Inclusive Education


All humans have rights – all rights apply to all humans. Disabled People (Persons with Disabilities) are rights holders and decision-makers in their own lives. Exclusion from services is a violation of an individual’s human rights.

Inclusive education is a fundamental right, both a means and an end for all children, including the most marginalised. It presents an opportunity to build the foundation of an inclusive  society, as well as the opportunity to re-imagine and rejuvenate the education system[1].

What is Inclusive Education? The right to inclusive education encompasses a transformation in culture, policy and practice in all formal and informal educational environments to accommodate the differing requirements and identities of individual students, together with a commitment to remove the barriers impeding that possibility. It involves strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. It focuses on the full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those who, for different reasons, are excluded or at risk of being marginalized. Inclusion involves access to and progress in high-quality formal and informal education without discrimination. It seeks to enable communities, systems and structures to combat discrimination, including harmful stereotypes, recognizes diversity, promotes participation and overcomes barriers to learning and participation for all, by focusing on well-being and success of disabled students. It requires an in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy, and the mechanisms for financing, administration, design, delivery and monitoring of education. [2]

Inclusive Education is now broadened and seen as a core principle of education to ensure that all children are reached, under the assumption that every learner matters equally and has the right to receive effective educational opportunities. However, this paper aims to make a strong case for ensuring access to quality inclusive education specifically for disabled people, as one of many groups who are vulnerable to exclusion. For disabled people of all ages, the main challenge remains to be able to attend and achieve at schools and educational institutions in the communities where they live and with their peers. This is important, first and foremost because it provides learners with the fullest realisation of their right to education, but also because it is the most efficient and cost-effective means to ensuring the fulfilment of this right. In the low income countries large-scale exclusion of disabled children remains the order of the day and is not often high on government agendas. In middle and high income countries, far too many are segregated in special schools or units. The UN’s 2018 Disability and Development Report said: “Among the countries with data, persons with disabilities … are less likely to attend school, they are more likely to be out of school, they are less likely to complete primary or secondary education, they have fewer years of schooling and they are less likely to possess basic literacy skills.” 

Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN, 2006)[3] and the subsequent General Comment 4 on Article 24 (2016)[4] were the most critical milestones since the 1994 Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action (UNESCO, 1994)[5] to affirm the right of disabled people to access an inclusive education. In 2015 this right was further embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 committing all countries to ensure equal opportunity in access to quality learning opportunities at all levels of education from a lifelong perspective. There is also a new focus on the relevance of learning outcomes both for the world of work, as well as for citizenship in a global and interconnected world. This is particularly explicit in target 4.5 which aims to eliminate gender disparities and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for those at risk of exclusion including disabled people, indigenous peoples and children in risk situations.

[1] Leonard Cheshire (Sept 2019) Inclusive education for persons with disabilities — Are we making progress?

[2] Para 9 General  Comment No 4, 2016  ibid


[4] UNCRPD Committee  General Comment No 4 2016

[5] UNESCO Salamanca Statement and Framework 1994


CDPF Broadsheet to CCEM 2024

Realising Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Case Studies in Mainstreaming and Inclusive Education (Commonwealth Secretariat, Jan 2023)

A Commonwealth Guide to Implementing Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2012 version)

Developing Inclusive Education and Disability Equality for children and students with disabilities

DID Disability Inclusive Development Programme

Brief: the DIDIF programme’s Inclusive Education portfolio. Download below:

Disability Inclusive Education: A Call to Action to Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education

Case Studies


British Colombia

Why British Columbia?

Canada, similar to Finland and Singapore, is ranked highly on global education indicators and regarded as a leading nation in the area of inclusive education and disability.

Ideas about inclusive education have developed over the decades. British Columbia, one of the 10 provinces in the country with a similar population as Singapore, began with separate schools run by parents of children with disabilities in the 1960s. It moved quickly to segregated classrooms within public schools, and eventually to schools where students with special needs are included in regular classrooms with other typical children. By the early 2000s, there were no more special education schools in the province’s , as policies shifted to resource classroom teachers appropriately with assistants and access to professionals like therapists and consultants in special education.

Families were the primary force behind this move as they advocated for their children with special needs to attend school in their neighbourhood and receive the support required for their children to be successful in regular classroom settings, instead of segregated programmes. Since the 1950s, ground-up groups like Inclusion BCFamily Support Institute and PLAN, run by professionals who are parents of children with disabilities, have journeyed with government to empower families after them and progress standards of inclusion in schools. There is much to learn from British Columbia, which has made inclusion a hallmark of its educational system, as its stakeholders navigate shrinking budgets and political changes to get students and teachers the support they need.

Episode 1 Bridging the Divide
Episode 2 Forging Friendships
Episode 3 Learners in Progress
Episode 4 Teaming Up
Episode 5  Power to Parents


Combining Child Functioning Data with Learning and Support Needs Data to Create Disability-Identification Algorithms in Fiji’s Education Management Information System

Beth Sprunt and Manjula Marella


Inclusive Education in Guyana


Dr Sruti Mohapatra outlines approaches to Inclusive Education at Swabhiman, Odisha, Eastern India


Strengthening Inclusive Education in Nepal

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: Radical Inclusion Policy

South Africa

United Kingdom