Understanding Cross-National Differences in Inclusive Education Coverage: An Empirical Analysis

Author: Steve R. Entrich, University of Potsdam, Germany
Email: entrich@uni-potsdam.de
Published: February 19, 2021

Citation: Entrich, S. R. (2021). Understanding Cross-National Differences in Inclusive Education Coverage: An Empirical Analysis. IAFOR Journal of Education: Inclusive Education, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ije.9.1.02


With the adoption and ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, inclusive education became an international human right and a global norm. But, “Education for All” remains a worldwide challenge. It appears that some countries achieved higher inclusive education rates than others. Why this is the case has barely been empirically investigated. To address this gap, this study analyzes cross-national differences in inclusive education coverage in over 50 societies. First, the data gap is addressed by providing an overview of inclusive education rates in 52 societies. In the theoretical part of the paper, hypothetical causes for the cross-national differences are discussed from a new institutionalist perspective, before concrete, testable hypotheses are derived. Third, a secondary meta-analysis based on self-assembled data from national and international sources is conducted predicting the cross-national differences by means of ordinary least squares regressions. Findings show that national income or educational expenses have no impact on the level of institutionalization of inclusive education in a society; the cross-national differences in school inclusion are mainly due to the structural conditions of the school system and its own institutional logic (especially the degree of institutional differentiation); and the definition of what is recognized as special educational needs and promoted in a national education system largely affects the extent of inclusive education coverage. The findings of this analysis prove to be a good start for future endeavors in macro-sociological and educational analyses of international inclusive education and have major policy implications.


cross-national comparison, country-level analysis, inclusive education, new institutionalism, secondary meta-analysis, special education