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Equal Right, Equal Opportunity: Education and Disability

Image © Robin Wyatt:
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In most low- and middle-income countries, children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than any other group of children; even if they do attend school, children living with disabilities are often more likely to drop out and leave school early.  In some countries, having a disability can more than double the chance of a child not being in school, compared to their non-disabled peers. It is, therefore, unsurprising that in many countries children with disabilities make up the vast majority of those out of school. For those children with disabilities who actually manage to enter classrooms, the quality and form of schooling received – often in segregated schools – can act to powerfully compound exclusion from the mainstream and confirm pre-existing societal notions about disability.

  • In Malawi and Tanzania, a child with a disability is twice as likely to have never attended school as a child without a disability. In Burkina Faso, having a disability increases the risk of children being out of school by two and a half times.  
  • In Bolivia it is estimated that 95% of the population aged 6 to 11 years are in school, while only 38% of children with disabilities are – more than doubling the chances of not being in school. 
  • In Ethiopia, according to the Ministry of Education, fewer than 3% of children with disabilities have access to primary education, and access to schooling decreases rapidly as children move up the education ladder.
  • In Nepal, 85% of all children out of school are disabled. 
  • Girls with disabilities fare even worse than boys. In Malawi one study showed that more girls with disabilities have never attended school compared to boys with disabilities. This translates into lower literacy rates as adults: for instance, national statistics in Ghana show that the literacy rate for non-disabled adults stands at 70%, which reduces to 56% for adults living with disabilities, and this drops to just 47% for women with disabilities.
  • Italy is the only European country in which almost all disabled pupils (over 99%) were included in mainstream schools.

Tackling this severe discrimination is a matter of urgency on several counts. Firstly, this denial of the right to education robs children of the future benefits of an education and the opportunity to access other rights – for example, by limiting employment opportunities or participation in civic affairs later in life. It restricts full participation in society, exacerbating exclusion, and can limit a person’s chance of escaping poverty. This and other barriers faced by people living with disabilities means they are usually among the poorest of the poor.

Report: Equal Right, Equal Opportunity: Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities 

EREO REPORT THUMBGCE's new report on education and disability synthesises current evidence around the scale of the challenge, highlighting levels of exclusion from education faced by children with disabilities, as well as outlining the common barriers faced in gaining access to a quality education. It also aims to set out the case for inclusive education systems, where children with disabilities are brought into mainstream schools, and classrooms and schools respond and adapt more effectively to their needs. Finally, the report summarises the policy responses which can help bring down the common barriers – from the family, local communities and national government, through to the international community – setting out clear set of areas of action and policy recommendations for governments, donors and the international community. The report was written with the support of GCE member, Handicap International.

Download in English                                    Download in العربية
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Global Action Week, 4-10 May 2014

Global Action Week is one of the major focal points for the education movement. Created and led by the Global Campaign for Education, Global Action Week provides everyone campaigning for the right to education with an opportunity to highlight a core area of the Education For All agenda and make targeted efforts to achieve change on the ground, with the added support of millions of members of the public worldwide joining together for the same cause. 

In 2014, Education and Disability will be the focus of GCE’s Global Action Week.

We are asking teachers, students, education campaigners and members of the public to take part in Global Action Week events happening all around the world, 4-10 May 2014.

You can find out more about former Global Action Weeks here.

Campaign Demands

GCE believes that a huge impact on the right of people with disabilities can be made through efforts by national governments to deliver the following 7 strategies:

  • Create appropriate legislative frameworks and set out ambitious national plans for inclusion.
  • Provide the capacity, resources and leadership to implement ambitious national plans on inclusion.
  • Improving data and building accountability for action
  • Making schools and classrooms accessible and relevant for all
  • Ensure enough appropriately trained teachers for all
  • Challenging attitudes which reinforce and sustain discrimination
  • Create an enabling policy environment for inclusive education, through cross-sectoral interventions

These strategies must be supported by bilateral donors and the international community through development cooperation.

Bilateral donors must:

  • Meet the long-standing commitment to allocate 0.7% of GNI to aid and allocate at least 10% of aid budgets to basic education, with a particular focus on supporting country plans in the lowest income countries.
  • Ensure that aid supporting inclusive education, or targets that reduce disabled children’s exclusion, are commensurate with the needs and gaps for meeting the EFA and MDG targets.
  • Ensure that aid supports the scaling up of national plans and does not add to fragmented and small scale efforts on inclusive education, while adhering to internationally agreed principles on aid effectiveness.
  • Ensure that development assistance for education programmes, plans and polices includes support for inclusive education, and donor agency staff have the capacity and necessary understanding to support this.
  • Strengthen and support the capacity of partner governments to address inclusion through planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Ensure all education programmes support learners with disabilities, with particular attention to those who are most marginalised or face multiple disadvantages, such as girls or children with higher levels of physical, or learning disability.
  • Support partner governments to ensure adequate coordination amongst ministries and between government, civil society and other development partners, through processes such as the LEGs and other national policy planning forums.

