Measuring school environment and participation to support inclusive education

The right to equal and quality education, initially set out in Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child  (UNICEF, 1989) and Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is also reinforced in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted in September 2015. Goal 4 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals aims to ensure equal access to all levels of education for people with disabilities. This extends from the provision of early childhood education through to technical, vocational, and tertiary education for all.

To support the promotion of the right to education for children with disabilities through reliable and cross-nationally comparable data, UNICEF and the Washington Group are working on the development of a survey Module on Inclusive Education to assess the school environment and participation. The purpose of this set of questions is to provide information that can inform policy, provide a statistical summary of environmental influences on participation in school, and identify key areas with bottlenecks that can be followed-up on. The set of questions has been designed as a module that can be added to another survey. The questions focus on education through a formal mechanism (as opposed to home school or tutoring), and are designed to capture the interaction between the participant and the environment by obtaining parental responses to questions across three participatory domains.

The first domain, or set of questions, is intended for the general adult population, with the purpose of capturing attitudes towards education for all children, and specifically for children with disabilities. The second section is meant to be administered to caregivers of children who are attending school. It includes questions that evaluate the accessibility of the physical space, the curriculum, and other aspects of the school environment such as teachers’ attendance, availability of toilet facilities, and access to social activities. The final component focuses on out-of-school children and attempts to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers to school participation, including safety, transportation, accessibility of the curriculum, and affordability.

Since 2013, the module has undergone several rounds of revision and cognitive testing. Further cognitive testing will take place in 2018 and will be followed by field testing of the module.