CRPD Committee - General Comment No. 4 (2016) on the Right to Inclusive Education (article 24)

This summary overview of General Comment No.4 was written by Paula Hunt, Senior Technical Advisor, Catalyst for Inclusive Education.

Inclusive education is central to achieving high-quality education for all learners, must be realized at all levels (preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education, vocational training and lifelong learning, extracurricular and social activities), for all students, including persons with disabilities, without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. 

Inclusive education entails a transformation in culture, policy and practice, a commitment to removing barriers, and strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners. It focuses on the full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students without discrimination. It is a process of systemic reform embodying changes and modifications in content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies. States parties must commit sufficient financial and human resources.

Core features of inclusive education are: 

1.A “whole systems” approach: all resources are invested in advancing inclusive education;

2. A “whole educational environment” embedding the culture, policies and practices; 

3. A “whole person” approach: recognition is given to the capacity of every person to learn, and high expectations are established for all learners. Inclusive education offers flexible curricula and teaching and learning methods adapted to different strengths, requirements and learning styles. The focus is on learners’ capacities and aspirations, rather than on content when planning teaching activities;

4. Supported teachers: all teachers and other staff receive the education and training they need to give them the core values and competencies to accommodate inclusive learning environments; 

5. Respect for and value of diversity: all members of the learning community are equally welcome and must be shown respect for diversity;

6. A learning-friendly environment: inclusive learning environments are accessible environments where everyone feels safe, supported, stimulated and able to express;

7. Effective transitions: learners with disabilities receive support to ensure the effective transition from learning at school to vocational and tertiary education and, finally, to work (life-long focus);

8. Recognition of partnerships: The relationship between the learning environment and the wider community must be recognized as a route towards inclusive societies; 

9. Monitoring: involve persons with disabilities.

The right to inclusive education is assured without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity. Discrimination includes the right not to be segregated, and must be understood in the context of the duty to provide accessible learning environments and reasonable accommodation. Accessibility benefits groups of the population and is based on a set of standards that are implemented gradually. Reasonable accommodation relates to an individual and is complementary to the accessibility duty. Modes and means of teaching should be accessible and teaching should be conducted in accessible environments.

The exclusion of persons with disabilities from the general education system should be prohibited, including through any legislative or regulatory provisions that limit their inclusion on the basis of their impairment or the degree of that impairment. It must support the creation of opportunities to build on the unique strengths and talents of each individual with a disability. 

The education system must comprise four interrelated features: availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability. Compulsory, quality, free and accessible primary education is an immediate obligation. States parties have a specific and continuing obligation to move as expeditiously and effectively as possible towards the full realization of article 24. This is not compatible with sustaining two systems of education.

Must consider the child’s own views and individual identity, the preservation of the family, care, protection and safety of the child, any particular vulnerability, and the child’s right to health and education. Provide habilitation and rehabilitation services within the education system, at the earliest stage possible, be based on a multidisciplinary assessment of a student’s strengths and support maximum independence, autonomy, respect of dignity, full physical, mental, social and vocational ability and inclusion and participation in all aspects of life.

A downloadable handout of this General Comment Overview can be found in Resources.