Being educated in an inclusive environment is a basic right for students with disabilities, according to a new set of guidelines from the United Nations.
That’s the recommendation of a 24-page documentknown as a “general comment” recently adopted by theU.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Despite progress achieved, (the committee) is concerned that profound challenges persist,” reads the statement. “Many millions of persons with disabilities continue to be denied a right to education, and for many more, education is available only in settings where they are isolated from their peers and receive an inferior quality of provision.”
Inclusion offers benefits to students with and without disabilities, the committee said. But truly mainstreaming those with varying needs requires much more than just seating them side-by-side with other children.
“Placing students with disabilities in mainstream classes without accompanying structural changes to, for example, organization, curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, does not constitute inclusion,” the guidance states.
In order to make learning truly inclusive, state-run and private school systems must be fully accessible, both physically and in terms of communication and support services, according to the U.N. panel. This should extend beyond the classroom to include transportation, cafeterias, recreational spaces and other facilities.
“Enabling inclusive education requires an in-depth transformation of education systems in legislation, policy and the way education is financed, administered, designed, taught and monitored. We hope our general comment will guide and aid states toward achieving this goal,” said Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The general comment on education serves as guidance for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty that has been ratified by 166 countries.