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The Equity Initiative: Gathering and Utilizing Data on Children with Disabilities in Education

Wed, March 28, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 1st Floor, Business Center Room 1

Group Submission Type: Panel Session


The Education Equity Research Initiative is a collaborative partnership that connects organizations and individuals committed to building stronger evidence and knowledge for improving solutions for equity in and through education. It serves to help ensure that an equity lens is incorporated into data production and research across all education and development programs and policies. With more than two dozen organizations participating in its work streams and task teams, The Equity Initiative is a vital forum for bringing collective knowledge and expertise together to address the challenge of equity. The organizations in this panel are contributing to building the knowledge base and advancing the field in understanding inequities in education outcomes and developing evidence-based solutions to address them. Learn more at

Disability is an important consideration for building equity, as children with disabilities often face acute challenges gaining quality education. With an estimated 90% of children with disabilities in developing contexts not attending (UIS and UNICEF, 2014), many children with disabilities are left out of school entirely. Those in school often do not receive the support they need to succeed, especially where functional limitations go unidentified or where teachers are not equipped to provide assistance, as regularly happens in under-resourced, overcrowded classrooms. Moreover, where social norms view these children as “uneducable,” they face discrimination from teachers and classmates.

Given the extent of these barriers and the scale of their impact—over 1 billion around the world are estimated to have a disability, of whom 1 in 10 are children (WHO, 2011), the Sustainable Development Goals have explicitly called for equal, inclusive education for persons with disabilities. As the Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge, having quality data on disability is crucial to realizing goals at the local and global level. Sharing this vision, members of the Equity Initiative formed a Disability Task Team in 2017 with the objective of improving the availability and quality of data on the prevalence, access, and achievement of children with disabilities in education. Under the umbrella of the Equity Initiative, this panel reports on work in this area, examining data collection practices and data use to advance equity for children with disabilities.

The first presentation, seeing identification a key initial step in supporting children’s needs and monitoring equity, shares findings from a landscape review on approaches to disability screening. The presentation attends to considerations for introducing screening into low-resource school environments where it is not currently available. The next presentation looks at gathering data on learning achievement from children with disabilities, reporting on successes and challenges from first-hand experience conducting Early Grade Reading Assessments with hearing- and vision- impaired children. The final presentation takes a global view, describing results of an analysis of survey and census data on disability and education from 49 countries. The presentation highlights educational inequalities for persons with disabilities and the challenges of conducting equity analysis with existing data. Together, the presentations provide the opportunity to reflect on promising practices and persistent challenges in gathering and utilizing education data on children with disabilities.


UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and UNICEF. (2014). South Asia Out-of-School Children Initiative regional study covering Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Kathmandu, Nepal: UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2011). World report on disability 2011. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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