Children with disabilities are being left behind by global efforts to improve education opportunities for all, as gaps between children with and without disabilities have increased dramatically in developing countries, according to new research from the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) released at the weekend, ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The study, Disability Gaps in Educational Attainment and Literacy, found that primary school completion for children with disabilities in 19 developing countries was just 48 percent, and as many as three in ten children with disabilities have never been in school.
The study, based on analysis of census data, also found that literacy rates and secondary school completion lag considerably behind: Only six in 10 children with disabilities can read and write, and only a third complete secondary school.
“Ensuring that all children have the same opportunities to go to school and learn should be a top priority to end the persistent learning crisis. More than gender or socio-economic status, disability has an outsize impact on a child’s opportunities to learn,” World Bank’s lead economist and co-author of the study, Quentin Wodon said.
“As we work with countries to increasingly invest in their people, it’s critical that children with disabilities are not left behind.”
It noted that the gaps between children with and without disabilities have increased substantially over the last 30 to 40 years, adding that children with disabilities have largely been excluded from efforts to improve education outcomes in the developing world.
For example, it noted that despite high primary school enrollment in many of the countries covered by the report, the gap in primary school completion between disabled and non-disabled children stood at 15 percentage points for girls and 18 percentage points for boys.
The report demonstrated that these gaps were the result of exclusion associated with disabilities, as opposed to other characteristics of children that could be correlated with disabilities.
The report also found that children with intellectual or multiple disabilities tend to fare worse than children with physical disabilities or disabilities related to hearing, seeing, or speech.
According to experts, access to school for children with disabilities is often limited by a lack of understanding about their needs, a shortage of trained teachers, as well as a lack of adequate facilities, classroom support and learning resources.
“When children with disabilities can realise their right to education, it will have a lifelong and positive impact on their learning, achievement and employment opportunities, contributing both to their own development as well as to the economic, social and human development of their communities and countries,” the senior education advisor at the GPE, ,” Louise Banham said.
“GPE is working closely with its partners to support the inclusion of children with disabilities in education systems.”