Day 9 – Education for All

Education for All: Inclusive education across the lifespan

Education underpins a wide range of development outcomes, from early childhood learning to adult earning capacity. When maintained across lifetimes, ongoing education lifts living standards and fosters greater community engagement. But many children with disabilities – particularly girls – are excluded from school at the earliest stages.

DFAT’s 2009 Development for All: Towards a disability-inclusive Australian aid program 2009-2014 recognised education as a ‘great enabler’, but noted the persistent exclusion of children with disabilities: estimated by the UN to total less than 10 per cent of children and youth with disabilities

in the Asia-Pacific accessing primary education, compared to 70 per cent of those who do not have a disability.[1] In the subsequent Development for All 2015-2020: Strategy for strengthening disability-inclusive development in Australia’s aid program, education and skills training are similarly valued. The strategy commits to prioritising a ‘comprehensive approach’ to inclusive education which incorporates reform to education policy and curricula, teacher training, and reasonable accommodation that supports the inclusion of students with diverse disabilities.[2]

Running concurrently with the current iteration of Development for All, DFAT’s Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in education 2015–2020 also prioritises equity and inclusion, ‘because fairer education systems are also the most effective.’[3] To this end, universal participation in education – particularly for girls and children with disabilities – is named as one of the strategy’s four key priorities.

Off the page, these commitments are having real impact for people with disabilities across the spectrum of education, from early childhood to ongoing adult learning.

Accelerating sign language access for Deaf children in Cambodia

Limited opportunities for Deaf children in rural Cambodia to access a common sign language have posed significant barriers to their participation in school. Cambodian Sign Language has recently been developed and not yet widely utilised, particularly for those living in rural and remote areas of the country. Until recently, schools offering instruction in sign language have been located only in urban areas. Many rural children who are Deaf have had little option other than to develop their own customised sign language, which enables communication with their close family, but limits their ability to participate in wider society. This leads to isolation, restricting their ability to access basic services such as education or healthcare, or to socialise with peers.

Save the Children Australia are partnering with Krousar Thmey, a Cambodian NGO specialising in inclusive education for Deaf, blind and visually impaired children, to utilise modern technology to teach Cambodian primary school students and their teachers Cambodian Sign Language in the rural areas of Pursat province. Funded by DFAT’s Innovation Xchange through the Australian Aid program, tutorials and learning materials are accessible via laptops, tablets and smart phone and delivered by Learning Facilitators in local primary schools who have been trained through the project. All students in the classrooms – including Deaf children and their peers – learn basic signs through classroom activities, opening up opportunities for peer learning and empowering both Deaf and hearing students to communicate with one another.

Supporting women’s financial empowerment through learning in Cambodia

A love for ongoing learning is at the heart of Good Return’s Consumer Awareness and Financial Empowerment (CAFE) initiative in Cambodia. Funded by the Australian Aid program, targeting low income women, including women with disabilities, the CAFE project seeks to boost financial literacy through an interactive face-to-face training program, and digital tools including eLearning and data capturing to monitor learner engagement.

For project participant Ma Huoy, aged 53, the opportunity to build her knowledge and support others’ learning is key. Although she finished her formal education at grade five, she is committed to using her skills to ensure that other women benefit from financial lessons. Supported by her newfound knowledge, Ma Houy has saved 600,000 riels with her savings group; but the real impact has occurred in how she has redefined her role as a confident educator in her community.

‘I am passionate about teaching others,’ says Ma Huoy. ‘I want them to learn like me.’

Education is consistently recognised as foundational for both tangible development outcomes and personal empowerment. Supporting educational providers, ranging from formal institutions to NGOs, to adapt their services to welcome people with disabilities has been a critical measure of success for Australia’s disability-inclusive development strategy and wider aid program. Investment in education is rightly bipartisan, but to ensure that no one is left behind, at any stage, Australia must maintain its cross-cutting focus on inclusive education both across strategies and across the lifetimes of people with disabilities.

Caption: ‘I am passionate about teaching others. I want them to learn like me.’ explains Ma Huoy as she tells her her commitment to life-long learning.

Information, video and photos used in partnership with Save the Children Australia and Good Return.


[1] Australian Agency for International Development, 2008. Development for All: Towards a disability-inclusive Australian aid program 2009-2014. AusAID, Canberra. p. 16.

[2] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2015. Development for All 2015-2020: Strategy for strengthening disability-inclusive development in Australia’s aid program. DFAT, Canberra. p. 20-21.

[3] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2015. Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in education 2015–2020. DFAT, Canberra. p. 3.

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10 days for 10 years

In partnership with CBM Australia and other ADDC partner organisations, the 10 days for 10 years campaign runs from 29 April to 10 May 2019. The campaign is celebrating the achievements in disability-inclusive development (DID) within the Australian aid sector, particularly those led or made possible by Australian aid under the first and second Development for All strategies. Articles will be released daily here on the ADDC website.

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