Inclusive Teaching Materials as a Tool for Equity

December 12, 2016

Submitted by Koli Banik,  a Senior Education Advisor at USAID’s Bureau for Africa. This blog is part of UNGEI’s week long blog series titled #SeePossibilty which  focuses on inclusive education. 

How do we ensure that one of the most marginalized groups in the world, girls who are living with a disability, are equitably represented in teaching and learning materials?

In the first of its kind, the Guide for Strengthening Gender Equality and Inclusiveness in Teaching and Learning Materials was commissioned by USAID’s Bureau for Africa to show anyone developing and/or revising teaching and learning materials how to make the texts and illustrations inclusive, equitable, and non-stereotypical. 

In many societies, females and males with physical, cognitive, or sensory, and/or multiple disabilities tend to be excluded from many social, civic, and educational activities.  According to UNESCO, the overall literacy rates for persons with disabilities is three percent and one percent for girls and women with disabilities.  Studies have shown that existing learning materials often fail to represent persons with disabilities or do not provide a positive portrayal of girls and boys with these challenges.  There is a bias in the depiction of individuals with disabilities and other societal subgroups, such as religious or ethnic minorities, socio-economic, class, political orientation, and language.

The Guide provides important facts, insights, and guidance to help address the need for improved inclusivity for materials in the primary grades.  It provides worksheets for those developing or revising texts to evaluate the inclusiveness of the teaching and learning material.  The guide encourages writers and revisers to examine the frequency of representation and  gender-equitable and inclusive illustrations, while also highlighting gender-equitable and inclusive language and gender-equitable and transformational roles.  It recommends that individuals with various physical, cognitive, and/or sensory disabilities should be depicted in proportion to the frequency of the general population.  Illustrations should represent all sub-groups and their distribution in society, meaning that individuals with disabilities should be portrayed as approximately 15 percent of the population.  Individuals with a disability should be described as “a girl who is blind” instead of “a blind girl,” and girls and boys with disabilities should be portrayed as participating in decisions and activities equally.

Illustration: Jerry Rosembert Moise

Illustration: Jerry Rosembert Moise

For example, in the illustration pictured, the girl who has a disability is portrayed in an active and participatory role and the girl is depicted as a central character.

The Guide was field-tested and reviewed by experts from both gender and inclusive education communities, as well as USAID missions in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.  There were two in-person workshops—one at the Comparative and International Education Society conference in 2015 and another with USAID implementing partners.  There is also a “how-to video,” which can be accessed via You Tube, providing step-by-step advice on using the Guide.

USAID is eager to ensure that the Guide reaches and is used by laypersons and experts in curriculum development, classroom instruction, education administration and policy, and others involved in developing and reviewing classroom-based teaching and learning materials.  Please download a copy of the Guide in French and English, visit the Education in Crisis & Conflict Network (ECCN) Bulletin Board at for the webinar recording, and watch the “how-to videos” for the Guide.


About the Author KAKALI BANIK Photo2
Koli Banik is a Senior Education Advisor at USAID’s Bureau for Africa where she provides technical support to a number of countries in the region. She previously worked at the Global Partnership for Education as an Education Specialist. Her areas of expertise are in girls’ education, gender equity, inclusive education, early childhood development, as well as knowledge management. Before joining the Secretariat, Koli worked for the Population Council, World Bank, American Friends Service Committee, and local NGOs in India. She has extensive field experience working with rural communities in India and Vietnam on gender, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS. She has a Ph.D. in International Education from the University of Maryland, and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.


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