Promoting access to education for disabled children in low-income countries: Do we need to know how many disabled children there are?

This literature review asks whether a national survey of disability prevalence is the best starting point when promoting the educational inclusion of disabled children in low and middle-income countries. It is unlikely that most disabled children have complex and potentially very costly specific educational requirements. Many children have moderate impairments that, where a specific response is needed, can be addressed with comparatively modest costs to education. There is however a degree of unpredictability to the type and location of interventions that will be needed, and so inclusive systems need local flexibility. In many contexts a national survey of childhood disability prevalence would not be the most useful starting point for extending education for disabled children and young people.

Given the problems surrounding the collection of such data there is a clear rationale for collating information on the numbers of disabled children from existing sources such as support programmes. Working together to include children in education also helps develop a shared recognition of what constitutes educationally significant impairment, and how disability is constructed, in a particular context. As provision increases, disaggregated figures on participation in education will help identify specific barriers to access, but action should not wait for data. Rather, making the most of service-generated knowledge is the most cost-effective and pragmatic way to extend education for disabled children.

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