Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. However, as stated in the progress report for 2019, SDG 4 may not be met by the year 2030. 262 million children and youth aged 6 to 17 are still out of school and more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) addresses the issues of inclusive and equitable education in their Grand Challenges. All Children Reading is a USAID initiative that is advancing edtech innovation and research to improve reading outcomes for marginalized children in low-resource contexts. Through the use of technology, USAID has been able to reach over 600, 00 children with early grade reading materials and approaches, distributed 1.3 million learning materials in over 140 languages spoken. All Children Reading also source and test solutions that address barriers to child literacy in the books in underserved languages, foundations of literacy, and children with disabilities. The use of technology to make education inclusive and accessible has been a major turn in realizing SDG 4 as it has not only connected our world to share resources but also given the ability for these resources to be put to good use such as meeting the need for education for all children regardless of their background, language, culture, or ability.
The challenge is how do we expound on these efforts to use technology to forward quality education for all that is inclusive more rapidly to meet SDG 4 by 2030? I believe that a greater spread of data and information, increasing the number of teachers that are properly trained to meet diverse student needs and technological capabilities for education, as well as use technology to shape the classroom environment are all ways to investigate and forward to potentially close gaps in meeting SDG 4 by the year 2030. USAID’s All Children Reading initiative is a great example and leader in pursuing technological capabilities to create quality education for every child around the world and other efforts should follow suit in using technology to advance SDG 4 by the year and beyond 2030.
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.
Disability-inclusive education is when persons with disability (PWD) and any people that require more steps or preparation for accessing any resource are fully emerged in the imitative for inclusive education. In other words, inclusive education helps children with disabilities to prepare for full participation in community life. Therefore, education should be provided regardless of any of the barriers and challenges that people with disabilities may have. Not just for PWD, but inclusive education should encompass any group and community, or individual hoping to receive education. Henceforth, inclusive education is not only for children but also for those who are hoping to access education but cannot because of a physical or social or any type of barrier. Therefore, technology may enable for a platform that gives access to the virtual learning. Persons with disabilities should have the equal opportunity from the stages before, during and after receiving education—for employment and other social activities. These initiatives all start from education and educational empowerment is so crucial to all of the other results that we hope to bring to our community.
Education, as part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations framework, is important for the education goal from SDG Goal 4. The Sustainable Development Goal 4 ensures “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. According to the United Nations, many developing nations are still lacking the basic infrastructure and facilities that provide an effective means of learning. Therefore, because there is lack of access to education infrastructures, there are not enough ability for those developing nations to have the same level or better yet the same accessibilities to receive education. In this time of technological development, education plays a huge role in terms of how education can be accessed and how the quality of education is, who more is able to receive the education, and which better ways we are able to hold global summits and conferences. Not only does technology allow for distance-barriers for conferences, but also for those physically unable to access these sites.
Many supports the scope of education through ICTs and believe that ICT can improve the learner’s motivation and engagement for learning. With the transformation in the “cool” technological tools, there can be a paradigm shift to a “learner-centered” environment. This enables the teachers to enforce more engagement from students and from the professors with the tool available. Then, we start to question the quality of education that is done online. To what extent can ICT play a role in the quality of education and not just the inclusivity of this subject in hand? What do we do to ensure that the facilitation of education still has high quality and enhances the environment in which education is hosted online and through other ICT platforms?
Urban schools are one of the best places to promote inclusive education. Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups across all countries, and they are most likely to be excluded from education. When these children do attend school, an inaccessible learning environment and a lack of support from their peers and teachers hinders their education.
Given that cities host such a wide variety and range of people, more children with disabilities are likely to live and go to school in urban centers. Ensuring that schools are disability-friendly and accessible for all keeps certain marginalized groups from falling behind. Addressing accessibility and inclusion in the class room will also have far-reaching effects on urban issues like poverty.
Special education teachers are often underpaid and under-appreciated in schools, but the work that they do is vital to including all children into the education curriculum. Ensuring that these teachers continue to get trained and have access to the resources and support they need is vital to extend the reach of education.
ICTs can also play an important role in bridging the education gap between PWD and other urban dwellers. Cities are often hubs of innovation and development, making them the perfect place for new technologies to be introduced into the classroom.
