According to the 2012 Preprimary Education Expansion Plan, inclusive education refers to an adequate education provision that respects and acknowledges children’s diversity. The 2015 Third Primary Education Development Program (PEDP-3) considers inclusive education an emphasis of the “all” component in “Education for All”, addressing the particular needs of “tribal children, ethnic minorities, children with learning disabilities, and disabled children” in formal schools. The 2013 Persons with Disability Rights and Protection Act describes the expression as equal education provided to students with disabilities in every school of the country.
Special education needs
The recent Seventh Five Year Plan 2016-2020 includes in the category of children with special needs, children workers, children living in difficult circumstances or in remote areas, and those belonging to ethnic minorities.
As defined by the 2013 Persons with Disability Rights and Protection Act, special education indicates any residential or non-residential institution that offers specific education provision to persons with disabilities. Currently, there are five special schools for children with visual disabilities, five for learners with hearing and speech impairments, two special schools and vocational training centers for children with physical disabilities. Eleven special schools for children with autism are active in eight divisional cities.
The 2010 National Education Policy establishes that children with disabilities have to be included into regular education, whereas special education is dedicated to children with acute physical or mental disabilities. In addition, the latter receive supportive remedial system, special care and nursing.
Within the national education system, the 2010 National Education Policy stresses the importance of madrasa education as opportunity to learn the tradition, the religious customs and ritual Islam and its doctrines. Madrasa education is integrated into the national education system.
The 1972 Constitution, as amended in 2011, mandates the state to provide “uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children” (art.17) and prohibits any discrimination in education on grounds of “religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth” in their access to “any educational institution” (art. 28). While the 1990 Compulsory Primary Education Act lays down the right to access to education for all in any type of education institution, the most recent 2016 Draft National Education Act aims to enhance quality in education, also through the promotion of the principle of inclusion in regular school system.
Informed by the principle of inclusiveness, the 2010 National Education Policy is targeted at learners with special needs, children from ethnic communities and from socio-economically disadvantaged families and areas. Operationalizing the policy, the 2015 Third Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP III) identified and addressed access barriers by creating an inclusive culture regardless of gender and other individual characteristics. Following the less successful PEDP I and PEDP II, which aimed to include children left behind in the education system, the PEDP III is expected to be more effective in pursuing inclusive education by implementing a quota system for the enrolment of children with disabilities into primary education level.
The 2011 Persons with Disability Welfare Act and the 2013 Persons with Disability Rights and Protection Act are the two main legal instruments in the sector. In relation to education, the former refers to the state’s mandate of creating opportunities for integration of students with disabilities, wherever possible, while the 2013 Persons with Disability Rights and Protection Act defines for the first time inclusive education as for persons with any type of disability.
Concerning policy, the 2010 National Education Policy reaffirms that education for person with disabilities depends on the types and degrees of impairments. According to a needs-focused approach, the policy calls for adequate facilities and qualified trainers to be recruited. In line with the general education policy, the Seventh Five Year Plan 2016 – 2020 promotes inclusive education for only children with mild physical disabilities, as meeting the needs of learners with severe disabilities does not fall within the objectives of primary education.
Gender equality is enshrined in the 1972 Constitution (art.28). The 2008 National Women Development Policy, updated in 2011, aims to increase education of women and bride the gap in the education rate in line with the 2010 National Education Policy, by offering stipends for female students. The nationwide female stipend programme covers all education levels up to tertiary education. Girls’ exemption from paying education fees has been extended to the higher secondary level. In 2008, the Flexible School Calendar measure was adopted with the aim of encouraging education access to marginalized girls in disadvantaged areas.
For the first time, the Policy has categorized women with disabilities as an especially vulnerable group and in order to ensure adequate protection, specific seats have been reserved for them in the committees supervising the National Women Development Policy implementation. The Policy also intends to encourage the participation in education of women with disabilities through appropriate special institutionalized programmes.
