Education is a key component of development. Unequal access to education resources and opportunities is a global challenge. While international organizations recognize the importance of inclusive education, there are still some missing components. For example, in SDG 4 Quality Education, the emphasis for promoting inclusive and quality education is on pre-school, primary and secondary school, and adult vocational training. Not much is said at the level of higher education. I believe that higher education is as important as other stages of education, and an inclusive international higher education can create next generation of global leaders who have greater cultural sensitivity and understanding of inclusive development.
In 2015-2016 academic year, 325,339 American students studied abroad, which takes up 1.6 percent of all American students enrolled in higher education institutions. Among the students who studied abroad, 8.8 percent are students with disabilities. In fact, there has been a growing trend of American students with disabilities to study abroad, from only 0.1 percent in 2011 to today’s 8.8 percent. This is indeed an astounding jump and one big step towards inclusive education. While their peers have the opportunity to study abroad, students with disabilities are increasingly able to enjoy the same education resources. With experience living and studying abroad, students can build better cross-cultural communication skills and are more likely to take initiatives on global issues.
While study abroad for American students is becoming more inclusive and accessible, it might not be the case for students in others countries. Achieving inclusive international education is a long-term process that requires not only efforts of education experts, but also cooperation between different actors including government officials, legislators, private sector actors, etc. Inclusive education initiative in one country might benefit students from other countries in the globalized world. Master’s of International Affairs in Comparative and International Disability at the IDPP is an example of inclusive international education, since international students with disabilities can fully participate in this program. It is through initiatives like this that students who are traditionally underrepresented in international education can also benefit from it and earn degrees on issues that affect them. This empowerment will enable them to better advocate for their own rights in global governance in the future since they are trained on language and practice that are common in the global policy-making scene. What’s more, a diverse pool of students studying together, although virtually, enhances their mutual understanding.
Inclusive international education is not captured by many global strategic frameworks. But it is an essential component in the concept of inclusive education in globalization. It requires more initiatives like the ones taken by the IDPP to move international education towards a more inclusive direction so that people who benefit from inclusive international education can one day make an impact and fill in this blank in global strategic frameworks.