Enhancing Participation,Expanding Access: The Double Axis of Sustainable Educational Development
Carol A. Kochhar Malati I.Gopal

Graduate School of Education and Human Development


As developing nations struggle to become viable participants in the world economy, economically advanced nations have, over several decades, increased their efforts to assist in that development. This development aid, however, has had mixed results and an uneven impact (Piccioto & Rist, 1995). Aid agencies and some recipient countries have grown disillusioned with many development programs as rates of poverty, illiteracy, maternal death, and child mortality remain far higher than in developed countries.

Aid agencies, increasingly, have begun to recognize the link between economic and human resources development. Because they now view education and training as essential tools to achieve the goals of broad social and economic development, they have shifted their investment strategies to invest in people. As developing countries have begun to demand both equity and an improvement in educational quality, multinational agencies have instituted policies that promote basic education and a greater participation of the general population in the development of education.

Universal access to basic education, which has "strategic importance" for social and economic development in underdeveloped nations, raises two central questions. First, how can aid agencies' current economic and human resource development strategies allow broader educational access by a diverse population of children and youth? Second, how can the strategic and operational choices made in planning for educational development accommodate children and youth with different levels of educational need? (Lynch, 1994). Although developing countries have made significant gains in providing basic and primary education over the past few decades in many regions (Brouillette, 1995; Ingham, 1993; Kibria, 1993; United Nations, 1990), much remains to be done. Ensuring that all children are literate and prepared for productive work, family, and community is a primary task of government, but a task which governments in many developing countries simply do not have the resources to undertake. These nations require a continued commitment from developed nations to assist with educational development.

The goal of universal access to basic education (basic skills in mathematics and literacy) cannot be achieved without including a large number of children who are currently not enrolled or are unable to learn in conventional school settings and with existing educational practices (Lynch, 1994). These special learner populations include children with physical and cognitive disabilities. Investment in basic education to help all children become literate and productive citizens increases self sufficiency for three parties: the child and family as an economic unit, the community, and the state. Literate children are more likely to contribute more to the development of the local economy and to become self sufficient; their parents will be less likely to be burdened by long-term support of the child. The community avoids the burden of wasting scarce resources on long-term support of dependent people. The community and the state gain from this growing talent pool to conduct their work and create needed change.

Nations in developing regions, such as Asia and Africa, as well as bilateral and international agencies and more developed countries, have already established many of the benchmarks for the greater inclusion of children with special educational needs in basic and primary education. Numerous educational initiatives are resulting in the enrollment of an increasingly large and diverse population of children into primary schools. This enrollment, however, generates considerable uncertainty about these children's needs, the nature of the schooling they require, and the kind of realistic and appropriate responses teachers and school systems should make (Lynch, 1994). As a result of this growing diversity, educators, administrators, and community leaders around the world are addressing the question of how greater access to education should be achieved.

This paper explores the role of education in equitable, sustainable development and examines two interrelated dynamics important to such development: (1) building capacity for inclusive education; and (2) enhancing participation in the educational practice and policy decisions by the people who are affected by them. it defines which children are in need of special educational services, definitions that vary within different social and cultural contexts. it presents a framework and set of principles for inclusive education and explores the importance of inclusive approaches in,educational development. Finally, it underscores the importance of cooperation among community sectors and presents a collaborative approach among governmental, non governmental, and local aid agencies in fostering inclusive educational approaches.

In many developing countries, a majority of children of elementary school age are currently not attending school or cannot learn in conventional school settings and with existing educational practices For example:

   1. Only about two thirds of the children of primary school age in developing countries attend school (Hurst, 1981; Lynch, 1994).
   2. It is estimated that some 130 million children between the ages of six and eleven, many with impairments and learning disabilities, do not receive any kind of basic or primary education; 60 percent of them are girls (United Children's Fund, 1991).
   3. In the Asia region, more than one third of children entering the first grade fail to reach the end of the primary cycle (Mingat & Tan, 1992).
   4. The World Health Organization (1990) estimates that only about 1-2 percent of children who have severe and multiple impairments receive institutional services; the majority are excluded total totally from school.

Lynch (1994), who directed a World Bank-sponsored study of 12 countries in the Asia Region, defined children with "special educational needs" as those with any or several of the following characteristics:

    * They require additional health and nutritional support;
    * They need extra assistance to enroll in and attend school;
    * They are in need of special instructional strategies, support, and accommodation in the educational setting in order to participate and progress adequately;
    * They are at risk of dropping out of school, have low attendance, or have repeated grades;
    * They require social services and family support;
    * They are female or from rural and remote areas;
    * They have a range of physical or mental disabilities (Lynch, 1994).

