How to strengthen disability inclusion in education?

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Our mission is to promote the full participation of learners with disabilities in education.  It is not an easy task.  But it is the right of all learners with disabilities. And it is also the right of all learners, as an education that embraces diversity and inclusion is the quality education all leaners deserve. It is also an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which pledges that no child will be left behind. Yet today, many learners with disabilities are still not in school or are not adequately supported. In addition, disability-disaggregated data necessary to inform the design of disability-inclusive education policies and programming is still limited. And without data, it is impossible to design evidence-based policies. 

The World Bank is committed to ensuring that all its IPF (Investment Project Financing) projects in education will be disability-inclusive by 2025.  It is supporting its client countries in building more disability-inclusive education systems. As part of this commitment, a Guidance Note has been developed in an effort to support World Bank education teams around the world. It is intended to be used along with Inclusive Education Resource Guide
The Note encourages Bank education teams to use a common approach to disability-inclusive education. It clearly defines key concepts – such as disability, intersectionality, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and a twin-track approach for disability-inclusion. It also encourages the use of People First Language (using terms such as: persons with disabilities or learners with disabilities) as well as inclusive terminology. 
The Guidance Note builds on a large body of work carried out both externally and at the World Bank.  It is also linked to the Education Approach of the World Bank, which includes Safe and Inclusive Schools pillar, in the understanding that all other interventions  to improve the quality of  learning will be irrelevant if children do not feel safe in school and if all children are not included. 
The guidelines on how to design a project that is disability inclusive are structured around four criteria:
Criterion 1: Consult all stakeholders, teachers, school leaders, parents and families, as well as students with and without disabilities outlines a plan to collect information on the perspectives of stakeholders both while preparing the project and during the implementation of the project. Engagement may involve surveys or focus groups and should also reference how the key outcomes of the consultations will help inform the design of the project.
Figure 1. Feedback loops created between government and stakeholders

Figure 1

(Modified from Sierra Leone Free Education Project SEP) Source: Guidance Note (p. 10)
Criterion 2: Analysis of disability and disability-inclusive education in the country (to be included in the Environmental and Social Assessment) The collection and use of disability-disaggregated data is vital to the design of inclusive education projects. If disability-disaggregated data is unavailable, project documentation should explain how the team plans to address this in an effort to improve data collection tools or education management information systems in the country. Projects provide background on inclusion-focused education sector plans and policies that the project will help the government implement.
Criterion 3: The project contains (1) at least one inclusive design feature in a general education operation, and/or (2) at least one specific activity targeted to benefit and empower learners with disabilities (twin-track approach). The twin-track approach is central to the World Bank’s commitment to disability-inclusion in education. Projects may foster inclusion through a wide range of project components, including teacher education and training, curriculum, and assessment, teaching and learning resources, or legislation and policy.
Criterion 4: During implementation, the project team collects and reports feedback on both process and outcomes for project beneficiaries with disabilities. Building on criterion 1 addressing stakeholder engagement, this criterion ensures that teams continue collecting data from beneficiaries. Reporting on the processes may involve capturing beneficiaries’ satisfaction with a project or their experience using a new teaching and learning material, tool, or pedagogy. Reporting on the outcomes for beneficiaries, on the other hand, includes indicators such as rates of attendance, test scores or, for example, outreach for a new campaign. The “Results Framework” of project should also include at least one disability inclusion-related indicator or disability-disaggregated data.

We hope that this new resource can comprehensively support World Bank teams and client countries in designing and implementing disability-inclusive education projects. We also hope that it will contribute to the standardization of our operations where inclusive education and disability-inclusion is no longer an after-thought.


The criteria are aligned with the Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) and its supporting documents, and the Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework, which in turn builds on the guiding principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).


Jaime Saavedra

Human Development Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank

Hanna Alasuutari

Senior Education Specialist

Sophia D' Angelo

Inclusive Education Consultant

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