Inclusive education is another grand challenge international development practitioners have grappled with for a long time, and universal primary education is one of the top concerns or goals to achieve for the Sustainable Development Goals. When talking about inclusive education, a main problem we see is students with disabilities being excluded from the classroom environment. There are many different reasons behind this. Oftentimes, people say they will promote disability-inclusive education, but it is much more difficult to do in practice, and much less common.
This can be for cultural reasons. In many countries, students with mental or physical disabilities are stigmatized for their condition. This certainly happens in the United States, but we have stronger protections in place for ensuring that students of different backgrounds and abilities are included, relatively speaking. The cultural stigma of someone having a disability will lead schools to say they cannot have that student in the classroom.
Another cause behind this problem is the extremely daunting financial and professional burden of ensuring that every student, regardless of level of ability, has a seat at the table of education. It can be extremely costly to get professionals who are trained in working with students with disabilities, and to purchase appropriate equipment and tools that may be needed for a disabled student to have the same level of success as a student who does not have a disability. It can also be costly, for example, to make an educational facility accessible to a student with a physical disability. These may mean building wheelchair ramps or installing elevators, which many schools to not have the funds to put in.
As previously discussed, the Millennial Development Goals did not mention these issues enough, but the CRPD has been working hard to increase the rights of people with disabilities. The cultural stigma is tough to combat if it is so deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of a country, but the CRPD and the new SDGs recognize the need to combat the issue from a cultural standpoint and a financial one. Students with physical and mental disabilities have unique problems, and the tactics used also need to be tailored to the country of operation due to cultural reasons. That way, the outcome can be as effective as possible.