Although cities provide many opportunities for the extension of inclusive education such as a wide variety of resources, a diverse student population, and greater access to things like museums, musical events and other forms of the arts, urban schools also bring their fair share of challenges. These include things like low academic standards, poorly trained teaching staff, low graduation rates, high suspension rates, and schools that feed the school-to-prison pipeline.
These challenges need to be addressed at the state and municipal levels so that urban education can improve on all levels. Funding and proper pay is especially important when considering that childhood schooling sets the foundation for students to be active citizens that want to be involved in the community and in the wider economy. Ensuring that children with disabilities are included from the beginning sets the precedent that they deserve the same opportunities as the rest of their peers and that they have important skills and abilities that can make a difference.
Although our class discussed inclusive education a while back, our recent talks on Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are relevant in furthering educational opportunities. We learned that disability inclusive education is ensuring that all students, children, adults, and others have the available tools to be able to pursue their goals as equally as any other. It is a notion that has been received positively, yet not always implemented well. The article Educational Opportunities for Students with Disabilities by F.S. Haq highlights this point. When comparing trainee teachers’ attitudes to certain disabilities and students with higher support needs, Haq found generally positive attitudes toward including children with special needs in the general classroom, especially if the teachers have the appropriate sensitization and awareness exposure in training for this special and inclusive education (Haq and Lawrence). However, in the article’s survey, participants also supported inclusion but were not in favor of accommodating students with multiple disabilities and challenging behaviors (Haq and Lawrence). Positive attitudes are certainly a key component to inclusive education, but there needs to be action. Every person has a fundamental right to educational opportunities. I agree with Haq that special education courses should thus be incorporated into teacher training programs. Teachers should be able to accommodate for every student’s style of learning. It may be apprehensive and a lot to approach, but it must be done. Continue reading
Education is the first space in which discrimination can occur. Regardless of whether it is because of race, gender, or disability individuals can be subjected to exclusion and fall behind. Amartya Sen notes education as a key as to development and therefore the freedom to choose. Those who lack education are unfortunately penalized in the global economy and this disproportionately affects minorities more than any other group. It should be noted that currently there are 745 million adults worldwide who are illiterate and 114 million young people lack these basic skills as well.
Receiving a quality education is vital to sustainable development. As Sen (1999) states, education is a gateway that improves quality of life while opening up economic, political, and social opportunities. However, persons with disabilities have historically been excluded from educational opportunities. Therefore, disability-inclusive education has been designed to remedy that imbalance by ensuring that all people are being provided the educational opportunities and skills they need to participate in social and economic development. Article 24 of the CRPD recognizes the right to education for persons with disabilities and requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the education system. Moreover, Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Looking specifically at its targets that focus on inclusivity, SDG 4 works toward ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for persons with disabilities, as well as building and upgrading facilities that are disability-inclusive to create better learning environments.
My capstone project focuses specifically on disability-inclusive education in Malaysia. In Malaysia, education is viewed as a key instrument in transforming the country into a knowledge-based economy that can compete with a globalized world, as well as promoting harmony and unity for its uniquely diverse society. In its national education policy, better known as the Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the Malaysian government aims to provide equal access to education and create more inclusive environments for persons with disabilities. However, the implementation of this policy is challenging due to negative public perceptions of disability in Malaysia. The Malaysian Information Network on Disabilities has asserted that among policy makers and the public there is a lack of awareness on the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. The general public still continues to believe that children with disabilities are often kept out of the public and are an embarrassment and burden to their families. Similarly, teachers hold common beliefs that students with disabilities would be best educated in separated classrooms. These challenges to inclusive education affect many countries around the world, but significantly impact the success of disability-inclusive education in Malaysia. Despite this, education can be utilized to transform cultural and social stigmas of disability within Malaysian society.
As discussed in this week’s seminar, inclusive technologies can help positively transform societies like Malaysia. Firstly, they can help individualize learning for students with disabilities. Moreover, they can connect educators with one another to develop teacher’s professional development and to share resources to positively improve disability-inclusive education. Ultimately, inclusive education is paramount to sustainable development practices, and best facilitated through the use of inclusive ICTs.