2.4 The costs of inclusive education

There is little available data on the exact costs of educating children with disabilities, although some figures show that it can be two to four times higher than for other children.53 UNESCO points to the experience in Europe, where the higher costs associated with educating children with special needs is associated with funding models where children are educated in separate settings such as special needs schools. Lower funding costs were shown to generally apply where the funding "followed" the child into inclusive educational settings. Research also suggests that students with disabilities achieve better school results in inclusive settings.54

There is some evidence to suggest that an inclusive and high-quality educational system leads to lower numbers of students needing to repeat classes and entire academic years. UNESCO has pointed to the case of Latin America, where recidivism is linked with a cost of USD 5.6 billion in primary school and USD 5.5 billion in secondary school.55 Investment to overcome those costs could include the provision of ICTs for students with disabilities.

It has been the experience of many countries that, in line with the UN Convention’s recommendation on Universal Design, incorporating the requirements of students with disabilities into the design of buildings and services reduces costs significantly. In its National Report at International Conference on Education (ICE), the Afghani Ministry for Education reported that“the additional costs of construction [of] schools for all according to the principles of universal design are minimal.”56

UNESCO recommends that any cost modeling of inclusive education should take into account the high social and economic costs that a country will incur if its children are not educated.57 UNESCO studies estimate that excluding persons with disabilities from the work force of a country can cause a loss of gross domestic product (GDP) of between 10 and 35.8 per cent.58 Overall, the long-term social and financial costs of not providing an inclusive education that leads to participation in the economic, social and cultural life of a country are “indisputably high.” UNESCO concludes that not to invest in inclusive education is “profoundly irrational” in economic terms.


54UNESCO. Ten questions on inclusive education http://www.unesco.org/en/inclusive-education/10-questions-on-inclusive-quality-education/

55UNESCO. Guidelines for Inclusive Education, page 12

56National Report of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the 48th Session of the International Conference on Education, Geneva Switzerland, November 2008 http://www.ibe.unesco.org/National_Reports/ICE_2008/afghanistan_NR08.pdf

57UNESCO 2003 “Overcoming Exclusion through Inclusive Approaches in Education Conceptual Paper” page 13-14