Improving education equity and quality is a major focus of global developmental movements. Within that overarching goal, educators and advocates around the world are working to ensure children with special needs receive a quality education. For many, this means pursuing programs of inclusion. The author of this article uses the tools of education diplomacy being shaped by the Association for Childhood Education International to discuss the influence of local religious and cultural practices on the education of children with disabilities, the dominant models of disability, and the differences in conceptualizing inclusive education across the world. The article highlights the need to take an approach informed by education diplomacy when advocates of inclusive education seek to collaborate with various stakeholders in the fields of early education and special needs education.
Since the 1970s, the movement to include children with disabilities in all aspects of society (e.g., schools and community) has become widespread in economically developed countries. In 1994, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action called for inclusion of all children with special needs in schools around the world (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 1994). Accordingly, international education diplomacy work directed toward the inclusion of children with special needs formally began. When the World Education Forum in Dakar developed the Education For All (EFA) action framework in 2000, it articulated inclusive education for vulnerable children, namely children with disabilities and girls, who are often excluded from schools in developing countries (UNESCO, 2000). The Dakar EFA goals contributed to the formation of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the United Nations (United Nations, 2012). EFA and MDG both call for global education equity and improved quality of education around the world. One of the most important underlying messages of these initiatives is inclusion of the diverse population of children in schools and communities.
Children with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups of children around the world. Disability is a more significant factor, compared to gender or geographic location, for poverty and exclusion. In fact, having a disability more than doubles the chance that a child never enrolls in a school (International Disability and Development Consortium, 2013). About 80% of children with disabilities live in developing countries (United Nations Development Programme, 2013). In developing countries, particularly in areas experiencing sociopolitical or armed conflicts, children with disabilities are at an even greater disadvantage. They do not have access to the protections against violence that schools offer, nor the nutrition and medical resources available through the schools (Trani, Kett, Bakhshi, & Bailey, 2011).
Global Education Diplomacy
The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) defines "global education diplomacy" as, "The cross-disciplinary, transnational sharing of theories, ideas, and concepts that advance education" (ACEI, n.d.). International educators across the world engage in such education diplomacy efforts as they promote high-quality education for all children, and provide an avenue for discussion and dissemination of such ideas. The term global education diplomacy is used here to describe broader advocacy and interactions at the international...