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Jakarta Post

Inclusive higher education: A dream for people with disabilities?

  • Antoni Tsaputra

    The Jakarta Post

Padang   /   Tue, March 18, 2014   /  11:05 am

Inclusive education is an effective instrument to build inclusive and equitable societies. It holds to the notion that schools serve as educating communities through which students may learn values, attitudes and skills to support the inclusion of all citizens in society.

In other words, this system aims to enable students with disabilities to study and mingle with other students within a similar education system. The Education and Culture Ministry has mandated the implementation of inclusive education at regular schools.

However, the education system has yet to fully fulfill the rights of students with disabilities.

Several schools have attempted to implement inclusive education. However, they are mainly primary schools and a few secondary schools. Having gone through such schools, I am aware that people with disabilities are normally directed to participate in vocational training to equip them with basic skills such as making handicrafts, massaging, carving and painting. Such skills are deemed to be sufficient for them to make ends meet.

This is surely far from progressive. In fact, disabled persons should be given the opportunity to pursue higher education in universities.

Given the fact that the government has increased educational spending to about 20 percent of the national budget, this should have covered educational improvement and empowerment for people with disabilities. For example, the government should allocate a specific amount of funds to build access and facilities in universities such as ramps, toilets for disabled people and technology required to remove any barriers during their studies.

Nevertheless, we have seen no change in this country. Discrimination is rampant in higher education institutions. In fact, on the website of the 2014 State University Entrance Selection (SNMPTN),, it says that the national university selection committee requires that applicants of particular programs are not deaf, blind, mute, physically disabled or color blind.

It is not a rare occurrence to see persons with disabilities denied their rights to higher education. For instance, a person who requires a wheelchair is not allowed to enroll in a School of Medicine, a student with a visual impairment is denied enrollment in a School of Art, among many other instances.

These institutions state a variety of reasons for their objections toward students with disabilities. Among other reasons, they say that they are not prepared to accommodate students with disabilities due to a lack of access and facilities. Even worse, although implicitly, they seem to fear that the existence of students with disabilities in their institutions might undermine their credibility. Such cases show that people with disabilities are marginalized and discriminated against when they wish to achieve higher education.

Law No. 19/2011 on Indonesia'€™s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities obliges the country to acknowledge the educational rights of differently abled people. Similarly, the 1945 Constitution guarantees the right to an education for every citizen indiscriminately.

Therefore, the implementation of inclusive education all the way up to higher education should eliminate such shameful cases. To be able to enjoy higher education with good access and facilities might still be a dream for people with disabilities in Indonesia as the government often thinks there are more pressing issues at hand, such as teachers'€™ wages, the controversies surrounding the national exam, passing grade indexes and so forth.

This indicates that the so-called educated society in Indonesia still maintains a negative view toward disability issues.


The writer is a disabled person who obtained his master'€™s in journalism and mass communications at Griffith University, Australia. He currently works at the Padang municipal social affairs office and is an instructor at Bung Hatta University, Padang.

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