Other studies of children with special educational needs in developing regions such as Africa and Central America reflect these same characteristics (Brouillette, 1995; Bujazan, Hare, Belle & Stafford, 1987; Mittler, 1992; Naude, 1993; United Nations Center for Human Rights, 1990). These groups are viewed as having a basic human right to education to enhance the quality of their own lives and the lives of their families and communities. Developing countries, certainly, have made significant gains in human resources in the past fifty years. Their overall infant death rate improved from 25-30 per thousand in the 1950s to 10-15 per thousand in the 1980s. Life expectancy rose from 40 years in 1945 to 62 years in the 1990s. Literacy rates have increased greatly since 1945, with enrollments in higher education increasing by a factor of 20; in secondary education by a factor of 15; and in primary education by a factor of 5 (Galbraith, 1983; Ingham, 1993; United Nations, 1990; Weisinger, 1986). However, while it is important to recognize these achievements, it is equally important to realize the growing pressures on developing countries to continue such progress in the face of severely limited or diminishing resources. Population increases, for example, threaten to erase the significance of these expanding school enrollments throughout developing regions. Between 1980 and 2000, according to estimates, the world's population will increase from 4.5 to 6 billion persons (Hegerty, 1992; Hurst, 1981; Kibria, 1993; Lynch, 1994).

With the significant expansion of primary education in the last decade, many children with special learning needs have been enrolling in primary schools but are not being adequately served. These children are at risk of repeating grades (grade retention) or dropping out because of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, environmental or cultural reasons, and minor disabilities that impede their performance (Barnett, 1991; Barnett & Escobar, 1995; Lynch, 1994). Also, many educators believe that high dropout and grade retention rates reflect learning problems, the root cause of which is the inadequate provision of early education.

The size of the population of children with special educational needs in many developing countries is difficult to quantify. Many factors contribute to this problem, including the lack of standardized screening instruments to diagnose disabilities, the absence of clear standards for what constitutes disability, the lack of properly conducted population studies, and a lack of knowledge on the part of government officials who report data. The fact that some disabilities are reversible and can be overcome is also a factor affecting population estimates (Brouillette, 1995, 1992; Jonsson, 1993; Lynch, 1994; Moslat & Kauffman, 1993; Naude, 1993).

In 1978, the World Health Organization estimated that about 10 percent of the world's population had disabilities, a figure accepted by other United Nation agencies (ILO, UNESCO, UNICEF) and by international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) concerned with disability issues. Based on the 10 percent figure, the total number of persons with disabilities in the world was approximately 450 million in 1980 and 500 million in 1990. The number is expected to rise to well over 600 million by the end of this century, with approximately 40 percent of this population comprising school-age children. UNICEF estimates that 140 million children with learning difficulties and significant disabilities are living in developing countries, with 88 million of those in Asia, 18 million in Africa, and 13 million in Latin American. Only 11 million live in Europe and 6 million in North America. One family in four is estimated to be affected by disabilities in one way or another while their children are of school age. (UNCE, 1991; UNESCO, 1990; WHO, 1978). The magnitude of the problem warrants extraordinary educational development efforts to promote inclusion of all children in the educational system. The goals of universal access to education in inclusive settings are central to the goals of economic and political empowerment in developing nations. Given the scope of the problem, developed nations must make a continued commitment to improve conditions for children from developing countries.


A variety of institutions, including governmental organizations, private voluntary organizations, NGOs, academic institutions, and business organizations, provide development assistance to host countries in a variety of forms, ranging from technical assistance to financial resources. These agencies have made loans and given credits for education at all levels, from primary to postgraduate, for vocational education and job training, and for many forms of non-formal education.

Many developing countries often rely upon external agencies to develop both formal and informal educational initiatives, from policy development and planning to systematic reform. They often need assistance so desperately that they are willing to accommodate within their development plans any projects an outside agency is willing to finance (Spaulding, 1981). For example, for decades before the Marxist government took over in 1978, Afghanistan, like other developing countries at that time, lacked the planning capacity to develop an integrated education system. The Afghan government pursued a policy of educational "non-alignment," which meant that it initiated a variety of projects in many educational fields that foreign donors were willing to support. The Germans, French, Americans, the then--Soviet Union, UNESCO, the World Bank, and others funded a patchwork of projects, each with little relationship to one another (McGinn, Barra & Harris, 1985; Spaulding, 1981). The non-alignment policy did not necessarily foster the country's ability to build its education capacity.

