According to the 2012 Pre-primary 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 2016–20 sets out to improve access to quality education for children with special needs, child workers, children living in difficult circumstances or in remote areas, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, but it does not define what is meant by ‘special needs’.
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. As of 2017, there were five special schools for children with visual disabilities, five for learners with hearing and speech impairments, and two special schools and vocational training centres for children with physical disabilities. Eleven special schools for children with autism were active in eight divisional cities.
The 2010 National Education Policy establishes that children with disabilities must be included in regular education, whereas special education is dedicated to children with acute physical or mental disabilities. In addition, the latter are brought into a supportive remedial system and receive special care and nursing.
Madrasa education is integrated into the national education system; the 2010 National Education Policy stresses the importance of madrasa education as an opportunity to learn the traditions, religious customs and rituals of Islam and its doctrines.
The 1972 Constitution, as amended in 2011, mandates the state to provide a ‘uniform, mass oriented and universal system of education’ and extend ‘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’ with regard to 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 2016 Draft National Education Act aims to enhance quality in education, also through the promotion of the principle of inclusion in the regular school system.
Informed by the principle of inclusiveness, the 2010 National Education Policy is targeted at learners with special needs and children from ethnic communities and socio-economically disadvantaged families and areas. Operationalizing the policy, the 2015 PEDP-3 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-3 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.
The 2001 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 latter defines, for the first time, inclusive education as being 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 2016–20 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 bridge 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.
The 2008 Policy categorized, for the first time, 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. However, a special provision allows marriage below the statutory age in ‘special circumstances’.
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 Pre-primary Education Expansion Plan, which intends to take it into consideration for curriculum development, as well as in the Seventh Five Year Plan 2016–20.
Within the framework of the National Education Policy, mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) 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 was launched by BRAC to support indigenous people who do not speak Bangla through materials based on their culture and/or through non-formal teaching methods. All recruited teachers had an indigenous background.
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 Moulvibazar 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 and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Division manage and administer the education system. In particular, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education is in charge of special and madrasa education provisions.
The school system in Bangladesh is highly centralized. 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 PEDP-3 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 conversion of unusable ones.
The 2012 Pre Primary 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 and learning processes and preschool materials must consider all children’s and their families' needs and scopes irrespective of sex, race, religion, ability, or economic or other conditions and be flexible enough to address children’s interests. Teaching and learning materials have been developed in five ethnic languages, according to the 2015 PEDP-3 prescription, and distributed for free since 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, referred to as PTIs, organize 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 and a comprehensive in-service training programme with need-based focus were introduced by the 2015 PEDP-3. The 2006 Non-Formal Education 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 Non-Formal Education Policy reflects the commitment to expand the female 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 had been recruited as of 2017, of whom 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 education 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.