Does a person with disability have the right to receive free and compulsory primary education within the mainstream educational system?


Persons with disabilities must not be excluded from mainstream education – whether primary or secondary. Mainstream education must be both inclusive and of quality. All necessary support must be provided to ensure full and effective inclusion. This question refers to children and also to adults with disabilities who lacked the opportunities when they were young. Please describe any significant differences between the legal situation and the reality of everyday life.

In detail


The majority of countries revealed positive responses regarding the right to receive free and compulsory primary education for children with disability in mainstream education or specialised schools with 45% of positive responses. Another 45.5% of respondents claimed the right is partial and depends on types of disability. Although children with disabilities cannot legally be denied the right to education, they are often to be put in specialised schools, or specialised classes. Barriers on the implementation of the right for children with disabilities to access free and compulsory education include:

  • Lack of resources and training: A lack of specialised training, specialised staff, building accessibility, inadequate and inflexible curriculum for the needs of children with disabilities in local schools.
  • There is also a lack of representation of PWDs, DPOs in school committees which in turn, affects the issues mentioned above.
  • Children with other than physical disabilities are more commonly excluded from mainstream education. If accepted into local schools, many suffer from exclusion either due to being put in segregated classrooms, to socially discriminatory environment, or due to a lack of staff preparedness to socially integrate and accommodate them.

Good practises were highlighted such as Professional inclusive programmes responding to specific needs of children with disability from kindergarten in France.


“While in theory all children have the right to access mainstream education, in practice the trend still goes to separate schooling. The majority of schools is not inclusive and there is strong resistance, especially from the ‘Länder’ – the Austrian provinces, to abolish special schools and enable inclusive education everywhere.” (Magdalena Kern, Light for the World, Austria)

“While all children have the right to attend their local school it is very dependent on resources allocated by State, local school principal, training, skills and attitudes of teachers, attitudes of parents and clawback by Special school lobby.” (Frank Hall-Bentick, Joint Chair, International Portfolio, AFDO, Australia)

“Primary education is free and compulsory for children with certain disabilities. However, most children with disability are discouraged to enter mainstream education due to low level of understanding and awareness of principals and teachers.”(Zvonko Shavreski, President, Polio Plus – movement against disability, member of DPI, Macedonia)

CRPD Article

Article 24- Education

“1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education. With a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity, States Parties shall ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning directed to:

  1. The full development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity;
  2. The development by persons with disabilities of their personality, talents and creativity, as well as their mental and physical abilities, to their fullest potential;
  3. Enabling persons with disabilities to participate effectively in a free society.

2. In realizing this right, States Parties shall ensure that:

a) Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability;

b) Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live;

c) Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is provided;

d) Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education;

e) Effective individualized support measures are provided in environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion.

3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

a) Facilitating the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring;

b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

c) Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.

4. In order to help ensure the realization of this right, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who work at all levels of education. Such training shall incorporate disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, educational techniques and materials to support persons with disabilities.

5. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others. To this end, States Parties shall ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to persons with disabilities.”

(UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)