Abstract

Increased access to education among children with disabilities is key to reducing economic inequality, by disability status, later in life. Increasingly, in many parts of the world including South Africa, inclusive education has been accepted as the means to provide increased educational access for all (including children with disabilities). Monitoring of progress in inclusive education tends to focus on measuring enrolment of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. There is little systematic collection of appropriate data on the availability of disability support structures and provision of services to learners with disabilities, who are enrolled in mainstream schools. This hinders accountability for policy implementation in South Africa and makes budgeting for inclusive education difficult. This study provides new evidence on disability support, accessibility of schools and learning environments, and adequacy of teacher training in inclusive education in South Africa. This evidence is generated using multivariate analysis of the School Monitoring Survey 2017, and a follow- up qualitative study. The study analyses the inputs, processes, and school enablers at the teacher- and school-level in relation to school characteristics. The results show substantially more schools have established School-based support teams (SBSTs), and provision of district support for these teams has expanded. But there has been little progress in specialist support to schools and less than half our schools are confident in their ability to screen students for visual, hearing or learning difficulties. The results also suggest that educators have a poor understanding of the screening process. This means that many learners with disabilities or who are experiencing learning barriers are unlikely to be identified in schools, preventing them from receiving the support they need to fully participate in learning. Further, there are vast inter-provincial inequalities in disability support and teacher training. Teachers who are trained in identifying or supporting learners experiencing learning barriers are much more likely to be confident in addressing learning barriers.

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