Conflict can take many forms. For this reason, problematizing development discourse is crucial to defining it’s many dimensions and generating new ideas for solving inveterate issues within global education. The UNESCO Education for All movement, agreed upon by 164 nations of the UN in 2000, outlined an ambitious plan to provide basic quality education to all children and adults by 2015. As it currently stands, many nations have failed to provide policies for educating children with disabilities, highlighting a major conflict in policymaking worldwide. Furthermore, it begs the question: How can policymakers at both the international and local level reconcile the conflicting interpretations and motivations informing their education policies?

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Child with cerebral palsy at the Palsigunung rehabilitation center in Jakarta. Source: Beawiharta, REUTERS 2010

According to a recent article by the Thompson Reuters Foundation, over half of the world’s 65 million school age children with disabilities are being left behind in education. They are being systematically written off by policymakers concerned with their (children with disabilities) potential as a “worthy investment” (Tabary, 2016). This dehumanizing process of elimination is all too familiar in a field where development policy is largely established in the neo-liberal tradition of human capital theory. Children with disabilities are essentially considered subordinate investments due to their inability to enter the workplace. This article references a recent UNESCO report that cites a major trend in defunding education in international aid programs. In a reaction abreast of the current economically focused policies of education and development, inclusive education advisors are positioning their arguments as wise investments. Nafisa Baboo of Light for the World, explains that inclusion of disabled children is not only cheaper than segregation but it can lead to less societal discrimination. Stigma against the disabled is especially ripe within developing communities and increasingly apparent in policymaking.

Kashmir Government  Fails To Support School For Disabled
Blind student. Source: Yawar Nazir, Getty Images

While many government policies dutifully account for the education of all children, in practice there is a disproportionate gap in education for children with disabilities. According to a Huffington Post article, one reason for this gap in developing countries is the lack of inclusive education policies, such as IDEA (1975) in the US that has worked to include almost 96% of disabled children within regular classes throughout their school day. Antia (2015) posits that rather than being a sound investment, inclusive education is a moral imperative for policymakers.

Although international movements, such as Education for All (2000) have provided an impetus for governments to design inclusive education policies, policymakers have failed to produce. This conflict in policymaking is rooted in an outdated, yet widely accepted, theory of children being considered as investments. This logic has led to the failure of policymaking in developing nations to produce substantive education policy to serve children with disabilities. Be it stigma against the disabled, or misguided motivations, there is conflict in international education policy. As Antia (2015) rightfully suggested, policymakers across the globe have a moral imperative to rejuvenate their efforts to produce quality inclusive education.

 

References

Education for All Movement. UNESCO. (2000) Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/

Tabary, Zoe. (2016). Half of the world’s disabled children are out of school – report. Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved from http://news.trust.org/item/20161017000359-br3vh/

Antia, Shirin D. (2015). Education For Children With Disabilities Is A Global Right. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shirin-d-antia/education-for-children-wi_b_8854920.html

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