Written by Diane Richler, Chair, Catalyst for Inclusive Education.
Education has always been a top priority for members of Inclusion International. Most of our member organizations, in all parts of the world, were formed by parents because their children were not allowed to go to school with their non-disabled brothers and sisters. Parents knew that their sons and daughters could learn, and so in many places they started the first schools for children with intellectual disabilities.
As the self-advocacy movement grew and adults who had gone to special schools started to speak out, they described the hurt they felt not being part of the regular education system, and how going to separate schools or being in separate classes was a path to a life of segregation. Families and progressive educators recognized that “special education” did not mean good education, and that in fact, the same conditions that would allow students who had intellectual disabilities to thrive in regular classes would also improve education for all.
Over the past two decades, the world community has increasingly recognized that peace and prosperity are the result of closing the gaps between those who are most marginalized and the rest of society. That is why the global program for sustainable development and poverty reduction focuses on leaving no one behind, and has as one of its goals achieving “quality and inclusive education”.
Inclusion International was an active participant in the negotiation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and played a particularly active role in securing the wording of Article 24, which guarantees the right to inclusive education. Inclusion International also played an important role in collaborating with the CRPD Committee responsible for interpreting the Convention to ensure that its General Comment 4 defined inclusive education the way it is understood by Inclusion International.
But as our members know only too well, there is a vast chasm between law and people’s lives. Having the framework of the CRPD and General Comment 4 is important. Now we need to turn rights into reality.
That’s where the Catalyst for Inclusive Education comes in. In chemistry, a catalyst brings about a change in its environment. And that is exactly what the Catalyst intends to do. We are working with our members who want to advance inclusive education in their countries, and bringing support to them to spur on change. Some of that outside support is coming from other members of Inclusion International. Some is coming from individual experts, from educators, lawyers, other human rights organizations, or donors.
Transforming education systems to provide both quality and inclusion is a mammoth task. Inclusion International has the members, the networks, the vision, and the commitment to take it on.
Be part of the action! Catalyst is frequently developing new global resources on inclusive education and country-level initiatives. Check back often for updates as we work to advance inclusive education at the national, regional, and global levels.