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The Equity Initiative: Innovations and Challenges in Using Functionality Screenings with Children

Mon, March 26, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Hilton Reforma, 14th Floor, Suite 4 (Room 1401)

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
Under the Education Equity Research Initiative, the Disability Task Team was established 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. According to the World Report on Disability (WHO and World Bank, 2011) there are approximately 1 billion people recognized as disabled across the globe, representing approximately 15% of the world’s population. 1 in 10 are children. The report further specifies that 80% of this population is located in the global South.
A necessary prerequisite of improving data on the access and achievement of students with disabilities in the classroom is a valid and reliable method for identifying specific functional limitations. Formal diagnosis of disability can be out of reach for many children – technical expertise is often centered in urban areas, and access to information about testing and funds to travel to testing locations are often limited. The use of first-phase questionnaires, such as the Washington Group on Disability Child Functioning Tool, can provide low-cost, easily scalable approaches to screening children for disabilities.
With any survey-based screening tool, careful attention must be paid to who is providing the information, how well they know the person the questions are about, and whether they understand the survey questions in the way they were intended. The Washington Group has developed clear guidance on implementing the Child Functioning tool in household surveys with parents reporting on their children, but guidance and information on asking the questions directly to children is limited. Furthermore, identifying children’s functional challenges in more subjective areas, such as behavior, can introduce additional complications and questions. Our three papers share promising practices and innovations in addressing these challenges. Our first paper reports on the outcomes of a household survey in Rwanda that compared parents’ identification of their children’s functional difficulties with the children’s identification of their own challenges; our second paper reports on the experience empirically testing the Washington Group Short Set of Questions with children and adolescents in Ghana and Nigeria, as well as related cognitive testing of the tool with children; and our third paper presents a literature review on the high incidence of behavior challenges through survey-based screening tools.

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