How Indonesia is Including Students with Disabilities in School in Rural Indonesia

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This story was originally posted on, February 8, 2024


  • In Indonesia, one disabled child out of three lacks access to education. If a disabled child is in school, he or she is likely not getting the accommodations they need.
  • A pilot program assessing the needs of disabled students in five districts in Indonesia is delivering better learning outcomes for students with disabilities.
  • Through analyses and knowledge sharing, the World Bank is actively promoting inclusive education (IE) in Indonesia.

Globally, children with disabilities are the ones most likely to be excluded from education. In Indonesia, almost 30 percent of children with disabilities do not have access to education, and many of those who are in school are underserved.

Despite progress in inclusive education policy development, implementation of inclusion education has a way to go. However, with Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI) Trust Fund, the World Bank is supporting the Indonesian government through an online pilot program to better diagnose the needs of learning for students with disabilities in rural areas and to identify gaps in serving these students. The positive response to the pilot suggests there is an opportunity to expand the program to 139,000 students with disabilities in Indonesia's inclusive schools.

The pilot, conducted by Wahana Inklusif Indonesia Foundation, took place in Lebak, Cilacap, Bondowoso, Ponorogo, and Bima districts, and ran from October 2021 to November 2022. It was initiated in response to a request from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MoECRT) to assess students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assessment tool was used in collaboration among professionals from the fields of education, psychology, and health, teachers, and parents. This multidisciplinary approach aimed to provide a more holistic evaluation. An online platform was used to engage all stakeholders.

As a result, more than 100 students with learning disabilities received a thorough diagnoses of their learning needs for the first time. Teachers received support in assessing reading and mathematics ability and in gathering health and psychological data for educators (mentors), psychologists, and health experts to assess.  Teachers also worked with health professionals to record their students’ progress and from their mentors, they learned how to teach students with disabilities using Bahasa Indonesia and mathematics modules and to create individual education plans (IEPs) for each student.

The pilot program had lasting impacts on the student’s learning progression, and it has been appreciated by parents, teachers and education authorities. Niar, a mother of student with autism, said she has seen a significant progress in her son’s learning.

"With this program, my child who has special needs can receive his education as he should, the same as other students,” she said. “His development is significant. When he first entered school, he experienced difficulties in learning because he is autistic, but from this program, there have been changes. I hope all other teachers in the country can receive training like this so students with special needs can receive proper learning support.”  

Teachers appreciated the guidance the program provides them.

“I’m very grateful because before the assessment, I just taught the students with disabilities based on what I knew,” said Aisyah, a fourth-grade teacher. “Now, I have a clearer program. My students could start by joining up words, and we continued to tutor them until they could read. The assessment and the IEP development helped the student learning process.”

The assessments conducted by the pilot also contributing to MoECRT’s education data management.  In many cases, professional help is required to establish accurate diagnoses for students with disabilities. Because of the pilot, the quality of the data in Indonesian education database, or Dapodikcan continue to improve and helps in allocating necessary resources to students who are in need.  

With this program, my child who has special needs can receive his education as he should, the same as other students.

Niar Mother of a student with autism

a student seen from the back with a teacher showing him a paper
A pilot program assessing the needs of disabled students in Banten, West Java. Photo: World Bank

Building knowledge, promoting dialogue

To further support education for children with disabilities, the World Bank has supported research into what works and where gaps exist. With support from Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI), the World Bank has produced several studies, including Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in Indonesian SchoolsAssistive Technology (AT) for Children with Disabilities in Inclusive and Special Schools, and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (ECE) for Children with Disabilities.

These studies identified issues including gaps in policy implementation, and issues in classrooms, such as insufficient preparation for teachers working with students with disabilities and lack of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). One study addressed the availability and use of Assistive Technology (AT) -- defined as any technology or item used to facilitate the participation of students with disabilities in learning activities. The studies also revealed that the role of parents of children with disabilities tends to be overlooked despite their key role in ensuring their children’s access to education and achieving positive learning outcomes.  

Promoting inclusive education requires a collaborative effort among stakeholders. A symposium in November 2023, organized by the World Bank and Sebelas Maret University and supported by the Government of Australia, highlighted that current schools must be equipped to be transformed into inclusive schools if customized  learning for students with disabilities is to occur, as is envisioned in the Merdeka curriculum to ensure students acquire foundational skills through differentiated learning.

Female students with disabilities in particular continue to face the obstacles of stereotypes and stigma in accessing education, the symposium noted. Coordination between decision-makers at national and sub-national government levels is necessary for the effective implementation of inclusive education policies that include girls.

To further improve educational opportunities for students with disabilities, the World Bank and MoERCT are starting an initiative called Transforming Parental Engagement in Early Childhood Education through the Use of Assistive Technologies. With funding support from Early Learning Partnership (ELP), the program will be implemented until mid-2025, focusing on the training of caregivers of children with disabilities, an area that has not been well addressed.

While still at pilot scale, the online disability identification program is expected to be expanded for all children with disabilities in Indonesia. Professional development for teachers of students with disabilities is also expected also to be strengthened.

To provide education for students with disabilities who remain underserved will require affirmative action to reach, including by improving education delivery in rural inclusive schools. The online diagnosis pilot was the initial step towards achieving this goal.



Disclamer: Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Key Area
disability inclusive education

East Asia & Pacific

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