The international community must:

  • Build clear and measurable global targets for inclusive education and disability into the post 2015 agenda, ensuring that inclusive education is explicitly referenced within the post 2015 agenda.
  • Prioritise the development of reliable data collection on education and disability (including according to type of disability and support needs) to enhance tracking and monitoring of progress on post 2015 goals.
  • The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) must become a champion of inclusive education for children with disabilities. This would include ensuring sufficient expertise within the country support teams; the production of guidelines that could help improve the inclusion, including guidelines to support improved data collection; and the mainstreaming of inclusive education perspectives into assessment processes.
  • GPE must work towards ensuring that Local Education Groups (LEGs) have genuine space for organisations which represent people with disabilities and DPOs.


Financing Education Through Domestic Resources


Ensuring a quality education for all children presents a huge financing challenge in low- and middle-income countries. Even with substantial increases in education budgets over the last ten years, especially in African countries, financing has not kept pace with demand for public education. As more and more children have entered schools, already constrained budgets have been stretched ever thinner, with governments skimping on critical areas, for instance, by recruiting low-qualified and underpaid teachers. This chronic underinvestment has led to appallingly poor quality levels of schools across the developing world, with an estimated 130 million children in low and middle income countries failing to acquire basic reading and numeracy skills in school.

Not only do governments need to find more money to improve education quality, but they still have to deal with the unfinished business of ensuring all children can complete primary school. There are still 57 million children not in primary school at all, and an estimated 120 million who drop out before grade 4 - they need targeted investments to bring them into classrooms. Meanwhile, pressure is also mounting from growing young populations in the developing world to further expand secondary schooling.


 Funding these competing needs is a huge financing challenge. This has been made even more difficult in the wake of the financial crisis, especially in low-income countries, who are struggling to find enough resources to massively expand their own financing, while aid to basic education from rich countries is rapidly decreasing. This means that low- and middle-income countries will almost certainly need to find other major sources of, as yet, untapped revenue. 

The Global Campaign for Education's report, A Taxing Business: Financing Education For All Through Domestic Resources, identifies four major steps towards achieving increased domestic resources and the vast impact this could make on ensuring quality, public education for all.

Download in English                                Download in Español                
Download in Français                              Download in العربية
Download in Português

Key Facts

  • In Zambia, the government estimated that the country is losing a total of US$2 billion annually through corporate tax avoidance – more than twice the total annual education budget. 
  • Tax exemptions in Nicaragua, are worth two and a half times the primary education budget.
  • Uganda lost US $272 million from tax incentives, this is equivalent to almost the total primary education budget in 2012
  • In Kenya, the government has estimated that all tax incentives and exemptions stand at around US $1.1 billion annually: this could more than double the primary education budget. In a country where 1 million children are missing out on primary school, this could pay for them to be enrolled in school ten times over. 
  • In Ghana, a study estimated that between 2007 and 2009, mining deals led to a loss of around US $36 million a year.The US $36 million lost each year through mining deals could pay for 18,500 untrained primary school teachers to be trained, and could have ensured all teachers are trained within four years.
  • Christian Aid estimates that Peru lost US $849 million through poor collection of mining royalties from 1994 to 2006.This amount could have paid for four years of schooling for every single one of the nearly half a million children of primary or lower secondary school age who are currently out of school in Peru.
  • UNESCO has recently estimated that for 17 countries already rich in resources or with recently discovered deposits, revenue from natural resources could finance access to primary school for 86% of out-of-school children if their governments maximised the revenue generated and dedicated a significant share to education. This could reach the equivalent of US $5 billion a year – two and a half times the amount that these countries received in aid to education in 2010.
  • Brazil has just passed a resolution, which means that 75% of drilling royalties the Brazilian government receives from oilfields in the so-called ‘pre-salt’ layer are to be invested in education. This could equal US$75 billion over the next ten years. 



