Inclusive Education

Education is a basic human right that should be guaranteed to all children and adolescents, regardless of their social status, gender, age, ethnicity, race, language, religion, disability, and other characteristics. 

Recent estimates suggest that 224 million young people affected by crises are in need of educational support. Given that estimates indicate that 1 in 10 young people have a disability, this suggests that approximately 22.4 million young persons with disabilities may be living in emergencies and crisis-affected settings

Inclusive Education is a process that protects the presence, participation, and achievement of all individuals in equitable learning opportunities. It ensures that education policies, practices, and facilities respect the diversity of all individuals in the classroom context. Exclusion from education can result from discrimination, or from a lack of support to remove barriers and avoid the use of languages, content, or teaching methods that do not benefit all learners. Persons with physical, sensory, psychosocial/ mental, and developmental disabilities are often among the most excluded from education. Inclusive education acknowledges that all individuals can learn and that everyone has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs. Therefore, inclusive education means ensuring that the barriers to participation and learning are removed and that curricula, and teaching and learning materials are adapted, made accessible, and appropriate for all learners, in all their diversity to reach their full potential. In relevant contexts, it can also be referred to as ‘Inclusive education in emergencies’.Graphic ENG

Inclusive education is not the same as special education, special needs education, or integration. In an inclusive education system, diverse learners can participate alongside one another in the same classroom. Traditionally, “special education” or “special needs education,” as referred to in some contexts differs from an inclusive education system, in that it relies on segregation or integration rather than inclusion. When special education programs take place in separate classrooms or separate schools, it creates an integrated or segregated approach to education rather than one that is truly inclusive.  Applying Universal Design principles in education can ensure that all learners have equitable opportunities to access, participate in, and benefit from teaching and learning processes.

Key Messages

  1. Education For All as set out in the Dakar Framework for Action, is a global commitment to provide quality education for all children, youth, and adults. That includes those who have disabilities from prior to the disaster or as a result of the natural or man-made disaster. Thus, a rights-based approach to disability-inclusive EiE should be adopted, and disability-inclusion should be mainstreamed into organizational and institutional culture. 
  2. Education in emergencies provides an opportunity to build inclusive education systems from the beginning in situations where education systems have largely or sometimes entirely broken down.
  3. Inclusive education is “democracy in action”. It offers a chance to rebuild broken societies and bring people together from across divides as they face a common challenge in providing all learners with equitable access to safe and relevant education, as well as instilling a culture of acceptance of difference and diversity.
  4. Education in emergencies and in crisis-affected contexts arguably requires more focus on ensuring access for persons with disabilities given that natural and man-made disasters cause physical and psychological damage to people. Persons with disabilities are also likely to face increased risks and barriers in terms of access to aid (including food, water, shelter), precisely because they are either unable to physically access distribution points, sanitation facilities, and schools, or because they face barriers to reaching the information about the distribution taking place and the available services.
  5. Early interventions and the provision of accessible and inclusive teaching and learning materials and reasonable accommodations in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, ensure access, participation and learning achievement of all learners, including those with disabilities. 
  6. Meaningfully engaging communities in education efforts, especially Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) increase local ownership of inclusive education efforts.
  7. More efforts are needed to strengthen disability-data collection tools and processes that will lead to more informed decision-making across all phases of an emergency. 
  8. Training, supporting teachers’ wellbeing and motivation, including those with disabilities, help them meet their learners’ diverse needs.

This collection was developed with the support of Myriam Jaafar, INEE Inclusive Education Coordinator.

1 January 2012 Advocacy Statement United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organziation (UNESCO)

The Right of Children with Disability to Education

The Right of Children with Disabilities to Education: A Rights-Based Approach to Inclusive Education proposes a conceptual framework on the very specific issues that affect the inclusion of children with disabilities in Central Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CEECIS ).

26 October 2023 Mapping Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Disability-Inclusive EiE Resources Mapping and Gap Analysis

The document maps existing work on inclusive education and disability-inclusive education in emergencies by collecting existing tools, frameworks, policy and advocacy resources, and more, and presenting them in a repository of resources. The gap analysis report captures the findings from the resource mapping and the survey conducted with INEE members.

