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The Salamanca World Conference on Special Needs Education

In June 1994 representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organisations formed the World Conference on Special Needs Education, held in Salamanca, Spain. The Conference reaffirmed the right to education of every individual, as enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and renewed the pledge made by the world community at the 1990 World Conference on Education for All to ensure that right for all regardless of individual differences. During the subsequent ten years or so, there has been considerable activity in many countries to move educational policy and practice in a more inclusive direction.


Framework for Action
At the Salamanca World Conference a new Framework for Action was adopted , the guiding principle of which is that ordinary schools should accommodate all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. In particular the Framework states all educational policies should specify that disabled children attend the neighbourhood school 'that would be attended if the child did not have a disability.'


Conference Statement
The delegates to the conference agreed on a dynamic new Statement on the education of all disabled children, which called for inclusion to be the norm.


The statement reaffirmed a commitment to Education for All, and recognised the necessity and urgency of providing education for children, youth and adults with special educational needs within the regular education system.


The World Conference proclaimed that:

•  every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning,

•  every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs,

•  education systems should be designed and educational programs implemented to take into account the wide diversity of these characteristics and needs,

•  those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs,


The World Conference called on several groups to support Inclusive education, including governments, the international community and UNESCO.


The World Conference called upon governments and urged them to:

•  give the highest policy and budgetary priority to improve their education systems to enable them to include all children regardless of individual differences or difficulties,

•  adopt as a matter of law or policy the principle of inclusive education, enrolling all children in regular schools, unless there are compelling reasons for doing otherwise,

•  develop demonstration projects and encourage exchanges with countries having experience with inclusive schools,

•  establish decentralized and participatory mechanisms for planning, monitoring and evaluating educational provision for children and adults with special education needs,

•  encourage and facilitate the participation of parents, communities and organization of persons with disabilities in the planning and decision making processes concerning provision for special educational needs,

•  invest greater effort in early identification and intervention strategies, as well as in vocational aspects of inclusive education,

•  ensure that, in the context of a systemic change, teacher education programs, both preservice and inservice, address the provision of special needs education in inclusive schools.


The World Conference also called upon the international community and asked:

•  UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank in particular to endorse the approach of inclusive schooling and to support the development of special needs education as an integral part of all education programmes. In particular it calls on

•  The United Nations and its specialised agencies to 'strengthen their inputs for technical co-operation' and improve their networking for more efficient support to integrated special needs provision.

•  Non-governmental organisations to strengthen their collaboration with official national bodies and become more involved in all aspects of inclusive education.


In particular UNESCO, as the United Nations agency for education was asked to:

•  ensure that special needs education forms part of every discussion dealing with education for all.

•  enhance teacher education in this field by getting support from teacher unions and associations.

•  stimulate the academic community to do more research into inclusive education and disseminate the findings and the reports.

•  use its funds over the five-year period, 1996--2001, to create an expanded programme for inclusive schools and community support projects, thus enabling the launch of pilot projects.