One in five children may have a learning difference, which means they have trouble connecting with the classroom and learning because of differences in how they learn best and how they are taught. Students with neurological processing challenges, such as attention deficits, sensory processing disorders, and executive function challenges, are included among those with specific learning disabilities. Learning disabilities are common, but understanding of them and strategies for helping those with them are not. Hundreds of thousands of children who are #BorntoLearn are being held back because their learning differences are not being acknowledged and there is a lack of data to support this.
The persistently low levels of learning since 1980, as documented by the GEM Report, may also be explained by learning differences (LD). In addition, the 2022 Spotlight Report notes that many children drop out of school or never attend again because they are unable to learn under the formal system’s predominate pedagogy and classroom conditions due to unrecognised and unaddressed learning differences.
Education.org has been monitoring and analysing COVID-19-related changes in the education system, such as strategies for maintaining learning remotely, since 2020. Despite our best efforts, we found hardly any data on LD students anywhere in the world. It was clear from our research that almost no information was being shared about LD students. As a result, it was difficult to draw any conclusions about how they were doing academically during the height of the pandemic. Additionally, we aimed to answer the questions, “How many of these children drop out of school because of learning differences?” and “How well are Accelerated Education Programmes serving children with learning differences?” in our evidence synthesis on AEPs. We still don’t know after sifting through the largest ever trove of evidence on accelerated learning programmes, including both published and unpublished sources. Over 45 AEPs were discussed in the sources, highlighting numerous successful cases of how accelerated education has helped kids and teens who aren’t in school. We did not find any data indicating whether or not AEPs are helping non-traditional students with learning disabilities. Neither did we find acknowledgement of LD as a critical facet of marginalisation and its intersection with other dimensions such as gender, poverty, ethnicity, and migration status.
In this talk, we’ll examine the data gap, its causes, and the reforms that are essential to meeting the needs of the world’s estimated 152 million orphaned and neglected children.
How big is the problem, exactly? However, there are no worldwide statistics on the prevalence of learning disabilities, and for most countries in the global South, the WHO’s estimate of 15% of the world’s population being disabled is not even close to accurate. An exception is UNESCO’s estimate that 40,000 children born every year in Thailand (which equals 6%) “could have some form of learning disability, most commonly dyslexia.” One-fifth of American children, according to the US National Center for Learning Disabilities, have difficulties with learning and attention, but only a fraction of those are formally diagnosed with LD.
People of all walks of life, including teachers, policymakers, parents, and the general public, have a blind spot when it comes to learning differences. Mekonnen found that in his study of Ethiopian teachers, neither the in-service nor the in-service teachers had any knowledge of specific learning disabilities. Overcrowded classrooms make it difficult to notice students’ individual learning styles if teachers aren’t prepared to do so. Moreover, few people are aware of the interventions designed to help children with LD, which may include the teaching of specialised skills, the provision of auxiliary aids, the development of coping mechanisms, and the promotion of self-advocacy.
False beliefs about LD can be harmful to children, so it’s crucial that the knowledge gap be closed. It’s common to blame a student’s laziness or lack of motivation on their upbringing or the economic status of their family when they struggle academically.
There are many obstacles that make screening and diagnosis difficult. “Appropriate classroom-based assessments for children with disabilities are often lacking,” the KIX report on learning assessments systems concluded. “The resources to make the required modifications to the environment and pedagogy are often insufficient.” Learning differences also overlap with other marginalisation factors like socioeconomic status, geographic location, race/ethnicity, and language. Because of this, diagnosis and treatment become more challenging. The lack of data and awareness is exacerbated by a number of factors, including a severe lack of specialists trained to identify and treat learning differences, a lack of locally relevant assessment tools, and the prohibitive cost of individual assessments.
Due to these factors, it is highly unlikely that the data gap on LD will close anytime soon. Government officials, however, can play a pivotal role in generating interest and action. Policies, guidelines, and industry plans can all be used to formally acknowledge the problem. They can collaborate with the ever-expanding network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and healthcare providers around the world. As an example, FANA-Ethiopia is a nonprofit that serves Ethiopian children who are experiencing learning and communication difficulties by creating and spreading information about these conditions. And the Luminos Fund in Ghana is creating a toolkit to help educators in resource-poor settings spot young students who may be at risk for a learning disability.
In order to aid OOSCY in learning and transitioning to formal schools or other pathways, we conducted a systematic review of the available evidence and identified priority areas for government policy action. The government can begin meeting the needs of people with hidden learning differences in each of the areas of focus below.
The purpose of the AEP is to highlight the fact that people with learning disabilities frequently experience other forms of marginalisation and are in need of assistance.
Equity and inclusion policies should broaden the definition of “inclusive education” to include students of all abilities. Include AEPs as a method for helping these kids and teens.
Make sure that certification exams are flexible in terms of time limits, breaks, and the ability to have questions or instructions repeated. A good example of this is the direction set by the government of Hong Kong.
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Introduce indicators for learning differences into monitoring, evaluation, and data collection (M&E and EMIS), such as the number of students referred for help with LD or the number of children in a few LD categories. Consider how you will integrate EMIS with the data collected from AEP.
Learning opportunities for educators and leaders: Increase understanding of LD, dispel myths, and provide screening and instructional methods by collaborating with others to draught guidelines for training and mentoring. Pre-service teachers can be required to take LD courses. The Asia-Pacific Review of NEQMAP features case studies from a wide variety of Asian countries.
Pedagogy: Effective AEPs use a student-centered, home-language, active, and gender-sensitive approach to instruction. However, it must be able to adapt to the unique requirements of each student. Educational methods for students with learning disabilities should be incorporated into government-mandated teacher training programmes.
The right of children with physical challenges to an accessible, quality education has received more attention from the international education community since the global commitment to the SDGs, though it is still insufficient. The question of whether or not kids who have trouble walking, seeing, hearing, or talking should be given a chance to learn is settled. Given this widespread agreement among educators around the world, it’s puzzling that “inclusive education” has not been interpreted to cover students with special needs.