Over the past few decades, aid agencies have incorporated education goals into broader economic development and poverty reduction projects. Since the 1960s, aid agencies' educational development strategies have also shifted from higher education to basic education and broader participation of the general population in education. The World Bank, for example, initiated its first educational loan in 1963, focusing mainly on vocational and technical training and general secondary education. At that time, a narrow interpretation of the human capital contribution guided the agency's strategies (World Bank Education Sector Papers, 1974; 1980). Later, the Bank conceptualized the education-development relationship in a much broader way, and highlighted relevance, efficiency, and economy as key educational issues. The new policy, aimed at projects like vocational training to produce trained manpower, placed more emphasis on technical assistance (World Bank Annual Report, 1971). Additionally, the Bank put a heightened emphasis on primary and basic education for young people and adults, and also on minority participation, rural development, and equity. It based its rationale for promoting basic education on its view that education served not solely a humanitarian, human rights function but, from an economics point of view, had an important investment value (Lynch, 1994). in the late 1970s, as research evidence mounted about the ineffectiveness of aid projects, the World Bank came to view basic education as the cornerstone of development (Psacharapoulos, 1983; Rist & Piccioto, 1995; Zimmerman, 1993). World Bank lending for primary education, which began in 1970, represented about 25 percent of total world lending for the period 1981 to 1989. Between 1987-89, about 43 percent of the Bank's credits and loans to general education were for primary education. From 1990 to 1991, the amount of World Bank investment in primary education increased by more than 144 percent (Lynch, 1994). Currently, its lending for primary education is more focused on policy change and concentrated on three overall objectives: (1) improvement of access, (2) enhancement of quality, and (3) the reform of management and administration (Lynch, 1994; World Bank Reports, 1994, 1990). The Bank is giving priority to measures intended to increase children's learning and primary school completion.

Other multinational agencies have also shifted their educational aid policies to promote basic education and greater participation of the general population in education. The Inter-American Development Bank regards expenditures on education as investments in human capital, rather than as consumption (Bujazan, et al., 1987). As another example, the U.S. Agency for International Development's education sector and Caribbean Basic Initiative funds shifted their aid policies significantly during the 1970s. They created new categories of aid for non-formal education, basic skills and primary education, participation of women, and the urban and rural poor (Method & Shaw, 1981). In addition, the aid policies of each of these institutions called for stronger coordination between donor agencies and host countries, manpower planning within the wider economic context, and collaborative planning with recipient countries (Warren 1984; Zimmerman 1993). In the 1980s in Latin American and Caribbean countries, aid agencies primarily focused on quality, meeting the demand for labor in production sectors, and training additional personnel in science and technology. Clearly, education has become a central tool for promoting economic development and reducing poverty.

Increasing the availability, or quantity, of primary education is only a part of the challenge to include all children in primary education, however. The quality of services must also be improved. Information on the outcomes of education in developing countries reveals how ineffective primary education is (Lynch, 1994). Far too often, the picture is one of high drop-out rates, low attendance, high frequency of grade repetition, and poor achievement. Even in countries where the quality of primary education is recognized to be generally good, there are often populations whose needs are not adequately addressed (World Bank, 1990). For this reason, current World Bank approaches to providing primary education emphasize both expansion of basic educational services as well as improved access to education. For example, since 1982, in the Asia Region, both the International Bank for Research and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Agency (IDA) have been involved in a number of projects which include primary-age children. Examples of these include:

    * Primary and secondary education sector projects in Malaysia (LN 2685-MA), the most recent of which includes interventions and experimentation in the area of special education, defined to include non-impaired children with learning difficulties (World Bank, 1992);
    * The IDA Primary Education Project in Bhutan (Cr 1890-BHU);
    * A series of primary education projects financed by IDA in Bangladesh, with a follow-on General Education Project, comprising more than 90 percent primary education components (Cr 2118-BD);
    * A primary education project in the Solomon Islands (Cr 1686-SOL);
    * A primary education project in Nepal (Cr 1463-NEP), with a follow on Basic and Primary Education Project and a multi-project credit, including primary education, in Vanuatu (Cr 1964-VA);
    * A series of elementary education projects in the Philippines (LN 3244-PH and 2030-PH); and,
    * An elementary project in Papua New Guinea (Cr 1087-PNG) (Lynch, 1994).

