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Local to Global and Back Again: A Comparison of National Special Education Policies to a World Model


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 2006), Article 24, stipulates that children with disabilities should have access to and benefit from public education. As of this writing, 177 countries have ratified the convention (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2018). However, little is known about whether the extent or features of national policies lead to greater identification and enrollment of children with disabilities (CWD) in formal schools. This study will describe one possible mechanism for the diffusion of public education for CWD through national or regional legislation for special education by countries participating in the CRPD (2006). The analysis will compare cross-country enrollment rates for CWD with prominent topical themes in country or regional legislation using structural topic modeling methods. Additionally, the analysis will examine correlations between enrollment rates, prominent topics, and meta-data (other relevant variables) identified as significant in the literature on policy diffusion. The data presented here may inform the special education field about the extent and effects of the global diffusion of education policies for CWD. The analysis may also extend world culture theory in sociology, detailing the use of international documents to influence policy language around the ideals of education for CWD.

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