5 December 2023 Report Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Disability-inclusive Education in Emergencies: Key concepts, approaches, and principles for practice

This report defines and clarifies key concepts and terminology for disability-inclusive education in emergencies (EiE) and provides seven guiding principles. It is meant to be used as a companion piece to the INEE Minimum Standards and to support stakeholders’ efforts to be more intentional in their design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of disability-inclusive EiE interventions.

1 July 2023 Toolkit Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Inclusive Distance Education Toolkit

The Inclusive Distance Education Toolkit compiles resources on: inclusive education, education in emergencies, disability inclusive education, and distance education across the humanitarian-development nexus.

28 February 2009 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

INEE Pocket Guide to Inclusive Education

The INEE pocket guide, “Education in Emergencies: Including Everyone”, takes a broad look at inclusive education principles and the types of actions that can be taken to make education in crises contexts more inclusive.

1 January 2010 Brief Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

INEE Thematic Issue Brief: Inclusive Education

Emergency situations greatly impact inclusive education because some learners who previously had access to education may be excluded because of various factors. Inclusive education means removing these barriers to participation in learning are removed and that teaching methodologies and curriciula are appropriate and accessible for all students, including those with disabilities.

31 July 2010 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

INEE Pocket Guide to Supporting Learners with Disabilities

The INEE Pocket Guide to Supporting Learners with Disabilities is specifically aimed at providing practical advice to teachers/educators, as one of the biggest challenges in the development of inclusive education is helping practitioners to turn theory into practice.

30 August 2023 Report Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Mind the Gap 3: Equity and Inclusion in and through Girls' Education in Crisis

This report summarizes progress, gaps, challenges and opportunities in improving education and training for girls and women affected by conflict and crisis. This report monitors progress since the Mind the Gap 2 report, and highlights the following thematic areas: recruiting and retaining female teachers, girls with disabilities and gender-responsive inclusive education, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education in emergencies.

27 April 2023 Manual/Handbook/Guide Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action

Qualitative Assessment Approaches for the Protection of Children with Disabilities Within Humanitarian Contexts

This guidance note explores how to use qualitative methods to create more robust assessment processes to ensure more effective programming and services for children with disabilities. This note provides promising practices for engaging with children with disabilities and includes sample tools that can be tailored to fit the needs of a particular assessment process.

2 December 2022 Policy Brief Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Opportunities and Challenges for Disability-Inclusive Early Childhood Development in Emergencies

This brief advocates for and highlights the benefits of disability-inclusive Early Childhood Development in Emergencies (ECDiE). It includes examples of good practice in disability-inclusive ECDiE programming from around the world; in addition, it provides recommendations for governments, donors, and programmers for a more inclusive ECDiE. 

1 January 2022 Report United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Seen, Counted, Included: Using data to shed light on the well-being of children with disabilities

Using the latest available data, the publication covers more than 60 indicators of child well-being – from nutrition and health, to access to water and sanitation, protection from violence and exploitation, and education. The report also includes the first-ever global and regional estimates of children with disabilities.

1 January 2018 Training Material Humanity & Inclusion

Collecting Data for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action

This course has been designed to support you in understanding, planning for and using the Washington Group Questions (WGQs) to identify persons with disabilities in humanitarian action.

22 July 2021 INEE Webinar Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Disability Inclusion in Education in Emergencies Roundtable Discussion: Reflections and case studies from INEE Inclusive Education Task Team members

The objectives of this webinar are to 1) share testimonies and case studies on inclusive education projects for children with disabilities implemented during the pandemic; and 2) share more about INEE’s Inclusive Education Task Team members and our work with the wider INEE community.

1 July 2019 Manual/Handbook/Guide Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

IASC Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action 2019

The guidelines set out essential actions that humanitarian actors must take in order to effectively identify and respond to the needs and rights of persons with disabilities who are most at risk of being left behind in humanitarian settings.

1 January 2019 Toolkit United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organziation (UNESCO)

Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive, Learning-Friendly Environments

The Toolkit promotes and provides guidance on how to create an inclusive, learning-friendly environment (ILFE), which welcomes, nurtures, and educates all children regardless of their gender, physical, intellectual, social economic, emotional, linguistic, or other characteristics.

1 June 2014 Advocacy Statement Global Campaign for Education (GCE)

Send All My Friends to School

This report aims to address this gap by reviewing how the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has addressed inclusive education for children with disabilities to date.