Universal primary education by 2015: this is the second of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by every country in the world in 2000. Yet this mission will only succeed if it reaches all children, including those with disabilities. Today more than 80% of all children in developing countries are enrolled in primary school, but up to 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. They then miss out on education’s lifelong benefits – better employment opportunities, greater participation in society, improved health and a clearer understanding of their rights. This enormous gap has many causes: lack of access, inadequate facilities, the mistaken belief that disabled children cannot go to school and discrimination are all factors. While learning can take place in many settings, often the most effective way for children with disabilities to get an education is to attend their local, mainstream schools.
This approach, known as inclusive education, sees changing school cultures as a positive process. Disability is not viewed as the problem; rather it presents an evolving opportunity for change and growth that enables schools to take account of the needs of all children in their area. Without such efforts, meeting MDG 2 will be impossible. In 2008 a second worldwide initiative was added to the MDGs – the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This human rights treaty takes a rights-based approach to disability and development and states that ‘States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels…’ With the world now committed to every child’s right to full participation in every country’s educational system, it is vital to assess which methods of inclusive education are most effective. What are the predominant reasons that children with disabilities do not attend school? How can governments, international organisations and local school systems work together to ensure that every child is included in school? What is the best way to influence and adapt educational systems so that all children can participate? You are invited to explore these issues and write about both the range of barriers to education that disabled children face and the best ways to tackle this worldwide problem. Helpful sites to begin your research