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International Day of Education 2023

Young children walking in a single file line.

Tim Shriver's Op-Ed in Euronews: To build inclusive classrooms, let young people with intellectual disabilities take the lead

2023 is the fifth annual celebration of the International Day of Education, which is being held under the theme “to invest in people, prioritize education.” Building upon the momentum generated by the 2022 UN Transforming Education Summit, this year’s International Day of Education calls for countries around the world to maintain strong political mobilization around education and take actionable steps to translate commitments and global initiatives into action.

Young people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are heavily marginalized in school communities the world over, with special education services consistently underfunded and under-resourced. In our regular consultations with education stakeholders, Special Olympics works to ensure that young people with ID are not overlooked when frameworks for global education policy are being developed.

In order to accelerate progress and raise awareness of the unacceptable status quo, Special Olympics is using this milestone day to issue an urgent call to action to governments around the world to increase their investment in social inclusion for students with ID.

Given that persons with intellectual disabilities represent approximately three percent of the global population, Special Olympics believes that allocating three percent of education budgets to develop programs that increase social inclusion is an indisputably fair and logical starting point for governments to support this programming.

Representation matters, and to invest anything less than three percent is to take resources away from this group.

Our Chairman, Dr. Timothy Shriver, repeats this call to action.

Special Olympics Statement: International Day of Education 2023

As people with intellectual disabilities constitute approximately 3 percent of the population, Special Olympics calls on all governments to allocate 3 percent of their education funding to high-quality, evidenced-based inclusionary practices that fully integrate students with intellectual disabilities into school communities. Mere physical inclusion is not enough. Full inclusion in education requires a commitment to social inclusion—turning isolated students into teammates, partners, allies, friends. The need is great and the time to act is now.

According to the United Nations, most member countries of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) are not on track to ensure an “inclusive and equitable quality education” for all by 2030. Through an investment in the transformative power of social inclusion in schools, governments can make meaningful progress on implementation of the UN-CRPD and support the full achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) on behalf of one of the most marginalized demographics in the world today.

Our Unified Champion Schools programming uses the power of sport to break down the walls of exclusion and segregation and promote educational, social, and recreational inclusion. Our view is simple, and our focus is clear: if we teach children to play together, they can learn, grow, and ultimately live together. By engaging heads of state and other government officials around the world, Special Olympics will continue to advocate for increased educational funding to support the practical steps needed to fully include all students as fully valued members of their school communities.

Executive Summary for Global State of Inclusion in Education Brief

Full brief: Global State of Inclusion in Education: A Review of the Literature

Download the infographic in support of the Global State of Inclusion in Education Brief

Press Release

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