Additional projects which emphasize quality improvement in primary education are under preparation in Laos, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and China (Lynch, 1994). The link between universal education and economic development is clear: Increasing access to education is crucial to aid agencies' overall strategy to develop human resources and assist economic progress.


In developing countries, where resources are scarce, the inclusion of children with special educational needs in the educational system raises several issues: (a) the likely economic returns; (b) cost-effectiveness; (e) unit costs; and (d) impact on "regular" children (Lynch, 1994). Three central economic questions concerned with effectiveness and cost benefit must be addressed in relation to providing universal access to education:

   1. Can positive outcomes of inclusive education be obtained at an affordable unit cost?
   2. Can such improvements result in long-term economic benefit?
   3. Can inclusive education produce improvements in quality, particularly student achievement, for all?

Economic evaluations of early childhood and primary special education are in their infancy in both developed and developing nations. Yet, issues of cost-effectiveness are of intense interest to policy-makers both in developed countries which spend large sums on special education, and in developing countries that lack basic educational resources. Special education has been traditionally viewed as more expensive than ordinary education in developed nations. in the United States, for example, special education is 1.18 to 3.64 times more expensive than regular education, depending on the specific special educational needs that are met. Additionally, public expenditures in the U.S. for institutional and community services report costs of $127 per head per day for institutional care compared to $81 per head per day for community-based approaches (Braddock, 1991). The overall cost of special education in New Zealand is 1.65 times the cost for ordinary education (Brouillette, 1995). Thus, segregated education is unlikely to be a financially viable policy option for developing countries for all children with special educational needs -- moral and educational arguments notwithstanding.

The implication is that the regular educational system will have to accommodate the majority of children with special educational needs if they are to receive basic or primary schooling. Integrated education in developing nations does not have to be more expensive than regular education, however, and even segregated education need not be more expensive. For example, a 10-year study in Mauritius, where NGOs run nearly all special facilities, revealed that special education was 60 percent of the cost of "regular" education. Of course, there are special reasons to explain this discrepancy. NGOs lack large bureaucratic (ministerial) overheads; have a more advantageous teacher-pupil ratio; pay relatively lower salaries to special education teachers; lack expensive equipment; and are not reliant on high technology (Brouillette, 1992).

Furthermore, investing in early intervention to address the special learning needs of children can reduce long-term educational costs. Evidence from several cost analyses of special education in both developed and developing countries indicates that costs for special education decrease over time for children who receive services that address their individual learning needs. Moreover, such children become an economic asset rather than a liability to their families and countries. Brouillette (1992; 1995) offered some examples of the economic benefit of early investment in special education, which include:

    * Studies in the United States have found that schools that integrated children with special needs into the regular classroom are much less costly than separate (self-contained) preschool special education programs. Cost-effectiveness research studies conclude that the additional costs invested in special education are reimbursed to the community 35 times over through output and taxes paid within 10 years. For every dollar spent on special education, the adult with a disability will earn eleven dollars.
    * In Peru, where educating a moderately impaired child costs US$255 per year, the educated person, despite educational disabilities, will earn at least US$300 annually after six years in school.
    * In England, one year's specialist training for employing someone with severe sensory disabilities costs between $21,000 to $26,000 equivalent. The direct taxes paid during that person's lifetime employment would be at least $70,00 at current rates (with a payback period of 15 years).
    * In Czechoslovakia, an impaired worker after 20 years will contribute nine times the cost of his or her rehabilitation.

Studies of the costs of special education in many nations have also shown that the earlier special education begins, the greater the return on the investment. Compelling evidence indicates that early compensatory preschool and primary education produces meaningful long-term improvements in educational and economic outcomes. For example, long term studies of early compensatory "Head Start" projects for children of poverty in urban areas in the United States (1960-1980s) have shown benefits that include reductions in the costs of public education in later years, increases in earnings, and reductions in welfare payments and the costs of crime (Woodhall, 1992). A U.S. study of early intervention for 19, autistic children found that most made substantial improvement in IQ and social and emotional adjustment, and 18 were placed into regular primary education classes (Barnett & Escobar, 1995).

Moreover, more appropriate educational responses in the early primary years influence parents who, in turn, may increase their children's competence, motivation, and effort. Such responses help to produce a success orientation in school and increase children's cognitive abilities in ways that may not be satisfactorily portrayed by IQ tests (Barnett, 1991). The cognitive effects of compensatory preschool and primary education have long-term consequences for achievement and school performance. These early advantages are cumulative and provide building blocks for the accumulation of knowledge and skills, enabling children to maintain or increase their advantage at each succeeding grade of education. In summary, compensatory education can lead to improvement in children's long-term educational, social, and economic well-being.


