The 2013 edition of The state of the world’s children is dedicated to the situation of children with disabilities. The report examines the barriers – from inaccessible buildings to dismissive attitudes, from invisibility in official statistics to vicious discrimination – that deprive children with disabilities of their rights and keep them from participating fully in society. It also lays out some of the key elements of inclusive societies that respect and protect the rights of children with disabilities, adequately support them and their families, and nurture their abilities – so that they may take advantage of opportunities to flourish and make their contribution to the world. Chapter 3 includes a section specifically on inclusive education (pages 27 to 36). 

The second edition of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) presents the latest evidence on global progress towards the education targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With hundreds of millions of people still not going to school, and many not achieving minimum skills at school, it is clear education systems are off track to achieve global goals. The marginalised currently bear the most consequences but also stand to benefit the most if policy-makers pay sufficient attention to their needs. Faced with these challenges, along with tight budgets and increased emphasis on results-oriented value for money, countries are searching for solutions. Increased accountability often tops the list.

The 2017/8 GEM Report shows the entire array of approaches to accountability in education. It ranges from countries unused to the concept, where violations of the right to education go unchallenged, to countries where accountability has become an end in itself instead of a means to inclusive, equitable and high-quality education and lifelong learning for all.

The report emphasises that education is a shared responsibility. While governments have primary responsibility, all actors – schools, teachers, parents, students, international organizations, private sector providers, civil society and the media – have a role in improving education systems. The report emphasises the importance of transparency and availability of information but urges caution in how data are used. It makes the case for avoiding accountability systems with a disproportionate focus on narrowly defined results and punitive sanctions. In an era of multiple accountability tools, the report provides clear evidence on those that are working and those that are not.

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur reviews the role of equity and inclusion in strengthening the right to education, in particular in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The Special Rapporteur concludes by calling for states to take significant, positive actions to tackle discrimination, inequity and exclusion in education to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are met.

Key resource

The aim of the present general comment is to clarify the obligations of States parties regarding non-discrimination and equality as enshrined in article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Section K of the general comment refers to the right to education:

  1. The failure of some States parties to provide students with disabilities, including students with visible and invisible disabilities and those who experience multiple discrimination, with equal access to mainstream school with inclusive and quality education is discriminatory, contrary to the objectives of the Convention, and in direct contravention of Articles 5 and 24. Article 5 (1) interacts with Article 24 of the Convention and requires States parties to remove all types of discriminatory barriers, including legal and social barriers, to inclusive education.
  2. Segregated models of education, which exclude students with disabilities from mainstream and inclusive education on the basis of disability, contravene articles 5 (2) and 24 (1) (a) of the Convention. Article 5 (3) requires States parties to take all appropriate steps to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided. That right is strengthened for persons with disabilities in article 24 (2) (b), which requires States parties to ensure an inclusive education for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. That goal can be achieved by providing reasonable accommodation of an individual’s requirement, in accordance with article 24 (2) (c), and developing new and inclusive settings according to universal design. Standardized assessment systems, including entry examinations, that directly or indirectly exclude students with disabilities are discriminatory and in contravention of articles 5 and 24. States parties’ obligations extend beyond the school. States parties must ensure accessible school transportation is provided to all students with disabilities where transportation options are limited due to social or economic barriers.
  3. To ensure equality and non-discrimination for deaf children in educational settings, they must be provided with sign language learning environments with deaf peers and deaf adult role models. The lack of proficiency in sign language skills of teachers of deaf children and inaccessible school environments exclude deaf children and are thus considered discriminatory. The Committee calls upon States parties to be guided by its general comment No. 4 (2016) on the right to inclusive education when carrying out measures to fulfil their obligations under articles 5 and 24.

The General Comment is available here.

In this decision, the Court found that the right to education of a disabled child had been violated when the educational institution did not award an official certificate of completion for his secondary education, even after the student had met all the requirements of his personalised education project (proyecto pedagógico individual or PPI) because his PPI did not comply with the minimum requirements under local regulations. The Court concluded that people with disabilities have the right to an inclusive education on an equal basis with others, and this includes the right to have their capabilities and accomplishments certified under equal conditions. ‘Equal conditions’ does not necessarily mean identical requirements but rather, making reasonable adjustments to ensure that individuals are treated as equals. Namely, the Court explained that the plaintiff, having met the specific requirements of his PPI and having attended and passed 5 years of courses at the institution, had the same right as his classmates that had met the requirements imposed on them to receive a certificate.

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (the ‘BC HRT’) (reversing the decisions of both the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal) that the Board of Education of School District No. 44 (North Vancouver) (the ‘School District’), by closing a facility that provided intensive services and individualised assistance to students with severe learning disabilities, had denied a child with severe dyslexia access to a service customarily available to the public, being education, contrary to the British Columbia Human Rights Code (R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210, s. 8). Although the School District was subject to severe funding constraints, it was found to have not acted with a bona fide and reasonable justification, which could have provided a defence to the Human Rights Code violation.

General comment No. 20: Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights (art. 2, para. 2, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)

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