To examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the inclusive education progress, UNESCO Jakarta conducted a study on Inclusive Education Policies and Legal Frameworks in its five cluster countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Timor-Leste. The study revealed that the current educational policies and legislation are insufficient to progress inclusive education. Many marginalised groups of children experienced multi-faceted barriers to their learning processes during school closures.
In partnership with the University Kebangsaan Malaysia Pakarunding, UNESCO Jakarta organised a meeting on 21 October 2021 to discuss the findings and recommendations from the study towards Inclusive Education with the representatives from the ministry of education from the five cluster countries.
Children with disabilities are facing greater challenges to following online learning. They are at risk of being left behind due to digital exclusion and the absence of appropriate assistive equipment, internet access, accessible materials and support. It is estimated only 0.5 per cent of books in developing countries, including Southeast Asian countries, are available in the accessible formats required for persons with learning disabilities.
The participants of the meeting validated five recommendations to improve education policies and legal frameworks to overcome the challenges for inclusive education:
- A call for holistic, interconnected and up-to-date policies towards inclusive education to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Reform of the inclusive education policy to include all children at risk of exclusion from the general education system, including and not only children with disabilities.
- Improve early identification and intervention programmes to identify children at-risk of education exclusion as early as possible, followed by an innovative intervention such as telehealth and tele-education.
- Realisation that inclusion requires a broader systemic reform to be part of the family and wider society socially and culturally than just moving a child from one classroom to another.
- Provide comprehensive programmes to train and support all professionals and family members to adjust to the new normal routines
The activity is part of UNESCO Jakarta contributions to the achievement of SDG 4, specifically target 4.1 and 4.5 for equitable and inclusive education.