As new investment strategies shift toward investment in people, international education and human resource development policies have begun to address country demands for both educational quality (the general effort to define and improve standards of services offered) and equity (efforts to decrease social inequality by providing greater access to educational programs and services). In many developing countries, the deleterious effects of inadequate or inappropriate education are compounded by disparities in the quality of education as one moves from richer to poorer municipalities, from industrial to agricultural areas, and from coastal to interior areas. One study of educational expenditures in Brazil illustrates problems that may affect other developing countries as well. The Brazil study revealed that per-pupil expenditures in the rural, agricultural northeastern region were only a third of the level reached in the industrial southeast, and only 44 percent of the national average. Per pupil costs ranged from US$21.2 to US$222.2 among municipal schools (Barnett & Escobar, 1995). The way schools are organized, the way teachers teach and structure curriculum, and the manner in which children with particular disadvantages are supported and included in basic education can either decrease or perpetuate social inequality. Policies to intervene in the kinds of disparities experienced in Brazil and many other countries will impact upon a country's ability to provide equal educational opportunity for all children. Primary education serves both an ideological and economic role in developing societies by providing the strongest foundation for preparing children and youth for roles in the occupational hierarchies in communities.

The concept of social equality is relevant to that of sustainable economic development. The over-arching theme, full participation, is a first condition for achieving social equality and is rooted in democratic principles of equal protection of law, equal access, and opportunity for all individuals (Kochhar, 1995). In many developing countries, however, a large proportion of the population lives in conditions of severe poverty and poor health; many people have physical and mental disabilities. These conditions affect access to and potential for success in school and reduce the likelihood that these individuals will be prepared for economic participation in their communities. For example, unemployment rates in developing countries have been higher, at 6.1 percent and 7.3 percent on the average, than in developed nations, which have much lower rates, 3.6 percent and 2.9 percent respectively (Arat, 1991; Seligson & Passe Smith, 1993).

Several philosophical shifts in cultural attitudes toward integrating people who are "different" have accelerated the global movement toward including all children and youth in mainstream schools and society. Over the past few decades, service models in developed and developing nations have focused less on "fixing" problems within the individual and more on seeking ways to change or improve the individual's environment. Such new philosophies of service and new practices are more likely today to focus on changing the structure of services to help accommodate and maximize the strengths and abilities of individuals and to integrate them into mainstream environments (Kochhar, 1996).

The emphasis on inclusion and full participation in education is an extension of the widely accepted philosophy and set of principles that are grounded in democratic principles around the globe. For example, the landmark Jomtien, Thailand, Conference in 1991 served to propel countries in the Asia region toward placing primary education for all at the forefront of development for personal, national, social, and economic objectives (Lynch, 1994). The Conference also ignited a process of fundamental paradigm change concerning the way in which primary schooling was conceived (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, 1992). That process not only communicated new expectations of schools, but it also challenged them to embrace a much greater diversity of children. The Conference provided a vehicle to declare universal primary education a top human resource development priority throughout Asia. Primary education became an entitlement for all rather than a privilege for some.


Today, a primary challenge for developing countries and the aid agencies seeking to assist with educational development is how to ensure the right to educational opportunity for all children, youth, and adults. Individuals with chronic health problems, special learning needs, and disabilities continue to experience persistent patterns of exclusion and discrimination in education and employment in both developed and developing nations (Lynch, 1994). They generally do not receive adequate assistance from education and training institutions to enter or fully participate in educational programs and the social and health services that are coordinated with the schools.

In legal instruments used by the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and other developed countries, the term "inclusion" refers to social and legal mandates to ensure access to educational programs and services without regard to race, gender, ethnic origin, age, level or education, or disability (Okyere, 1994; Naude, 1993; Mittler, 1992). Full participation is a broader term that, more recently, has been incorporated into education legislation in the U.S., particularly in vocational education and school-to-work training laws (National Assessment of Vocational Education Final Report, U.S. Department of Education, 1994). While inclusion implies access to programs and services, full participation means providing the range of necessary support services and guidance an individual needs to be sustained in the program until successful completion. It is a term that reflects concerns about program completion and the outcomes of participation (Kochhar, 1995).

