Policy and practice paradox on inclusive education in Nepal «

Policy and practice paradox on inclusive education in Nepal

Existing Policies and Provisions for the Education of Children with Disabilities in Nepal

Nepal has developed and executed different policies and programs for the promotion of education for disabled children. In Education Act, 1971 (including amendments), it has mentioned that special classes for disabled children will be similar to other normal education. In Education Regulation, 2002, it has managed a “Special Education Council” to conduct special classes for  disabled children under the chairperson of Education Ministry. Special Education Council is active to work regularly on policy and program areas.

Special Education Act, 1997 has mentioned that visual, deaf, intellectual and physical impaired children will be provided residential educational opportunity. In Education Regulation, 2002 Clause 60, it has mentioned that for the disabled children special education can be provided. Similarly, same regulation’s rule 66  and Disable Protection and Welfare Regulation, 1995 (Rule 15)  read that ‘those organizations that provide special education to disabled children will get facilities and services as indicated by the Government of Nepal. In Education Regulation, 2002 (Rule 151.2), it is mentioned that the institutional schools should provide at 10% scholarships (out of total students)  to talented, poor, person with disability, girl, dalit, and Janajati community. In this context, Special Education Operation Directive, 2003 has been issued .

Disabled children have got opportunities to study in different community schools, resource class schools and special schools. In resource class and special schools, resident and resource teachers are managed for special-care-need children. For the disabled children, free text books, educational materials and equipment are distributed. Similarly, to identify disability, provide disable related services, support, and counseling and to formulate other programs, disable audit centers are established in 62 districts of Nepal.

United Nations Human Rights Declaration, 1948 and Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 have mentioned that everyone should get free education up to basic level. United Nations Certified Rules, 1983; Asia and Pacific Sector’s Persons with Disabilities Decade (1983-2002); Samalanca Declaration 1994; and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006  have emphasized to mainstream all persons with disabilities including the special education needy children in national educational programs. Similarly, INCHEON  Declaration (World Education Forum), 2015 has encouraged government to improve policies for educational promotion of special need children.

Nepal has tried its best to promote education for disabled children by improving policies and legal entitlements. It has made commitments on education for all in Jomtien Declaration,  1980, Dakar Summit, 2000, Millennium Development Goals, 2000 and Sustainable Development Goals.  Thus, Nepal has felt a need of inclusive education for the persons with disabilities and with that note it has brought Inclusive Education Policy, 2016 for the Persons with Disabilities.

Constitution of Nepal, 2015 has guaranteed fundamental rights on article 18 (Right to Equality) and article 31 (Right relating to education). Article 18 has mentioned that no discrimination shall be made in the application of general laws on grounds of origin, religion, race, caste, tribe, sex, physical condition, condition of health, marital status, pregnancy, economic condition, language or region, ideology or on similar other grounds. Similarly, article 31 (Right relating to education) clauses 3 and 4 have lucidly mentioned respectively that,

(3) The citizens with disabilities and the economically indigent citizens shall have the right to get free higher education in accordance with law.

(4) The visually impaired citizens shall have the right to get free education through brail script and the citizens with hearing or speaking impairment, to get free education through sign language, in accordance with law.

Similarly, Disabled Protection and Welfare Act, 1982 has the provisions for education and training. The provision is that in case any disabled person is to get admission to any educational institute to pursue education, he/she shall not be required to pay fees at such educational institute.  Similarly, the provision has mentioned about the necessary of teachers to teach the disabled persons. Further, it has indicated that there shall be made special arrangements for the education to the blind, deaf and feeble-minded persons.

