Consultation Findings: International Disability and Development Consortium

The numbers aren’t great. Children with disabilities are disproportionately represented among those who are still out of school. And while there is an urgent need to invest resources in getting them into school and providing them with the quality and inclusive education they deserve, there is unfortunately a crisis in global education financing.

If inclusive education is not adequately resourced over the next 15 years, these kids will be left behind — even before the Sustainable Development Goals have had a chance to make a difference.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development outlines clear commitments to finance  inclusive education for children with disabilities. Yet, making good on these commitments will require much more than just rhetoric. It will require better data and understanding of the costs associated with ensuring an inclusive education for children with disabilities. But perhaps even more importantly, it will require greater political will.

Sadly, there is a lack of data understanding of the costs associated with an inclusive education. In fact, in some cases the costs can be lower than what is often assumed. For example, the costs of making a new school building disability accessible is estimated at less than 1 per cent of total construction costs. But there are also other more complicated expenses that are vital to ensuring that children with disabilities receive a quality education. These include adequate assessment, teacher training, and specialised support for children with more complex disabilities. And, because truly inclusive education is still a rare occurrence, data on these costs is in short supply.

Unfortunately, many countries and donors still do not budget for the costs associated with including children with disabilities in mainstream schooling. Policymakers allocating resources for inclusive education often do so in a context where there is not enough money to go around. But even against a backdrop of limited resources and imperfect data, it is increasingly clear that discriminating against persons with disabilities in education financing is a false economy. In fact, a growing body of research points to the social and economic benefits of education for children with disabilities, such as increased employment opportunities, better health outcomes, and positive attitude changes towards persons with disabilities.

However, the real benefit of inclusive education is not as a means to other ends, but as an end in itself. As world leaders recognized in their commitment to leave no one behind last September at the UN General Assembly, no segment of society should be left out of development.

We welcome the Education Commission’s work in estimating the financing needed to achieve SDG 4 — to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” We look forward to supporting the Commission to ensure that their estimate fully factors in the costs of inclusive education, especially for children with disabilities.

Balancing budgets is far from simple, but children with disabilities must not pay the price. Some of the world’s most marginalised children are waiting for an education, and it’s time for policymakers to redo their maths.

Written by Polly Meeks and Aletheia Bligh Flower on behalf of the International Disability and Development Consortium Inclusive Education Task Group. The International Disability and Development Consortium are currently carrying out research into equitable education financing for children with disabilities. The full report will be launched in September 2016. #costingequity