Privatisation in Education

In the last decade, policies that involve some level of education privatisation, including public-private partnerships (PPPs), vouchers and “low-fee” private schools, have become increasingly prominent in global education debates and policies. The urgent need to achieve the Education For All goals and the MDGs, as well as the effects of the financial crisis worldwide, has made governments and international organisations more willing to introduce different forms of education privatisation.  At the same time, the private sector is increasingly targeting public education systems as profitable markets, seeing business (and profit) opportunities through the sale of textbooks, consultancies, ICT technologies, teacher training, evaluation systems, tests, etc. This new push for private sector engagement in education is arguably shrinking the space for public processes of policy making and debate, sidelining citizens as the key drivers of policy while private corporations and organisations become more dominant. 

Many national coalitions within the GCE membership are reporting negative effects of privatisation and public-private partnerships, especially in terms of the impact on equality and the promotion of an education consistent with human rights and the public good. The growth of privatisation is also recognized as a human rights concern internationally.

For example, read the latest Report on Privatisation from the UN Special Rapporteur on Education (Sept 2014)



in English, French, Spanish or Arabic.




GCE and Member Materials on Privatisation in Education

Civil society organisations that defend public education and public policy making must act to defend public education.

GCE CEDAW THUMBJoint submission to CEDAW on impact of privatisation of education on girls’ education.

Download in English here




Undertsanding PPP“Gain or Drain: Understanding Public Private Partnerships in Education” ASPBAE primer on PPP in Education. 

Download in English here



CLADE website on privatisation of education in Latin America, in Spanish 

Workshops on Privatisation in Education

GCE undertook a range of workshops on privatisation in different regions to contribute towards building the movement on the issue.

Manila Workshop on Privatisation in Education: ‘Privatisation, public-private partnerships and the right to education: building critical research skills.’ The workshop was organized in 1-3 August 2013 by GCE, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ASPBAE and E-NET Philippines in Manila. Pre-Event Materials can be found here (in English)

Workshop on Privatisation in Africa: Education International research affiliates and GCE coalition representatives came together for a three-day Africa and MENA regional conference on “Privatisation and the Right to Education” in Johannesburg, South Africa on 16-18 January 2014. An overview of the workshop can be accessed here 

CLADE SP 2012 THUMBPrivatisation of Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Report from a seminar held in 2012 by the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE) and OSF.

Download report in English and Spanish.



Resources on Privatisation in Education

The Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI) website has a vast amount of information and resources www.periglobal.org

Materials on the issue from a human rights perspective can be accessed on the privatisation section of the Right to Education Project website 

Education International also has some excellent resources on the issue, accessible here

The Global Initiative on Economic and Socio Cultural Rights (GIESCR) also has some good resources. Go here for more on their research, and here for their community page and blog.


New resources for civil society education coalitions: Using human rights tools to tackle the negative effects of privatisation on the right to education - 2015

For the past 18 months, a number of international, national and local organisations have worked together to research and assess the effects of the growth of privatisation in education from a human rights perspective in 8 countries. These include Morocco, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil, Chile and Nepal, and in the UK, organisations have examined the impact of development aid to support to private education in developing countries. This work, led by the Global Initiative on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) in Partnership with the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI) and the Right to Education Project (RTE), has led to statements and recommendations from key UN rights bodies, and contributed to reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education to the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council on the impact of private actors on the right to education.

These efforts have fuelled national advocacy and dialogue with governments, private actors and other stakeholders on the issue of privatisation – and created an effective methodology that civil society can use to tackle issues of privatisation in education in their countries. The methodology can easily be replicated by coalitions, including those with no prior experience of using human rights mechanisms. The three short briefs below provide an introduction to this work and explains how to get involved. 

OSF PEHR F 1-1 thumb

 Private actors in Education & Human Rights: a practical methodology to tackle the negative effects of  privatisation in education on the right to education

 Download in English                               Download in French



OSF Step by step F 2-1 thumb How to Use Human Rights Mechanisms

 Download in English                               Download in French




OSF Case Studies F 3-1 thumb Case Studies on: Parallel Reporting to Tackle Privatisation in Education

 Download in English                               Download in French





EI PRIV 2007 THUMBHidden Privatisation in Public Education

This report by Stephen Ball and Deborah Youdell, Institute for Education on behalf of Education International, focuses on the growing tendency amongst governments world-wide to introduce forms of privatisation into public education and to move to privatise sections of public education.



EI 2009 PPP THUMBPublic Private Partnerships in Education

An Education International research report focusing on the types and impact of privatisation in education, with recommendations for members and campaigning organisations on combating the challenges posed.