Other Available Rules and Legal Frameworks in Support of Inclusive Education in Nepal The Disabled Protection and Welfare Rules, 1994 Education Regulations 2049 (1992)National Policy and Plan of Action on Disabilities, 2006 Disability ID Card Distribution Guidelines of Government, 2008  Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Guideline, 2010 Guidelines on physical access and communication services for persons with disabilities,2013 Provision of special education in Education Act, 1971 Education Rules,2002 Special Education Operation Directives,2006School Sector Reform Plan(SSRP), 2009-2013Program Implementation Guidelines-Department of Education, 2009(onwards)Child friendly School National Framework,2011Inclusive Education Policy for Persons with Disabilities, 2016Govt. Scholarship Information 2013Childhood disability management strategy, 2007Disability related policies and programs in three years periodic plan of government United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,2006Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity in Cultural Expressions, 2005Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, 19901989 Convention on the Rights of the Child1989 Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UNSCO, 2009)  

Paradox on Policy and Practice:

WHO and World Bank (2011) report indicates that around 15 percent of the world’s population are having some kinds of disabilities to which largest part of it is in developing and underdeveloped countries.

The CBS (2012) data shows that there is around 3.6 percent prevalence rate of persons with disabilities in Nepal. The disability rates for males and females are 4.2 percent and 3.0 percent respectively. Of all persons with some kind of disability, 29.2 percent are physically disabled, 22.3 percent have visual related disability, 23.4 percent hearing related disability, 2.4 percent vision/hearing related disability, 8.6 percent speech related disability, 6.8 percent mentally retarded and 7.3 percent have multiple disability (Living Standard Survey, 2011). However, about two percent (1.93%) that is 513,321 in total populations) is reported to have some kind of disability. Among this, physical disability constitutes 36.3 percent of the population with disability followed by Blindness/low Vision (18.5%), Deaf/hard to hearing (15.4%), Speech problem (11.5%), Multiple Disability (7.5%), Mental Disability (6%), Intellectual Disability (2.9%) and Deaf-Blind (1.8%).

According to the report of RCRD & Save the Children (2014), the disabled children of Nepal are deprived of education, basic health services, early intervention, rehabilitation and many other special supports which they are ensured from the state as their rights. They often face with infrastructural barriers, social discrimination & discriminatory ill treatment in the family, and rejection from schools. 

Human Rights watch (2012), indicates that significant number of children with disability does not go to the formal school. Mostly they are rejected in school admission and the parents also do not know that education is the rights of their children. Due to the barriers and problem at school and family, the dropout rate of children with disabilities is high. The Government of Nepal and the United Nations acknowledge that ‘while Nepal has made important progress toward achieving universal primary education as part of its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), children from marginalized communities, such as children with disabilities, represent a significant portion of the 330,000 primary school aged children who remain out of school in Nepal.

There are problems and challenges with disabled children for quality education.  The ‘Inclusive Education Policy for Persons with Disabilities, 2016  indicates that there is problem in mainstreaming disabled children in education due to low level of responsibility taken by family members, community and schools. There is problem in achieving expected achievements in ensuring quality of lives and independent livelihoods by the disabled children even if there is social inclusion policy. Due to ineffectiveness of peer learning and child-centric activities, there is a chance of social exclusion and education derailment. There is incomplete managerial aspect in managing and producing human resources for providing quality education and training classes for ensuring quality education to disabled children. Similarly, there is lack of system to update the data and information for the diverse forms of disabled children. There is no systematic advanced information technology to ease learning process for disabled children which has constrained learning process of disabled children. Further, there is lack of adequate investigative researches and practices for disable friendly evaluation, exam systems, and learning management of disabled students. 

In line with these challenges, a study was also carried out by the author in 2019 on “Teachers’ Perceptions toward Children with Hearing Impairment (CWHI) Focused Inclusive Education in Nepal”. It is found that the education of children with disability is challenging in Nepal and it is more challenging to CWHI. The government has managed special, resource class schools and integrated schools for the education of CWHI but there is management problem in most of the resource class schools and integrated schools. The special schools are somewhat in good condition which have been providing education to the CWHI at their level best but the challenges and problems exist mainly in resource class schools and integrated schools at serious level. 

