Nisai Group, UNESCO IITE & Inquirer Interactive Webinar Series 2023/4
Inquirer Interactive, along with Nisai Education Trust and UNESCO IITE, is currently hosting a series of webinars about inclusive education in Asia.
Inclusive education is considered one of the keys to a sustainable economy and society. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 is Quality Education and the aim is to ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.
The goal is broken down into different objectives, but it is worthy to highlight that ‘By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.’ (UN SDG 2030)
What then is inclusive education? UNESCO (2009) define inclusive education as “an ongoing process aimed at offering quality education for all while respecting diversity and the different needs and abilities, characteristics and learning expectations of the students and communities, eliminating all forms of discrimination.”
In this regard, why might inclusive education have an influence over sustainability and why does it really matter? At the core of the issue are three drivers for improved inclusion. Firstly, there is educational inclusion as an indicator of a socially just and moral approach to organizing social and economic activity. As an example, young people with emotional or learning disorders are more likely to be excluded from education and can even die prematurely, often from suicide—considered as the second most prevalent cause of death among young people worldwide. In an inclusive education setting, students with disabilities have been found to have higher achievements in language and mathematics, higher rates of attendance, improved rates of high school graduation and more positive relationships with students without disabilities.
The second driver for inclusive education is its economic impact. In the case of Bangladesh, the World Bank estimates that the cost to the economy of excluding people with disability from education in the region is at US$1.2 billion or 1.74% of GDP annually. Studies in the US (Biederman and Faraone, 2006) showed that not including individuals with ADHD into the workforce effectively has an estimated cost of USD 67 to 116 billion, and that most of this is due to a loss of productivity or being unable to secure full-time employment. UNESCO’s 2020 study also found that households that contain people with disability generally earn less, not just because lower attainment meant poorer access to employment ,but also because other members of the household have to spend increased time in giving care, are unable to take up higher paying employment, and face higher social protection costs.
Thirdly, there are important gains that are crucial to inclusive education. Research shows that inclusive practice raises the outcomes for all young people in education—educators and curriculum designers modify, adapt, and personalize delivery. (Hehir, Grindal, Freeman, Lamoreau, Borquaye, and Burke, 2016). The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE 2018) evidenced increased social and academic opportunities for both children with and without disabilities when they experience an inclusive learning environment. This is alongside the significant increase in young people with disabilities accessing higher education, based on a 2015 UNICEF study.
Indeed, inclusive education is a cost-effective approach to education, and given the needs of growing populations of young people, it is imperative that the best possible outcome can be achieved. A 2014 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit looking at education in emerging economies showed that the cost of educating a young person in a special school was 15 times higher than creating adaptations in a mainstream setting, whilst studies in Southern Africa pointed to the huge cost differential between building special schools and adapting mainstream schools to be fully inclusive. It was determined to be almost 20 times more expensive to build one special school than to make adaptation to a mainstream setting.
In this regard, Nisai Education Trust will be continuing to explore what it means to better include everyone in education in Asia, and in particular the Philippines and SouthEast Asia in the coming months. The Nisai Group will build on the experiences of its online Global School, UNESCO IITE, its outstanding practitioners, and its academics from around the world.
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