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FEATURE STORY October 19, 2021

Realizing Schools that Unlock the Potentials of Indonesian Children with Disabilities


Photo: Envato

Andi, a six-year-old boy in Bireuen District in Aceh, is currently going to a kindergarten. He was diagnosed with a disability when he was very young.

“I have researched many schools, but I have not found one that I am fully comfortable with for sending my son,” says Nanda, Andi’s mother.

One day, a pediatrician recommended Nanda to send her son to a kindergarten in the same district that provides a class specifically for children with disabilities. This kindergarten has a policy of diversity and inclusion. It didn’t take long for Nanda to realize that Andi was fully embraced by the children, teachers, and the parental community of this kindergarten.

“I was so glad to find a kindergarten that so successfully unlocked Andi’s potential. But now, I am very anxious about his transition to primary school and how he will be treated next. I am so desperate to find a school that has facilities and infrastructure for children with disabilities,” says Nanda.

Nanda knows it is not only school infrastructure that needs to be inclusive, but also the whole school communities, including teachers, other students, and parents, that matters for children with disabilities. There are still many people who are not open to accepting children with disabilities. As such, it is important that differences come to be seen more positively in school communities.

At one of the focus group discussions held online by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (MoECRT) and the World Bank in March 2021, Nanda gave a powerful voice on behalf of those who have disabilities, like her son.

“I am a parent of a child, who will be soon attending primary school. I hope that the government will help build a school that has communities that accept and support my child and many other children with disabilities.” she said.

Unfortunately, there are still many parents who have anxieties for their children, like Nanda.


Educating children with disabilities in Indonesia

. Alternatively, they are promoted without appropriate teaching but eventually dropping out due to the lack of teacher training and adequate school systems to accommodate children with disabilities.

The MoECRT in Indonesia has promoted inclusive education to address issues faced by children with disabilities. The number of inclusive schools has increased from 3,610 to 28,778 between 2015 and 2020. However, only less than 13 percent of inclusive schools have teachers trained in inclusive education and are ready to provide adequate learning support for children with disabilities.

"We have received special materials, tools, and equipment to implement inclusive education. But we don’t know how to use them because there are no trained inclusive teachers yet."
School principal of an inclusive primary school, in Bireun, Aceh.

Proposed policy recommendations toward inclusive education

The World Bank supports the Indonesian government to ensure the right to education for all children, including those with disabilities. Through a recent analysis supported by the Australian government, the World Bank provides policy recommendations in three strategic priority areas:

  1. Promote equitable access: Ensure equitable access to inclusive schools in every sub-district/city at every education level and improve the quality of facilities and learning environment.
  2. Enhance the quality of teachers: Provide teacher training on inclusive education to all teachers, not only to give them knowledge but also to stimulate their thinking. It is indispensable to provide continuous mentoring and peer support to teachers because the needs of children with disabilities are diverse and there is no single training that can work as a panacea.
  3. Strengthen education governance: Strengthen financial and legal systems to support inclusive education at national, subnational and school levels. Stronger collaboration is required among ministries at the national level and across education, health and social sectors at the local level to proliferate inclusive school communities in the long term.  

Realizing inclusive education in a true sense means a lot to parents like Nanda so that their children can learn and unlock their potentials like others.

Following the policy recommendations above, the World Bank together with the MoECRT is starting “Go Borderless!” Funded by the Inclusive Education Initiative, this project will be implemented from October 2021 to June 2022 and support development of online-based disability identification system and continued coaching support to teachers who will support the children diagnosed with learning disabilities by developing individual learning plan in 5 districts (Dompu, Bima, Mentawai, Bondowoso and Lebak).

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in Indonesian Schools – Challenges and Policy Options for the Future of Inclusive Education


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