By Elizabeth Tofaris, Communications Officer, Impact Initiative for International Development Research

Taking place a year on from the Global Disability Summit, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Global Education event (supported by the Impact Initiative and RESULTS UKmet in the House of Commons to share progress and discuss what still needs to be done in order to provide inclusive quality education for children and young people with disabilities. More than 60 researchers, bilateral and multilateral donors, and representatives of NGO and Disability People’s Organisations came together to hear the panel discuss the need for a more strategic approach in supporting children with disabilities.

Available data suggest that children with disabilities make up at least one third of the out of school children globally.  This means that these children need to be a priority if Sustainable Development Goal 4, which has inclusive and equitable and quality education as its focus, is to be achieved.

On July 23rd 2018 DFID, alongside the Government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) hosted the first Global Disability Summit in London. With Government Ministers, high level Private Sector and UN Officials, as well as a range of Disabled People’s Organisations and disability rights activists in attendance, the Summit raised global attention on disability inclusion and mobilised new global and national commitments, ensuring the rights, freedoms, dignity and inclusion for all persons with disabilities.

Charter for Change — a pledge on disability inclusion – was signed by 360 organisations and a new Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI), a multi-donor trust fund overseen by the World Bank, was announced. The Charter for Change was influenced by a Statement of Action on Inclusive Education, drafted at a workshop hosted by the Impact Initiative, which was signed by 31 donor agencies, international NGOs, research organisations and global education networks. The Statement of Action was created with key input from ESRC-DFID funded researchers whose projects provide evidence on what governments must consider in order to ensure that children with disabilities benefit from quality education without discrimination or exclusion.

The APPG panel shared progress since the Summit and explored what needs to be done to ensure that pledges go from words to action.

Priority, coherence and focus

The panel, moderated by the Impact Initiative’s Professor Pauline Rose included Darren Welch, Director of Policy, Department for International Development (DFID); ESRC-DFID grant holder and Impact Initiative disability lead Professor Nidhi Singal; Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Global Disability Advisor, World Bank; Anderson Gitonga, CEO of United Disabled Persons of Kenya and Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Global Education APPG and the House of Commons International Development Committee.

Darren Welch reiterated DFID’s commitment to inclusive education: “As the anniversary of the Global Disability Summit approaches, we’re committed to holding ourselves to account and delivering a quality education for every child.” Darren highlighted the importance of the new Inclusive Education Initiative and its focus on taking programmes to scale as well as the new DFID’s 2018 Education Policy ‘Get Children Learning’ which, alongside investments to improve the overall quality of education, commits to focusing on the world’s most marginalised children including children with disabilities. He also noted work that is underway to improve data systems, including the UNESCO Institute for Statistics collation of data on education for children with disabilities. The Girls Education Challenge, the largest global fund dedicated to girls’ education, also now includes a strong disability focus including the use of the Washington Group Questions.

Drawing on lessons from existing research, Professor Nidhi Singal warned that despite lots of commitments and pledges made by the international community following the Global Disability Summit, in order to deliver what was promised, the focus should be on the ‘how’ – which should focus on the three ‘Rs’: Rights, Resources and Research. This includes investments in developing an inclusive workforce; listening to the voices of children/young people with disabilities; and fostering more knowledge exchange opportunities like those enabled by the Impact Initiative. Drawing on ESRC-DFID research in India and Pakistan, she further highlighted the importance of not just training teachers but also providing them with the necessary support to teach in diverse classrooms.

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo provided an update on the Inclusive Education Initiative from the World Bank’s perspective, and said that the key objectives of the Initiative over the coming year were to 1) Understand context by focusing on in-country interventions (consultations are happening in Ethiopia, Nepal and Rwanda); 2) Develop knowledge and partnerships by developing public goods (a portal will provide evidence based content) and 3) Support and catalyse innovation by using technology that is practical, pragmatic and contest-relevant.

Anderson Gitonga explained that for ventures like the Inclusive Education Initiative to be successful, it must develop partnerships with Southern actors, in particular with Disabled People’s Organisations. Highlighting that people with disabilities must be included in the planning and implementation of development programmes, Anderson said: “Children and young people with disabilities should not just be the users of research but also the creators.” He urged us to think more broadly about the concept of inclusion in partnerships and suggested that the involvement of family and community was crucial if we were to truly listen to young disabled people. Anderson also drew on many lessons on partnerships on development impact which have been highlighted in the latest issue of the IDS BulletinExploring Research–Policy Partnerships in International Development, produced in collaboration with The Impact Initiative. In the chapter ‘Lessons Learned from Collaborative Research in Africa’  Anderson and colleagues discuss how academic research on disability and international development has benefited hugely from active collaboration with advocates, practitioners, and policymakers, ultimately ensuring that research evidence is used to inform policy and practice.

Finally, Stephen Twigg MP reiterated the need to match resources to the needs of children with disabilities – ensuring programmes are funded properly. Recognising progress since the International Development Committee’s report on DFID’s work on Leaving No One Behind in Education, including in commitments made in DFID’s 2018 Education Policy, he noted more needs to be done. He raised a sense of urgency around the need for more funding for the education sector overall.  Summarising  he said: “It’s about priority, coherence and getting more of a focus on this across the whole system.”

Panellists and participants highlighted the challenges of needing to work at scale while also recognising the diversity of challenges that people with disabilities face across different contexts, the need to address intersecting disadvantage, and the importance of listening to the voices of children with disabilities.

Professor Pauline Rose concluded with five Ps that emerged from the discussions: Passion amongst participants for including children with disabilities; recognising Progress that has been made; the need to identify evidence-based Practical solutions that are contextually relevant but can be taken to scale; the need for Patience as change will take time to be visible; and need for continued Pressure so the momentum is not lost.

ESRC and DFID Research for Policy and Practice: Disability and Education

The ESRC and DFID Research for Policy and Practice: Disability and Education profiles a collection of ESRC–DFID funded research which provides new evidence on what governments must consider in order to ensure that children with disabilities benefit from quality education without discrimination or exclusion. This research contains excellent, globally relevant and contextually grounded evidence of how the education sector can plan and design policies with a lasting impact for children with disabilities.