Inclusive Education Financing in the Era of COVID-19: What Has Changed? What Needs to Change?

The IEI 2nd anniversary capped off with a presentation from Robert Prouty, on the patterns of financing for inclusive education before and during the pandemic, and what this all means moving forward.

The pandemic has not been the great equalizer but for those that were already marginalized, like learners with disabilities, the lockdowns have only increased the divide. Fifty percent of children with disabilities in low-income countries were already out of school even before the pandemic. Learning loss among children with disabilities due to school closures will be impossible to measure because learning among children with disabilities is not measured.

“For children with disabilities, it’s as if the pandemic was always there.”

- Robert Prouty

Key principles of inclusive education financing include:

  • Inclusive education is cost-efficient and cost-effective. When comparing the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of inclusive education vs. segregated learning or no learning at all, education for children with disabilities might cost 2.5x more than for other children, segregated learning is 7-9x more expensive. If education systems are designed with universal design approaches from the beginning, it requires only 1% of the budget, whereas retrofitting requires 5% of the budget.
  • Twin-track funding is needed: general funding for inclusive education systems and specific funding targeted to the most marginalized
  • Cross-sectoral approaches are more effective, and these require partnerships
  • Meaningful participation in dialogue around funding (“nothing about us without us”)
  • Targeted funding is ineffective without transforming the education system to be fully supportive of inclusion: classroom practice, textbooks, teacher training (for example only 8% of Grade 2 & 6 teachers in francophone SSA trained.

What needs to change in education financing for inclusive education post-COVID?

  • Financing must incentivize inclusive education, not segregated education
  • Technology must seek to support teachers, not replace them
  • Build back better: education systems must be fully transformed to support inclusion. Change classroom methodologies, teacher training, reading materials to address individual student needs
  • Finance global public goods—knowledge sharing, research—around inclusive education
  • Build twin-track financing into education budgets
  • Provide clarity in defining financing needs and providing indicators of progress: teacher training, screening, assessment, referrals, teacher support, data, reading materials, assistive devices…
  • Support parents and other stakeholders

Useful resources shared by the audience:


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