Global Manegerial Edu THUMBGlobal Managerial Education - Reforms And Teachers: Emerging Policies, Controversies And Issues In Developing Contexts

Volume of national case studies compiled on behalf of Education International



UK Parliamentary Debate: the notes of a 2012 debate on low fee private schools and global education for all, held by politicians and experts in the UK parliament.

BBC News article based on the discussion at the above meeting.



A PERI Debate on Privatisation in Education

This video examines the growing trend of privatisation of education globally through the voices of the participants of a summer school on regionalisation, globalisation and privatisation of education.

Education for all: who learns? Who pays? And why?

This lecture by Joel Samoff (Stanford University) was given as part the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative’s summer school on Globalisation, Regionalisation and Privatisation of Education. It explores global targets associated with the education for all from aspects of access, quality and the role of education in society as well as the associated financing of education and how it is structured.

A film exploring the impact of low-fee private schools in Pakistan. 

Sponsored Academies in the UK

These types of school are an example of education public-private partnerships (ePPPs).

Privatised Education in Chile: Legacy and Protest

Privatisation and its impact in a country with vast economic inequality.

For Profit Schools in South Africa

A film exploring the growth of private schools in South Africa.

Private tutoring in Cambodia 

A film exploring the impact of private tutoring on pupils and teachers in Cambodia.


Other resources

Disaster Capitalism Curriculum THUMB Arch Comix: Education

 An interesting comic strip taking a view on privatisation in education in the US.




Financing Education Through Aid

AIDWATCH THUMProgress towards the goal of achieving Education for All is slowing, and donor governments are slashing their aid budgets for basic education. This is partly a result of falling aid levels overall, but the cuts in aid to basic education are particularly severe, and are falling especially on low-income countries.

While some few donor countries are maintaining or even increasing education aid levels, others are reducing dramatically. This is a betrayal both of people’s aspirations and of the commitment made in 2000 by 184 governments that “no country shall be thwarted
from meeting the [EFA] goals due to lack of resources”. Reversing this fall is affordable; it would be the best long-term investment in the future of individuals and of nations, and would make an overwhelming difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of girls, boys, women and men currently missing out on their right to education. 

Developing countries have put enormous emphasis and resources into meeting their part of the bargain and are increasing domestic resources for basic education. But – at this critical moment, when progress has been seen but further progress is difficult – donors are withdrawing their support. This is leading to a widening of the financing gap in meeting the needs for basic education in the developing world. In recent years the gap in financing for pre-primary and primary education and basic adult literacy has actually grown by US $10 billion, to a total US $26 billion, largely due to a lack of donor support. If we include lower secondary education, the total gap is US $38 billion.


The Global Campaign for Education and its members in 11 donor countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the USA - have been identifying trends in aid over recent years. Education Aid Watch 2013 contains a detailed national profile for each of these 11 countries, which has original research from the coalition of the latest aid patterns. These outline the general trends and government priorities in aid to education, as well as giving specific recommendations for that country’s aid programme. 

Download Education Aid Watch 2013 in English


Key Facts

  • Less than half of the US $13.5 billion aid spent on education is currently going to basic education and only a fraction of that is supporting basic education in the low-income countries most in need. Between 2010 and 2011, overall aid to basic education fell from US $6.2 to US $5.3 billion.
  • The Netherlands has made deep cuts in support to basic education: in just one year – between 2010 and 2011 – there was a 40% reduction in aid to basic education.
  • Spain will drop from its previous position within the ranks of the top ten biggest donors to basic education, to 16th place between 2010 and 2013 as a result of their cuts. Aid to basic education is forecast to shrink almost three-fold between 2008 and 2013. This will result in the loss of access to education for 97,000 children.
  • In 2010, almost 40% of Japan’s direct aid to education went to scholarships for students studying in Japan.
  • In France, spending on scholarships amounts to nearly five times the amount spent on basic education, or more than half of education aid.
  • In 2012, 62% of Germany’s education aid was spent on scholarships, up from 54% in 2010, signalling that this is a worsening trend.
  • In 2010, the tiny Comoros island of Mayotte was receiving 52% of all French aid allocated to education in sub-Saharan Africa, due to its status as a French overseas territory, while the Pacific islands of Wallis and Futuna come 7th on the list of recipients of French education aid. France’s USD$67 million in direct aid for education to these islands averages US $1,854 per pupil per year.
  • Calculations by the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report show that the money spent on one German scholarship alone could pay for over 100 students to go to school in Nepal. For the amount it costs for one Nepalese student to study on scholarship in Japan, as many as 229 young people could have access to secondary education in Nepal.
  • Not all countries are cutting their aid. The UK government has continued to increase their contributions towards education. Total aid to education - across all levels of education - has risen steadily from around 9% in 2008 to 12% in 2011.




