The Impact of an Inclusive Education Intervention on Learning Outcomes for Girls with Disabilities within a Resource-poor Setting
A holistic approach to inclusive education — one that spans both school and community settings — may benefit the educational attainment of girls with disabilities in Kenya.
A total of 177 counties have ratified Article 24 of the 2007 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, indicating their commitment to persons with disabilities' right to education. A gap between policy and practice persists, however, with evidence suggesting that half of children living with disabilities do not attend school regularly in some countries. This gap may be acute among girls and women living with disabilities, who often experience compounding marginalization on the basis of gender and ability status, and in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), where resource-poor settings can have heightened obstacles to inclusive education.
Existing literature has revealed little about how to achieve inclusive education (that is, education that includes children with disabilities in the mainstream classroom) in LMICs, despite the fact that the majority of the world's persons with disabilities live in these countries. Little is known about how to provide inclusive education to girls with disabilities in resource-poor settings, despite the power of intersecting gender and socioeconomic inequalities that shape access to education. Inclusive education interventions in these settings hold the potential to assist governments and policy-makers in advancing educational access and achievement for persons with disabilities.
This study evaluated the impact of a non-governmental organization's (NGO) holistic inclusive education intervention on the educational attainment of girls with disabilities in Kenya's Lakes region, an area marked by insufficient educational resources with disproportionate disadvantages for girls living with disabilities. The authors used a quasi-experimental design that compared the literacy and numeracy competencies of intervention and control groups before and after the implementation of the intervention.
The girls with disabilities who experienced the inclusive, accessible educational program displayed greater increases in literacy and numeracy attainment compared to the girls with disabilities who experience the non-inclusive educational program. These findings take into account the girls’ grade level and their level of functional difficulty (severity of disability).
- Compared to the group in non-inclusive education, the group with inclusive education experienced a greater increase in:
- English scores (with a score increase of 0.17 vs. 0.05)
- Kiswahili scores (with a score increase of 0.31 vs. 0.23)
- Numeracy scores (with a score increase of 0.26 vs. 0.21) across the time period studied.
- The comparative benefit of the inclusive education model was statistically significant in all three categories of English, Kiswahili, and numeracy.
The intervention delivered improvements in the educational attainment of girls with disabilities. The authors suggest that a holistic approach to inclusive education interventions, one that accounts for activities within both schools and broader communities, could be particularly effective in increasing the learning outcomes of children with disabilities.
An initial scoping exercise identified the barriers to education facing girls with disabilities, including inaccessible facilities, learning materials, teaching methods, and negative views about disability in education from teachers, parents, and other community members, as well as inadequate educational and rehabilitative support for the girls and their families.
The subsequent intervention was led by Leonard Cheshire, a UK-based disability-focused NGO, and included six core activity categories: 1) creating a physically accessible learning environment, 2) raising awareness about disability and gender issues throughout the community, 3) developing and maintaining child-to-child activities like peer support and after-school clubs, 4) training teachers about inclusive education methods and disability rights, 5) identifying and assessing disabled children, and 6) advocating for relevant policy change at the county and national levels.
Trained community resource workers collaborated with Kenyan government-mandated Education Assessment Resource Centers to identify 2,500 girls with disabilities, and the Kenyan government assisted in the selection of 75 schools for the study, with 50 schools receiving the intervention and 25 schools in a control group. Ultimately, 353 primary school-aged girls with disabilities participated in both rounds of assessment (289 in the intervention group, 64 in the control group).
Researchers measured participants' educational attainment using an evaluative tool adopted from the Uwezo test, a pretested assessment administered throughout East Africa, that measured English literacy, Kiswhali literacy, and numeracy. (Kiswahili is a Kenyan national language and the main language of instruction within schools, along with English.) The first data collection period occurred in November and December of 2015, prior to the intervention's implementation, and the second data collection period occurred in November and December 2016, after the intervention's implementation. Data collection was performed at the girls' households by trained collectors with permission of their caregivers.