Inclusive Education and the Global Development Agenda: Promoting Social Connectedness for Children with Disabilities

Jeremy Monk is completing his undergraduate degree at McGill University this spring, majoring in International Development Studies and History and minoring in Education. A native of Montreal, Jeremy will be a Research Fellow with McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development this summer before beginning graduate studies in International Education Development.

In his essay, Inclusive Education and the Global Development Agenda: Promoting Social Connectedness for Children with Disabilities, Jeremy Monk argues that national and local governments should ensure children with intellectual and physical disabilities have access to quality education through inclusive schools. These schools, he writes, provide opportunities for disabled children to build bonds with non-disabled children, thereby reducing the social isolation and inequality they commonly experience. Further, he adds that inclusive schools foster inclusive communities.

As Jeremy notes, despite efforts over the past 30 years to put inclusive education on the global development agenda, progress has not been monitored effectively, and the right of children with disabilities to education has not been adequately promoted.

Jeremy reviews three case studies to demonstrate the positive and negative impacts of different approaches to education for children with disabilities. First, he looks at a non-inclusive education system in Serbia, where children with disabilities are coercively placed in isolated, state-run institutions, resulting in “stunted physical, emotional and intellectual development,” according to Human Rights Watch. Second, Jeremy looks at an attempt by the Netherlands to implement an inclusive education system, which, absent other key factors, still failed to increase social opportunities for children with disabilities. Third, he considers a case of an elementary school in Florida that was very successful in helping children with disabilities to thrive through a combination of teacher training, effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and extra resources.

Jeremy concludes by providing several policy recommendations to help children with disabilities thrive and build social connectedness in schools. These include encouraging international organizations to work with local institutions to promote inclusive education, enhancing educator training and “buy-in”, and adopting inclusive education as early as at the pre-school level.


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