In 2017, the Child Marriage Restraint Act was adopted. Yet, a special provision allows marriage below the statutory age “under certain circumstances and in exceptional cases”.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and Indigenous groups
The 2010 National Education Policy recognizes the right of all children to receive mother-tongue education and acknowledges the necessity to provide special assistance to marginalized indigenous children. In areas mostly inhabited by ethnic groups, primary schools are expected to be built and residential facilities established for both teachers and learners. The importance of respecting all children's tradition, culture and heritage has been highlighted by the 2012 Preprimary Education Expansion Plan, which intends to take it into consideration for the curriculum development as well as in the Seventh Five Year Plan 2016 – 2020.
Within the framework of the National Education Policy, the Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) programme has being introduced in five indigenous language at the pre-primary education level and its extension to other communities is being planned. Similarly, the Education for Ethnic Children (EEC) school programme supports indigenous people who do not speak Bangla through materials based on their culture and/or through non-formal teaching methods.
People living in rural or remote areas
According to the 1972 Constitution, the state is committed to improving the education provision in rural areas (art.16). The 2011 National Skills Development Policy recognizes the necessity to improve skills development in rural and remote communities and strengthen links between formal and informal skills training. Geographical location affects education attendance of many children due to natural events, such as cyclones, tidal waves and floods, or social exclusion, as for children in the tea gardens of Sylhet, CHT and Moulvibasar districts.
The government has supported a programme of stipends for children from poor and disadvantaged households for all education levels. Free textbooks are provided for all children in primary schools. Since 2009, a School feeding programme has been implemented and gradually delivered in all primary education schools.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Division manage and administer the education system. In particular, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) is in charge of special and Madrasa education provisions.
Bangladesh school system can be defined as highly centralised. Representatives of different government levels, including district, upazila (sub-district) and city levels, are part of the Committees responsible for monitoring the implementation of the 2013 Persons with Disability Rights and Protection Act.
Identified as a general objective, the 2015 Third Primary Education Development Programme intends to adopt provisions for the development of need-based infrastructure. The priority is to reduce overcrowding through the construction of new classrooms or the reconversion of unusable ones.
The 2012 Preprimary Education Expansion Plan clearly states inclusiveness has been endorsed as a major principle for curriculum development and implementation. Curriculum and teacher training modules have been reported to be designed to ensure a girl friendly school environment. The National Curriculum was revised in 2011 in line with the 2010 National Education Policy.
Teaching-learning processes and preschool materials have to consider all children’s and their family’s needs and scopes irrespective of sex, race, religion, ability, economic or other conditions and to be flexible enough to address children’s interests. Teaching and learning materials have been developed in five ethnic languages, according to the 2015 Third Primary Education Development Programme prescription and free distributed starting from 2017. In 2015, Braille books were introduced for the first time.
The 2011 National Plan and Strategy for Primary Education Teacher Education and Development defines the professional standards and competencies of teachers and introduces inclusive education as a principle in teaching and learning methodologies to address the needs of disadvantaged people. The 2010 National Education Policy establishes that teacher training institutes, defined as PTIs, organizes training for teachers dealing with children with disabilities and for practitioners working in special education provision. Teachers working in regular education are expected to be trained to include children with disabilities in regular classes.
A new Diploma in Primary Education programme and a comprehensive in-service training programme with need-based focus was introduced by the 2015 Third Primary Education Development Programme. The 2016 Non-Formal Education (NFE) Policy intends to provide educators with training on inclusive education, including on creating a safe environment for girls.
With regards to teacher recruitment, the 2006 Policy reflects the commitment to expand women teacher workforce at secondary education level. With the intent to provide a role model and ensure the Education for All targets, about 650 teachers with disabilities have been recruited, of whom the 70% were women.
Bangladesh provides annual reports in English and Bangla.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics Institute (BANBEIS) is responsible for the collection, compilation and dissemination of educational information and statistics at various levels and types of education and acts as the Educational Management Information System (EMIS) of the Ministry. With reference to persons with disabilities, BANBEIS collects data on the Enrolment of Special Need Children (Disable) by Type of Disability, Grade and Gender in all schools.