About GCE's Global Action Week

Global Action Week is one of the major focal points for the education movement. It provides every national and regional education campaign with an opportunity to highlight one area of the Education For All agenda and make targeted efforts to achieve change on the ground, with the added support of education campaigners and millions of members of the public worldwide joining together for the same cause.   

Global Action Week for Education 2018


GCE’s Global Action Week for Education in 2018 takes place between the 22nd and 28th of April, following up on last year’s theme of accountability for SDG4 and active citizen participation. GAWE 2018, entitled “Accountability for SDG4 through Citizen Participation” will continue focusing on holding governments and the international community to account for implementing the full SDG4 agenda – asking governments to “Keep Your Promises”.

After the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) Financing Conference at the start of 2018, where developing country governments, donor countries and various partners pledged to increase funds to education, it is time for governments to prove they are actually working towards financing public, equitable, inclusive and free education – it is time to act. That is why we are calling for governments to “Keep Your Promises” – pledges made towards funding SDG4 must be implemented effectively, ensuring that children and adults around the world can receive quality public education.


Global Action Week for Education 2017

GAWE2017 LOGO STRAPGCE’s Global Action Week for Education in 2017 takes place 23-29 April and focuses on ensuring accountability for SDG4, and active citizen participation.

In 2015, citizens campaigned successfully for governments to commit to a Sustainable Development Goal which ensured that everyone has the right to quality education – education which should be public, equitable, inclusive and free. Two years later, it is time for governments to prove they are working towards this goal – it is time to deliver.



 Global Action Week for Education 2016

 ftf campaignFund the Future: Education Rights Now!

This year's Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) will run from 24 to 30 April.

In 2015, world leaders committed to the most ambitious global development agenda in history. For education, this includes the pledge to 'ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030' - regardless of personal, social or political context. Such ambitious goals need to be paid for. Since education is central to the achievement of all the development goals, failing to make adequate investments in education puts the success of the entire new agenda at risk. 

This first year of implementation is critical, and provides citizens the wold over with an unmissable opportunity to ensure the issue of financing is firmly centre stage. Investment in education now will help to fund a better future tomorrow. 

Visit GCE's Fund the Future website for more information.


 Global Action Week 2015

 Logo VoteForEducation RGB
The Right to Education 2000-2030 - Vote for Education!
In 2000, the world’s leaders made a series of promises intended to guarantee education for all by 2015. While significant progress has been made, it is clear that these promises will not be met.

This year, the world will agree new frameworks and governments will make a new set of promises. It is critical that civil society holds politicians accountable for the progress and failings of the last 15 years, demands that these promises are honoured, and has a say in what is being promised to make the right to education a reality by 2030.

2015 provides us all with a unique opportunity to make a difference for decades to come, and GCE is committed to making the most of it. This is why we are asking politicians, representing their citizens at the World Education Forum in May and the UN General Assembly in September, to Vote for Education.
Global Action Week 2015 took place from 26 April to 2 May.

Global Action Week 2014

Education and Disability

An estimated 1 billion people live with a disability – comprising approximately 15% of the global population. It is estimated that 93 million of these are children – or 1 in 20 of those aged up to 14 years of age – living with a moderate or severe disability. In most low- and middle-income countries, children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than any other group of children; even if they do attend school, children living with disabilities are often more likely to drop out and leave school early. In some countries, having a disability can more than double the chance of a child not being in school, compared to their non-disabled peers. 

The rights of millions of children with disabilities are not being met, and it is vital that states take action to ensure that every child realises their equal right to participate in quality education, giving them an equal opportunity to participate in the their communities, the workforce and more broadly in society.

GCE's Global Action Week on Education and Disability ran 4-10 May 2014.


Global Action Week 2013

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Every Child Needs a Teacher
61 million children are not in primary school The biggest thing we can do to give them their right to education is make sure they have access to a trained teacher. To do this, we need 1.7 million more teachers – 1 million more in Africa alone. 
Every Child Needs a Teacher is a campaign led by the Global Campaign for Education to demand that states act now to ensure every child has well-trained and well-supported teacher. Read more or Go to Every Child Needs a Teacher site

Previous Global Action Weeks

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Click here to browse through all the Global Action Weeks since 2003