The education systems in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain have several core elements that form a central framework that builds on the principles of full participation and equal educational opportunity. The framework incorporates six principles:

   1. Participatory planning for local empowerment and self-sustaining educational development;
   2. Legal assurances of the inalienable right to primary education for all children, at the international, country, and local levels;
   3. Commitment to a holistic, child-centered, and developmental philosophy of education;
   4. Improvement of the quality of educational services;
   5. Design of educational systems and programs that are responsive to the diversity of individual learning needs and life circumstances;
   6. Commitment to an ecological approach to education development and a shared responsibility within communities for the healthy development of all children (Kochhar, 1996).

While most developing countries have not defined their frameworks as fully, they do draw on laws and international instruments that promote universal access to education. However, the legal instruments that mandate full participation are not always implemented in the spirit of the mandate at national and local levels in both developing and developed countries. Institutions and agencies responsible for irnplementing these mandates may resist new requirements to serve a more diverse population of children and may argue that they lack the resources to comply. For example, in South Africa, the status quo might be best described as special education for whites, while services and resources for black pupils are vastly inadequate and nonexistent in some areas (Donald, 1991; Hickson & Kriegler, 1991; Kriegler & Farman, 1994). No process exists to tabulate the number of children who drop out of school because of disabilities (Psychological Association of South Africa, 1989). African children are over-represented in the mental retardation category; virtually no tests of intelligence have been developed, adapted, or normed on African populations (Gwalla-Ogisi, 1990). In countries in which resources are scarce even for primary education, officials will often justify allocating educational resources to those who are most capable, productive, and already empowered.


The philosophy and practice of ensuring full participation for all children and youth in education are essential components for developing a "covenant of interdependence" at the individual, family and community levels. A close relationship exists between individual independence, the economic participation of residents, and general improvement in a country's social and economic development. Education and work preparation programs, which are essential, are not likely to be effective and sustainable if they cannot accommodate populations with diverse needs who may the be the most challenging to serve and the most likely to fall back into economic dependency. Such policy shifts are currently occurring in developed and developing nations. Educators and related professionals (psychologists, speech and hearing specialists, etc.) are beginning to recognize the relationship among (a) individual economic self-sufficiency and ability to participate in the work of a community, and (b) the role of children, youth and adults in personal decision making and self-determination.

In many developing countries such as South Africa, India, and the new Baltic states, concepts of liberty, democracy, and individual rights are being integrated into educational planning at local levels. For example, the political changes in Central and Eastern Europe during the last three years have stimulated a realignment of educational thinking and practice in many countries. In Slovakia, following the collapse of the regime in 1989, politicians and educational leaders began to reform a system which "no longer allowed support for different learners and teachers' potentialities, beliefs, interest or orientation" (Prucha & Walterova, 1992, p. 3). The Ministry of Education established a working group to reform education; promote a philosophy of tolerance, democracy, and freedom; facilitate democratization of the internal life of the school where individual rights were acknowledged; and recognize pupils' rights to use every possible opportunity for education and freedom in decision making (Parizek, et al., 1992).

Recently in China, the Propaganda and Education Department has undertaken four new tasks to promote self-reliance and reduce dependency of its citizens with disabilities and other special learner groups (Condon, 1993). These "tasks" or goals include promoting careers in special education and rehabilitation, organizing recreational activities for individuals with disabilities, publishing newsletters, and establishing a professional association of persons who work with such individuals. According to Condon (1993), the greatest task the Department faces is informing Chinese society that individuals with special learning needs have abilities and can make contributions; societal assistance will help them become less economically dependent and enable them to make greater contributions to society.

Today, in developed nations such as the U.S., Canada, Britain, and other European nations, emerging policies express a greater understanding of the link between education and the economy. The concept of full participation is an important part of the debate about connections among education, economic productivity, and self-sufficiency. This transformation of the current paradigm for educating student populations with diverse needs is having substantial impact upon the reorganization of general education in many countries.


Developing nations are recognizing that children are their future; they must make investments to prepare their children for productive lives. Nations are also recognizing that important guidelines for such investments are legally binding documents that protect the rights of children. The emergence of international instruments on the educational rights of the child and shifts in philosophy within human services have profoundly affected the development of inclusion policies and practices in many countries. Though these documents have limitations, such as failing to provide specific operational guidelines by which particular policies may be implemented, they establish the vision, context, and parameters of responsibilities and expectations, to which no international organization can remain unresponsive (Lynch, 1994; Tangaraza, 1993; UNESCO, 1990). The legal instruments summarized below express the moral, philosophical, and humanitarian principles that, if infused into initiatives, could stimulate and broaden economic progress in developing countries:

   1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously in 1948, is now recognized as one of the most important international baseline documents for regulating the rights and responsibilities of humankind. The declaration recognizes children as in need of special care and attention (Article 25) and declares in Article 26 that everyone has the right to education. Many countries have adopted the values and text of this declaration, which states that education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages, and that elementary education shall be compulsory (United Nations Center for Human Rights, 1990).
   2. The U.N. General Assembly adopted The Declaration of the Rights of the Child in November 1959, which advanced the mandate established by the Universal Declaration and gave official and explicit recognition to the human rights of children. Principle 7 states that: "The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture, and enable him, on the basis of equal opportunity, to develop his individual judgment, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society" (United Nations, Principle 7, 1960) ... Further, "the child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition" (Principle 5).
   3. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in November, 1989, was an even more legally binding document: it held countries which accept the Convention legally accountable for their actions towards children by expecting them to make a commitment to the future. More than 70 countries signed the Convention, thus "recognizing the right of the child to education ... on the basis of equal opportunity..." (United Nations Center for Human Rights, 1990). Those who signed also recognized the right of disabled children to "enjoy a full and decent life" and the state's obligation to provide for their special needs.
   4. Conference on Education for All. In March, 1990, in Jomtien, Thailand, UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank, and UNDO jointly organized a Conference on Education for All to develop a World Declaration on Education for All. Government representatives of 155 countries and more than 150 NGOs were present. Article 3 of the World Declaration on Education for All, approved at the conference, states that "Basic education should be provided to all children ... To this end, basic education services of quality should be expanded ... An active commitment must be made to removing educational disparities. Underserved groups -- the poor, street and working children, rural and remote populations -- should not suffer any discrimination in access to learning opportunities. The learning needs of the disabled demand special attention. Steps need to be taken to provide equal access to education to every category of disabled persons as an integral part of the system" (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, 1990). This Declaration, which addressed issues of quality in education services and the critical need to expand existing services, led to the agreement of a "Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs."
   5. Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. The Conference also adopted this Framework, which described three broad levels of specific actions: (a) direct actions within individual countries; (b) cooperation among groups of countries; and (c) multi-level and bilateral cooperation (Lynch, 1994). The Framework entreats countries to set their own targets, including the expansion of early childhood education care and development activities, including family and community interventions, especially for poor, disadvantaged and disabled children (UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, 1990).
   6. The World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons. The United Nations declared 1983-1992 to be the "Decade of Disabled Persons." To further advance the goals of prevention, rehabilitation, and equalization of opportunities for disabled persons, the General Assembly, in December 1982, adopted The World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons. It recognized the need to analyze and develop services for persons with disabilities within the context of different countries' economic, social, and cultural development. It affirmed, however, that the fundamental responsibility for preventing disability and its consequences rests with Governments (United Nations, 1983). The Decade of the Disabled resulted in several changes: a considerable increase in legislative activity addressing the education of persons with disabilities; an increase in education (rather than health) ministries and departments assuming responsibility for special education; and a gradual transfer of responsibility for students with special needs from special schools to the regular public school system (Lynch, 1994).
   7. The European Association for Special Education (EASE) is an organization of European countries which is linked with UNESCO. Although EASE is not focused solely on developing countries, it offers many sound strategies for international coordination and technical assistance to countries seeking to address special educational needs of children. These strategies include strengthening communication and cooperation among member organizations, promoting studies on the comparability of various educational systems, and determining the effectiveness of teacher training.
   8. Handicapped People in the European Community Living Independently (HELIOS). In 1982, EASE developed a Division for Action in Favor of Disabled People. Its HELIOS project aimed to promote coordination among national and European activities and develop a coherent policy for all categories of people with disabilities. Cooperation among local services and NGOs resulted in a network of rehabilitation centers, local capacity building activities, an information and documentation service, and a HANDYNET information service for people with disabilities.

In summary, over the past two decades, institutional and cultural attitudes towards persons with disabilities are changing, along with the belief in the responsibility for social institutions to accommodate them. The following sections describe the philosophical and practical elements of that shift.


Philosophical and ethical positions provide the foundation for educational policies and practices and form the basis for fiscal and resource allocation decisions. The principles of normalization, shared responsibility, and universal access to education are at the philosophical center of initiatives that promote inclusion and community integration for children and adults with special needs. Over the past decades, human service and educational organizations have come to accept the assumption that citizens of world nations have an inalienable right to resources and environments that support their positive growth and development. The emergence of this philosophy has led to legal rights to education for minorities and persons with special educational needs in a number of countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which have, in turn, influenced thinking and practice in other countries. Central to this new philosophy are three major principles: normalization, social integration, and universal educability.

