatar National Research Strategy. Presenting
the latest knowledge, these comprehensive reports examine a range of
education challenges faced in diverse contexts around the globe, oering
action-oriented recommendations and policy guidance for all education
stakeholders. Past WISE Research publications have addressed issues
of access, quality, financing, teacher training, school systems leadership,
education in conflict areas, entrepreneurship, early-childhood education, and
twenty-first century skills.
The authors would like to thank her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser,
Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, and the leadership of Qatar Foundation,
for their unwavering commitment to the cause of education globally. It was
the vision and guidance of Her Highness that led to the creation of the World
Innovation Summit for Education. Without her on-going support, this WISE
Report would not have been possible.
The authors would like to acknowledge members of the WISE team for their
assistance in the various stages of producing this report, particularly Dr Asmaa
Alfadala, Dr Ahmed Baghdady, Malcolm Coolidge, and Asmaa Al-Hajaji.
The authors would like to thank Prof Seamus Hegarty, Warwick University,
and Dr Clayton Keller, Keller Consulting, LLC, for for their generous time in
peer reviewing this report.
The authors would also like to thank Law Alsobrook and Patty Paine for their
valuable contributions to the design and editing of this report.
The views and opinions in this publication are solely those of the authors.
Errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the authors.
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