Educational lnclusion of Children with Disabilities in Sri Lanka: Developing a model that responds to the country's social context


Principal research activities*

It is not enough to focus on general education in considering the educational inclusion of CwDs, simply by distinguishing inclusive education from traditional special education. Table 1 presented below elucidates that this research project will analyse the educational inclusion of CwDs in Sri Lanka by contemplating three aspects: (a) policy; (b) education and welfare practices; and (c) CwDs and their families.**

Table 1.The analytical framework and perspectives

Analytical framework Research perspectives
Policy · Education and welfare policies
Education and welfare practices · Inclusive education and teacher training
· The educational functions of the welfare sector vis-à-vis CwDs at home/ in institutions
· The educational inclusion of CwDs in Tamil speaking areas both in war-affected and estate areas
· The marketisation of education and welfare resources in urban areas
CwDs and their families · Family life and choices of educational environments for CwDs

* This project has been supported by the Fund for the Promotion of Joint International Research (Fostering Joint International Research B) of JSPS KAKENHI (Grant Number: 21KK0039),

**Note: Please see outcomes of the research activities here.

Research activities in FY 2021

This study was conducted with financial support obtained from the Heiwa (Peace) Nakajima Foundation’s Grant for Asia Regional Academic Research for the academic year 2021.

Members undertook a research project titled ‘Exploring inclusive education that leaves no children with disabilities behind: A comparative study of two South Asian countries’ during the academic year 2021 (April 2021 to March 2022).

Hiroko Furuta (PhD, Professor of Graduate School of Education, Kumamoto University) led the research project, working with co-researchers Riho Sakurai (PhD, Associate professor, Research Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, Hiroshima University) and Prasad Sethunga (PhD, Professor, Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya).

The study explored the dynamics of including special schools within the inclusive education systems in Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The two countries were selected for comparison based on their cultural similarities and because they represent geographically proximate developing countries.

The study highlighted the process through which special schools have been incorporated within an inclusive education system in these two countries.

The education of CwDs in Sri Lanka operates on two pillars: special units in government schools under the Ministry of Education (MoE) and special schools run by the Department of Social Services. Therefore, more collaboration has been suggested between MoE and the social welfare sector to further promote inclusive education in the country because recent trends evince the incorporation of only government schools within the inclusive education system.

Conversely, the two special schools (institutes) in Bhutan have always been encompassed by an inclusive education system. One of these institutions was brought under the purview of the MoE in its early stages and the other remained under MoE supervision even after its official stature was changed from the ‘special education needs unit’ of a local school to an ‘institute’ in its own right. Additionally, the two special schools continue to function critically as specialist institutes for children with visual or hearing impairments.

Furuta, Sakurai and Sethunga published a paper in Japanese entitled, ‘The process of including special schools in an inclusive education system: A comparative study of two South Asian countries, Sri Lanka and Bhutan’. The paper can be downloaded from the Japanese homepage of this website.

Further, an international seminar on inclusive education entitled ‘Exploring the role of special schools in providing inclusive education in Bhutan and Sri Lanka’ was hosted online on 7th March 2022. Three principals of special schools in Sri Lanka and two principals of special schools in Bhutan presented the current situation at their respective schools. A senior programme officer from the MoE in Bhutan also spoke. Professor Paul Lynch delivered a short talk on overarching issues in low- and middle- income countries. The flyer of this seminar can be found at this link.

Further research is required to understand the similarities and dissimilarities in the processes of encompassing special schools within the ambits of inclusive education systems in the two studied countries.