- September 30, 2019

The 3rd Technical Meeting of the Task Team on Inclusive Education of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) was held in Brighton, UK from  2-4 July, 2019. Download the list of participants.

This built on the work and discussions that the Task Team had undertaken since its inception in 2018. Some of the major milestones leading up to the Brighton meeting are as follows:

  • A stock taking report on the situation of education in general, and in particular for children with disabilities in terms of access and equity. This report built on the discussions of the Task Team’s first meeting in London, UK in March 2018.
  • Decision to work on developing a DPO consensus position on how global and national efforts to achieve SDG 4 for all children, including children with disabilities should be framed with CRPD standards. This work was to be informed by having an in-depth look at a country situation and possible policy scenarios (Nepal).
  • A desk top review of the status of inclusive education for children with disabilities in Nepal followed by the 2nd technical meeting of the Task Team that included a workshop with Nepalese DPOs.
  • Discussion in Kathmandu both within the Task Team and with Nepalese DPOs showed that there is a quasi-consensus on the vision for CRPD compliant SDG 4 and that remaining issues are more a matter of careful and steady clarification. There was an overall agreement that building truly inclusive education system is the only way to respond to both learning and schooling crises; and to ensure  that all children whoever they are and wherever they are, are positively impacted by education systems, policies and programmes by 2030.

Objectives of the Brighton meeting

  • Follow up on Nepal case study and finalise recommendations for achieving SDG 4 in line with CRPD
  • Technical agreement on a consensus document that will provide guidance to national DPOs around the world
  • Prepare IDA contribution to the next UNESCO Global Education Monitor (GEM) report
  • Engage with IDDC members on collective advocacy and collaborations on inclusive education
  • Design of the global report and further activities of the flagship

Summary of discussions
On the first day of the meeting in Brighton, Task Team members shared updates regarding ongoing developments in the area of inclusive education including the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Inclusive Education working group, the Inclusive Education Initiative of the World Bank; G20 Development Working Group Paper; the Abidjan Principles on right to education; and the work of IDA members.

The final desktop literature review of the status of inclusive education for children with disabilities in Nepal was also presented to the Task Team. This updated version included some of the missing data which were collected through a local researcher with an expertise on inclusive education. 

The major part of the first two days however, was dedicated to reviewing the basis for the consensus position. This consensus would be the technical agreement that would be sent to the IDA Board for formal approval as the position of IDA on Article 24 of the CRPD.

In Nepal, the Task Team had agreed on the policy parameters on the vision for CRPD compliant SDG 4 implementation. As both the SDGs and the CRPD imply universality, all policy scenarios should therefore positively impact all children including children with disabilities whoever and wherever they are. Additionally, all efforts towards achieving SDG 4 should be compliant with CRPD and at all times  imply a dual duty of immediate enforcement of non-discrimination and provision of reasonable accommodation, plus progressive realisation of the transformation of the entire education system to be fully inclusive. Also importantly, the Task Team agreed that advocacy of any disability constituency should not undermine the advocacy of any other constituency.

There was also consensus on several critical elements essential to the realisation of Article 24 of the CRPD, especially on the fact that overall improvement of the education system is necessary to ensure inclusive education for children with disabilities. Moreover, while systematically enforcing non-discrimination and zero rejection policies, including provision of reasonable accommodation, as an immediate response was needed to address out of school children; this alone does not equate with inclusive education. 

Building on this, the Brighton meeting discussed some of the key elements where consensus was yet to be achieved. Primary among them was the issue of special schools and an agreement on ‘phasing them out’. The Task Team agreed that the emphasis on special education policies and schools has so far failed to deliver quality education and inclusion for the vast majority of children with disabilities. Special education policies have often diverted attention, efforts and resources away from required investment in improving the overall education system resulting in legacies that undermine effective transformation towards inclusive education systems. 

After a rigorous discussion, the Task Team agreed that special schools and other segregated settings are progressively phased out with key human resources and knowledge assets converted into support of equal access and inclusion. Because of their critical role in language acquisition for deaf children, schools for the deaf are supported to become inclusive bilingual sign language schools.

The position paper capturing this consensus has been sent to the IDA Board for approval. A summary of this technical agreement has been shared with UNESCO to be included in the next Global Education Monitor (GEM) report. Additionally, all these discussions will now be synthesised in a global report on Inclusive Education that will be produced by March 2020, which will also include case studies from around the world from different stakeholders.

Day of Discussion with IDDC
On 4 July, the Task Team had an interaction with members of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) working group on inclusive education; and members of the Technical Advisory Group on Education under the Disability Inclusive Development consortium project. Participants shared their updates on recent and upcoming key developments on inclusive education. This included events like the UNESCO Salamanca+25 conference in Colombia, the UKFIET Conference, African Disability Forum conference on inclusive education in Niger, and the 2019 Social Forum which would focus on education, among others.

The broad technical agreement was shared with the participants with the caveat that it is still pending approval from the IDA Board. The meeting also discussed some of the ways in which this broad consensus could be publicised and also how inclusive education for all children can be realised. It was agreed that there was a need to join forces, especially for events where it would add to the collective advocacy. It was also highlighted that there was a crucial need to not just empower the disability movement and organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) at all levels (global, national and local); but also to influence the larger actors in the education sector such as the World Bank, GPE, etc. It was highlighted that while work is needed to bring funders on board for realisation of CRPD compliant SDG 4, it was also important to build a pool of resources who can be recruited to support this work; not as volunteers but as paid consultants.

The meeting ended with the participants agreeing on a broad calendar of events where the DPO led consensus position could be presented. It was mentioned that the draft of the global report would be completed by December and the English version would be ready by March 2020. This report could be presented at the March session of the  CRPD and also officially unveiled at the next Conference of States Parties to the CRPD in June 2020.

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