By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
Inclusive education is central to achieving high quality education for all learners, including those with disabilities, and for the development of inclusive, peaceful and fair societies, UN human rights experts have said in authoritative new guidelines on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Millions of persons with disabilities are denied an education, and for many more, education is available only in settings where they are isolated from their peers,” the experts from the Committee on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities said in the guidelines published today, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Education of persons with disabilities is often poor quality, sets low expectations and limits learners’ opportunities, the Committee noted in the news release, adding that by contrast, a truly inclusive learning environment values the contribution and potential of persons with disabilities, and equips them with essential life, language and social skills.
“The right to inclusive education means transforming culture, policy and practice in all formal and informal educational environments to ensure education is for all learners,” said Committee Chairperson Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes in the news release. “Inclusive education is important not only for persons with disabilities but the societies they live in, as it helps to combat discrimination, and to promote diversity and participation.”
The guidelines – technically referred to as a General Comment – provide guidance for the 166 States that have ratified the Convention on meeting their obligations under Article 24, under which “States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and life-long learning.”
“Enabling inclusive education requires an in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy and the way education is financed, administered, designed, taught and monitored,” said Ms. Cisternas Reyes. “We hope our General Comment will guide and aid States toward achieving this goal.”
The General Comment stated that placing students with disabilities in mainstream classes without accompanying structural changes to organisation, curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, does not constitute inclusion.
Rather, the General Comment said, inclusive education 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.
It means the entire education system, whether state-run or private, must be accessible, including buildings, information and communication, education materials, teaching methods, assessment, language and support services, school transport, water and sanitation facilities at schools, school cafeterias and recreational spaces, the General Comment stated.
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