The normalization principle is fundamental to increasing educational access for children with different educational needs. It developed from the belief that societies reject some members on the basis of their perceived deviance -- a rejection that often leads to the relegation of people with disabilities to low quality and sometimes harmful forms of service (Blatt, 1981; Wolfensberger, 1975). Bank-Mikkelson, head of the Danish Mental Retardation Services, first used the term in the late 1950s, and defined it as "letting the mentally retarded obtain an existence as close to the normal as possible" (Bank-Mikkelson, 1969). Wolfensberger defined normalization as "the use of culturally normative means to offer persons life conditions at least as good as those of average citizens, and as much as possible to enhance or support their behavior, appearances, experiences, status and reputation" (Wolfensberger, 1983, 1975). Norwegian Educator Nirge believed that normalization was relevant to the severely impaired and not just to the mildly impaired, and discussed the integration of persons with disabilities into the mainstream of society as a key corollary of the normalization principle (Nirge, 1976). Thus, the normalization principle was the foundation of a civil rights framework for disadvantaged and impaired persons and, during the past two decades, has assumed its current status as an internationally influential human service paradigm.

Human service and educational agencies which embrace the normalization principle are more effective because they recognize the impact of societal perceptions of deviance on people and, as a result, create services which reduce rather than magnify the deviant status of clients. Such services also maximize the individual freedoms of choices of those served.

In its North American form, the principle of normalization has far reaching implications that affect education and a range of other human services. Rather than banish or segregate a person who is "different" or "deviant' from the general population, the concept leads to an effort to reverse the deviance through restoration, rehabilitation, and reintegration. In Europe and North America, the principle and practice of normalization has been a major impetus in integrating children with disabilities within their communities and schools. The normalization philosophy has stimulated practices of moving children and adults out of institutions and into community-based care and education facilities. It has the following basic tenets:

    * Every person has a right to comfort, safety, and opportunities for social advancement;
    * Children and adults with disabilities may not have had these basic rights, and this deprivation warrants extraordinary effort and compassion in the current situation;
    * Because some opportunities will continue to be closed, education and human service workers need to become allies of special needs individuals and their families;
    * Community members can potentially become more accepting, and even part of the care-giving system, if they are properly sought out, consulted, and nurtured in their efforts;
    * An egalitarian relationship exists between professionals and their clients, and between professionals and community members; and
    * The "real-life" environment is often a more effective location for intervention efforts to take place than is the clinic office or institution (Gerhard, Dorgan, & Miles, 1981; Levy & Shepardson, 1992).

A responsive system based on these tenets considers those persons with the most severe disabilities, and the least advantages, as the top priority within the service system. These concepts have also profoundly affected access to educational and human services by children with special educational needs. A summary of the changes in views over the past few decades about the educability of persons of all ages who have disabilities and special educational needs might include the following:

    * People still traditionally underestimate the potential of persons with disabilities for changing and learning;
    * Pessimism concerning the conditions of change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People do not learn when they become convinced that they cannot or should not;
    * Under proper conditions, it can be demonstrated that intelligence is plastic, i.e., intelligence is a function of practice and training. That we have not been able to accomplish such change in people is less a defect in this hypothesis than it is of our practice (Blatt, 1981; Kochhar & Gopal,1996; Levy & Shepardson, 1992).

These new views about the plasticity of intelligence, new definitions for intelligence, and research evidence that integration practices do result in significant improvement in children's learning and functioning have begun to affect both policy and practice. These changes in attitude provide an important context for developing a coordinated, shared community approach to educating all children. The concept of "shared responsibility" simply means that the schools alone cannot shoulder the full responsibility to provide educational services to children, especially those with special educational needs. Several sectors of the community must be involved and share resources and expertise. Since the early 1980s, the education community in the United States, for example, has been influenced by an initiative known as the "Regular Education Initiative" (REI), which has been a central part of the policy framework of the United States office of Special Education (Will, 1983). This approach requires the regular education system to take full responsibility for all students and to view special education as providing resources for regular education (Skrtic, 1991). The approach assumes a joint sharing between regular and special education and reflects the expectation that other service sectors outside the educational system (the medical and public health systems, rehabilitation services, mental health services, and the social service system) will accept responsibility for the health, growth, and development of children.

INSTITUTE for EDUCATION POLICY STUDIES, Occasional Paper Series March, 1998

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