Education and Disability : Analysis of Data from 49 Countries
UNESCO Institute for Statistics
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This paper examines educational disparities linked to disability based on data from 49 countries and territories for five education indicators: Proportion of 15- to 29-year-olds who ever attended school, Out-of-school rate (primary school age, lower secondary school age), Completion rate (primary education, lower secondary education), Mean years of schooling of the population 25 years and older, Adult literacy rate (population 15 years and older). The education indicators were calculated with data from three sources, collected between 2005 and 2015: Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) sponsored by USAID, School-to-Work Transition Surveys (SWTS) by ILO, and population census data compiled by IPUMS-International. Comparability of the data across countries is limited because only some of the surveys and censuses used questions developed by the Washington Group on Disability Statistics to identify persons with a disability. The accuracy of the indicator estimates is also affected by sampling and non-sampling errors in the data, the small sample size of many of the surveys that were analysed, and the relatively small proportion of persons with disabilities in each country’s population. Moreover, because of the scarcity of national data, it is currently not possible to generate statistics on the status of persons with disabilities with regard to education that are regionally or globally representative. Despite the limitations regarding quality and comparability of the data, the paper provides a good overview of inequalities linked to disability and of the gaps that must be overcome to achieve equity in education as defined in the SDGs. The results of the analysis confirm that persons with disabilities are nearly always worse off than persons without disabilities: on average, the former are less likely to ever attend school, they are more likely to be out of school, they are less likely to complete primary or secondary education, they have fewer years of schooling, and they are less likely to possess basic literacy skills. 15- to 29-year-olds with disabilities are less likely to have attended school than those without disabilities in almost all of the 37 countries for which data were available. On average, 87% of persons without disabilities attended school, compared to 77% of persons with disabilities. In absolute terms, the largest gaps between persons with and without disabilities are observed in Viet Nam 2009 (44% vs. 97%), Egypt 2006 (43% vs. 89%) and Indonesia 2010 (53% vs. 98%). For the calculation of the out-of-school rate, data on current school attendance are required. This and the need for data on disability limited the analysis for this indicator to six countries that participated in DHS surveys. In these countries, primary-school-age children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than their peers without disabilities. The largest gap between children with and without disabilities was observed in Cambodia, with a 50-percentage-point difference between the out-ofschool rate of disabled and non-disabled children (57% vs. 7%). In other words, 1 in 2 disabled children is not in school in the country, whereas this is only the case for 1 in 14 non-disabled children. Similarly, adolescents of lower secondary school age with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than adolescents without disabilities. The average out-of-school rate across the six countries with DHS data is 18% for adolescents without disabilities and 26% for adolescents with disabilities. Disabled children are not only more likely to be out of school, they are also less likely to complete primary education than non-disabled children in the six countries with DHS data. As a direct consequence of lower primary completion rates, children with disabilities are also less likely to complete lower secondary education and to continue their education at higher levels of education. Mean years of schooling is the number of completed years of formal education at the primary level or higher, not counting years spent repeating individual grades. This indicator was calculated for the population 25 years and older in 22 countries. In these countries, disabled persons spend a lower average number of years in formal education than their counterparts without a disability. On average across the 22 countries and territories with data, persons 25 years and older without disabilities have 7.0 years of schooling and persons with disabilities 4.8 years. The largest gaps were observed in the following three countries: in Mexico and Panama, the difference in the years of schooling between non-disabled and disabled persons is 4.1 and 4.0 years, respectively, and in Ecuador, it is 3.4 years. The adult literacy rate by disability status was calculated for 25 countries. In all countries, persons with a disability have lower literacy rates than persons without a disability. The gap ranges from 5 percentage points in Mali to 41% in Indonesia, where a large majority of non-disabled adults (93%) have basic literacy skills, compared to only half (52%) of disabled adults. The data also reveal that disabled women are often less likely to reap the benefits of a formal education than disabled men, thus suffering doubly by virtue of being female and a person with a disability. The observed disadvantage of disabled persons is likely to intensify in combination with other factors of exclusion linked to location, poverty, and other personal and household characteristics, but this was beyond the scope of the analysis in this paper.