Widening the focus of school readiness for children with disabilities in Malawi: a critical review of the literature

Paul Lynch, Anita Soni

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In recent years, school readiness has become increasingly contested by early childhood researchers resulting in a lack of agreement on how it should be conceptualised and assessed, particularly in relation to children with disabilities. This article responds to some of these arguments by carrying out a critical examination of the literature surrounding early childhood education and care,
assessment procedures, and cultural background in relation to school readiness. Evidence from the review revealed that there are few assessment instruments that capture the contextual aspects of children’s early learning and development, such as their cultural background, linguistic diversity or level of impairment or disability. We draw on the evidence to propose a holistic model of school readiness that can be used to help us to understand the transition of children with disabilities into primary educational settings in a low-income country in sub-Saharan Africa. We conclude that children’s assessment instruments should provide an accurate yet nuanced picture of children, within their context, alongside information that can support them into primary school. In doing this, it is vital to use contextual measures that are inclusive of children with different abilities and consider the constraints that may prevent them from going to school.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Inclusive Education
Early online date16 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project ‘Lets Grow Together’ is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department of International Development as part of Raising Learning Outcomes funding call. It was coordinated through the University of Birmingham in the UK in collaboration with Sightsavers, Arizona State University, Anthrologica, and the University of Malawi; Malawi Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and the Association of Early Childhood Development in Malawi. We would like to specifically acknowledge contributions of Emma Jolley, Dr Stevens Bechange and Dr Elena Schmidt of Sightsavers, who provided valuable technical contributions to the development of the ‘Lets Grow Together’ study in Malawi. We would also like to thank Rory Murray for proof reading an early version of the article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Early childhood education and care
  • Malawi
  • assessment instruments
  • disability
  • school readiness
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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