According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: Quality Education, a quality education is the “foundation to creating sustainable development.” It is largely understood that education is one of the most important factors in reducing poverty and improving quality of life. While the world has seen great strides in increasing enrollment, literacy rates, and access to education, there is one important factor that still has not received the attention it deserves in the education sector: inclusive education. An estimated 15% of the world’s population is persons with disabilities, which accounts for over one billion people, yet inclusive education is still greatly lacking in many countries. Education is the key to social and economic development, and without inclusive education, sustainable development efforts cannot be fully achieved.
In 2003, UNICEF released a study on Inclusive Education Initiatives for Children with Disabilities: Lessons from the East Asia and Pacific Region which was a pivotal study in the disability-inclusive education field. Through studying policies and programs throughout Southeast Asia and China, the report made a number of recommendations that have been instrumental in creating and improving inclusive education initiatives around the world. While the study had a long list of recommendations for improving various aspects of inclusive education, some of the fundamental recommendations included improving and funding inclusive education training for teachers, increasing community participation, advocating for better understanding of children with disabilities and inclusive education both in schools and the community, and creating more flexible curricula and assessment procedures. These are the types of changes that need to be implemented in order to achieve SDG 4 of inclusive and equitable quality education and improving quality of life for everyone.
Since the UNICEF study back in 2003, there have been many changes in the possibilities for inclusive education specifically in regard to information and communication technologies (ICTs). In 2014, UNESCO and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ICT) published a model policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities. The advancements of ICTs have created numerous opportunities for improving education, especially for persons with disabilities. In my view, investing in inclusive education is ultimately an investment in a better future for everyone and should be a top priority.