The study has further indicated that the level of self-efficacy is not up to the level dealing with diverse nature of the students.  There is a need of at least one teacher for twelve students but this ratio is not matched in most of the resource classes and integrated schools. In some schools, the situation seems even more vulnerable that there is availability of one resource teacher and he/she has to teach all 22 students from grade one to five in single classroom.  So, the low quality of education seems to be prevalence due to inadequate number of teachers available for the education of CWHI in resource classes and integrated schools. The teachers will get minimum chance to take part in different trainings relating to hearing impairment and inclusive education. It has made them less capacitates to teach the students perfectly and will minimize the caring attitude to the students either. There is general textbook and rigid curriculum (NOT Special by considering slow learning capability of CWHI) available for CWHI, which have directly again challenged to the learning capability of CWHI.   It is dismay that in almost all categorical schools, there is no segregation between completely hearing impairments and hard to hearing students in the schools and for hard to hearing students, there is no hearing devices available in the schools. This has directly created untold problems to both types of students. It is an irony that some visited schools are still not disabled friendly and accessible as other buildings and structures in Nepal though there are students from disabled category. So from disability perspectives, we can say that the students have not disabled friendly environment in their own schools.

Child club idea was introduce by the government of Nepal to address the voice of all children in formulating plans and provisions for them in the schools. However, it is found that most of the students from CWHI are not the members in the child clubs of the resource classes and integrated schools. So, this scenario has directly felt them discriminated.  Similarly, there is no motivation for participation of persons with disability and persons with hearing impairments in the structures of the schools, which has obstructed to make better plans and provisions for the welfare of such children in the schools.

None of the schools of hearing impairments seem sensitive enough on the issue of child abuse activities in the schools as there are not any written child abuse control strategies. Because of the gap of such strategies in the schools, mostly the girl children are found more vulnerable. In some of the schools of Terai region, there is availability of only one room for both boys and girls for their accommodation.

The gaps are found in providing textbooks of all subjects and materials to all CWHI in the schools, which is creating learning gaps to the students.  It is a serious scenario that teachers have not made individual education plan (IEP) of all students in the schools.

There seems minimum concern and sensitivity from parents also as the schools do not organize meeting time to time with the parents and the parents do not visit schools time to time on checking whether their children are doing good or not. It is a surprising fact that most of the parents do not know the sign language, which is only communication means to their own children. Only schools’ efforts will not be enough for overall education of CWHI.

In the context of inclusive education, the enrollment of girl child and diverse caste and ethnicity based children in the school have been achieved to some extent that can be justified through several research findings either but the situation of disabled children in the schools (special, integrated and Resource Class), their learning achievements and even the teaching learning process to them in special schools, integrated and resource class seem to be undoubtedly miserable. The pathetic situation of disabled children in school and their teaching learning problems have always been the issue and challenge of inclusive education in Nepal which has been figured out by different researchers. Looking at the scenario, this type of problem is not only because of the policy gap in inclusive education or disabled children but also because of the practice gap in most of the schools. When we talk about the practice gap, it is undoubtedly the practitioners “teachers”, who practice inclusive education essence in school for disabled children. There will be another argument that the practitioner will practice the same thing what he/she learnt, known and understood. His/her understanding level, delivery, application, attitudes, behaviors and perceptions are the concern areas when we talk about the practice. 

After accumulating all these scenarios of inclusive education for children with disabilities, the situation of children with disabilities is very much vulnerable when we talk about the learning opportunity to these children. There is availability of the schools for these children but still their learning opportunities are being curtailed due to lack of effective teaching learning practices and environment in the schools. We can say that there are different policies and provisions available for the children with disabilities but due to lack of effective practice of these policies and provisions in schools, such students are getting only that much of education what their teachers are delivering on their own limited knowledge.

Thus, in nutshell, even though there are a lot of policies, provisions and guidelines for the education of children with disabilities in Nepal, there is a paradox of its proper implementation in terms of practice and execution. The existence of policies and lack of implementation can be termed as paradoxical situation of education for the children with disabilities. Hence, without special care and special textbook including flexible curriculum for the students with adequate soft trainings on disabled focused inclusive education to the teachers with good health and hygienic food and accommodation facility to CWHI in the schools with the regular concern and support of parents, the better education of the disabled children is not possible at all in Nepal.  

(The author is the Ph.D Scholar of School of Education, Kathmandu University)