This article has been published in Enabling Education 12
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Title: How Inclusive are National Education Policies and Plans?
Author: EENET
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2008

How inclusive are national education policies and plans?

EENET recently reviewed education policy and planning documents from Nepal, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia,* to see if they mention inclusive education. If they do, what approaches to inclusive, quality education for all are being outlined? Here we summarise key issues highlighted by the review, and suggest questions you might want to ask about education policy in your country.

Issues highlighted by the review

Questions to ask about your country’s education policy

Definitions of inclusive education
– the policies have confused definitions. Inclusive education is seen primarily in terms of disability and ‘special needs’.
  • Do your country’s policies present clear explanations of inclusive education?
  • Do they tackle the confusion between ‘special’ and ‘inclusive’ education?
Quality education
– improving quality in education is discussed, but not as much as increasing enrolment rates/access.
  • Are your country’s policies based on a strong understanding that improvements in access must be matched with improvements in quality, if enrolment growth is to be maintained and drop-out rates reduced?
Holistic approach
– inclusive education is mainly presented as a set of separate interventions for separate groups of learners.
  • Do policies in your country view inclusive education as a way to change the whole education system so that every learner is included in a better quality education?
  • Do the policies present a vision of a unified system in which formal, non-formal, mainstream and segregated provision work together?
Resource allocation
– allocating funding to inclusive education is a challenge; there is no easy way to put a price on improved inclusion.
  • Do policies in your country encourage every area of education to budget for improving inclusion, rather than sidelining inclusion issues with a separate budget?
Participatory data collection
– methods of collecting education-related data are discussed in the documents. But data on diversity and exclusion is still often limited.
  • Are education policies in your country built firmly on information gathering through participatory processes with children and adults across the community?
Teacher education
– teacher education is discussed in detail, but training on inclusive education is rarely mentioned. Inclusive education is presented as a specialist area of study.
  • Do policies in your country push for radical reform to pre- and in-service teacher education?
  • Do they present inclusive education as a natural way of working for every teacher?
  • Do they ask “who trains the trainers”, and tackle the sensitive issue of well-established training institutes teaching out-of-date approaches?
Flexible curriculum development
– curriculum reform is prominent in the reviewed documents, but stakeholder involvement in this process appears limited.
  • Do policies in your country encourage curriculum reforms built on stakeholder input?
  • Do they support local flexibility in curriculum development?
Inclusive education as a rights issue
– the policies and plans do not stress the rights basis for inclusion very strongly.
  • Do policies in your country actively promote inclusion as a human rights issue and use human rights as a justification for inclusive policies?

What is education policy like in your country?
Have your country’s education policies been reviewed, or could you review them, following the questions asked above? Could you write an article about policy strengths and weaknesses in relation to inclusion and quality? If you think any of the answers to the questions in the table are ‘no’ for your country, how could you help change the policy situation? EENET wants to hear from you!

* EENET was asked to conduct this review by Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation). To obtain a copy of the full report, please contact EENET.