Monday, September 25, 2023

The Hurdles to Disability-Inclusive Education

Jayanty Nada Shofa
June 20, 2022 | 12:32 pm
The opening ceremony of Y20 Fourth Pre-Summit in Manokwari, West Papua on June 18, 2022. (Photo Courtesy of Y20 Indonesia)
The opening ceremony of Y20 Fourth Pre-Summit in Manokwari, West Papua on June 18, 2022. (Photo Courtesy of Y20 Indonesia)

Jakarta. Everyone, including those with disabilities, should have equal opportunities to take part in education. However, there are still many challenges that get in the way of disability-inclusive education.

Education and employment are closely intertwined. Education generally leads to better-paying jobs. The higher a person's education level is, the more likely they are able to secure a high paycheck, and consequently improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are susceptible to dropping out of school. 

According to the National Statistics Agency (BPS), as reported by online media Katadata, most people with disabilities did not complete primary education. About 29.35 percent of people with disabilities aged 15 and older dropped out of primary school. As many as 20.51 percent never went to school.

The shift to online classes following the Covid-19 outbreak also sets another obstacle for students with disabilities. 


The Youth 20 (Y20) Indonesia, an official engagement group to the country's G20 presidency, wrote on its white paper that young people with disabilities were likely to be most affected by the pandemic-induced distance learning. Because many of them cannot access the special services required for personalized learning.

The Y20 over the weekend hosted its fourth pre-summit in Manokwari, West Papua, with talk shows on inclusive education and the creative economy. The discussions also shed some light on the other challenges to inclusive education, among others, teachers lowering their expectations for special needs students.

“In some cases in Indonesia, educators at special needs schools sometimes try to lower their expectations. This is a fundamental mistake,” Iwan, who is also the director-general for teachers and education personnel at the Education Ministry, told the Y20 fourth pre-summit on Saturday. 

“We need to believe this whole-heartedly that in education: every child, including those with disabilities, can reach the highest expectations. This is the fundamental belief of good teaching and education,” Iwan said.

Another challenge is the lack of Indonesian universities that provide special needs education programs, where teachers can learn how to teach individuals with disabilities. 

“This is one of the most fundamental things that we need to change. Each province should have at least one good teacher education university that provides a special needs education program,” Iwan said.

The higher education database shows there are at least 15 universities providing special needs education programs. Most of the said universities are located in Java. For comparison, BPS reported that Indonesia has a total of 3,115 universities spread across its archipelago as of 2021.

The Hurdles to Disability-Inclusive Education
A talk show on inclusive education at the Y20 Fourth Pre-Summit in Manokwari, West Papua on June 18, 2022. On screen is Iwan Syahril, director-general for teachers and education personnels at the Education Ministry. (Photo Courtesy of Y20 Indonesia)

Access to Job Opportunities

According to social enterprise Fingertalk founder Dissa Ahdanisa, there are about 11 million people with disabilities in Indonesia. About 1.5 million of them are underprivileged youths with limited access to formal education and job opportunities.

This prompted Dissa to establish Fingertalk, which started off as a cafe where people could order in sign language.

The Fingertalk cafe hires deaf employees to lower the high unemployment rate in the deaf community. As many as 74 percent of the deaf people in Indonesia are unemployed due to social stigma and communication barriers. Fingertalk now includes a bakery and a car wash to give more job opportunities for youth with disabilities.

"Many of the young people from the disabled communities are underprivileged and may not have a lot of options for jobs," Dissa said at a Y20 fourth pre-summit talk show on Sunday.

The Indonesian government has set a quota that requires private companies to have people with disabilities representing at least one percent of their total employees. The minimum quota for government and state-owned enterprises is 2 percent.

"Unfortunately, in Indonesia, the quota is not yet working. Some companies just employ people with disabilities for the sake of fulfilling the quota. It is important for us to make sure that they can have a career, to match and see what skills are needed, and also to see if the skills can be bridged with technology," Dissa said.

Manokwari Message

The Y20 fourth pre-summit resulted in the Manokwari Message, a document on youth diversity and inclusion. The Manokwari Message seeks to promote, among other things, inclusive education for all, including people with disabilities.

One of the Manokwari Message points reads "ensuring equal distribution comprehensively in the educational system for all as part of human rights without any limitation and specific qualifications, including disabilities, gender, ages, ethnicities, and identities."

The document also calls for the fulfillment of adequate infrastructure and facilities for people with disabilities —as well as underdeveloped areas— for the full development of human potential.

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