Stakeholders in the education sector have called for more data on children with disabilities to ensure equal access to education by 2030.
Statistics show that children with disabilities in developing countries are less likely to access education and achieve basic learning outcomes than children without disabilities.
According to a new working paper data available in GPE partner countries are very discouraging as in the past, disability was often viewed through the lens of a ‘medical model’ as being the result of a disease or injury, and often classified with demeaning or stigmatising labels.
However, today, surveys increasingly use two ‘best practice’ standards for asking about disability, both developed by the Washington Group on Disability Statistics: the Washington Group Short Set on Functioning (WG-SS), and the Child Functioning Module (CFM, jointly developed with UNICEF).
These questions focus on the things that individuals can do and achieve within their social and physical context, with and without the forms of assistance such as hearing aids or glasses that may be available to them. This reflects a better understanding of what disability is, and results in more reliable, nuanced and meaningful data being gathered.
Not enough surveys and censuses to collect disability data
During 2010–2020, at least 98 nationally representative surveys or censuses across 54 GPE partner countries collected data on disability in some form, and the number of countries with recent data using comparable and reliable questions has been steadily increasing.
Most have some data on education and disability, but 28 countries still have no nationally representative, reliable and comparable survey or census data that could be used to provide disability-disaggregated statistics on access to education.
Only half of partner countries have baseline statistics from around 2015, the beginning of the SDG period. And few have statistics for more than one year that would make it possible to track progress over time.
4 recommendations to make progress
GPE working paper makes four recommendations for GPE partners to produce the disability-disaggregated statistics that are needed for governments to advance inclusive education, as well as for development partners to hold each other to account:
Monitor disability data availability to raise awareness around the need for more and better data. GPE partner countries are starting to do this as part of a wider analysis of the enabling factors for system transformation.
Advocate for household surveys and censuses with a standard disability module, especially in countries that do not have any nationally representative and comparable sources.
Support analysis of globally comparable disability-disaggregated statistics. With support from GPE, UNICEF, the World Bank and other partners, researchers have already used the recent data described in this paper to produce estimates of access and completion for children with disabilities, finding large gaps in access between children with disabilities and those without, and that most out-of-school children with disabilities have never enrolled in school.
Since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, many countries have planned new surveys with support from the DHS program or UNICEF’s MICS. Sustained attention from all education actors will be needed to maintain these efforts so we can finally start to understand whether education systems in lower-income countries are truly becoming more inclusive.