The 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education defines inclusive education as the ‘process of ensuring equal access to education for all students, taking into account the diversity of the educational needs and individual capabilities’. It also clarifies that an inclusive environment is a learning environment in which all learners with different education needs feel comfortable and fully participate in the education process. To create an inclusive environment, education institutions must take into account the special education needs of each learner and create the conditions to meet those needs in order to provide quality education.
Special education needs
The 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education uses the term ‘special educational needs’ to indicate learners whose needs require creating special conditions and environments, as well as the use of special technologies, within the provision of special education services. Special education conditions enable an accessible educational environment, access to information and communication resources, and the provision of pedagogical, medical, social and other types of assistance and, if necessary, technical teaching support aids.
The legal framework maintains multiple options for the education of children with disabilities. As established by the 2008 law on the rights and guarantees of persons with disabilities, general education for learners with disabilities is provided in regular settings and, when necessary, in special institutions (Art. 36–38). Children who cannot attend regular or special schools are allowed to be educated at home (Art. 39). The approach retains a medical perspective on disability, similar to the 2003 Law on Education.
According to 2003 Law on Education, the main legal document regulating the education system, children with physical and/or medical disabilities receive education in special groups, classes or institutions to ensure their adequate treatment, education and training (Art. 33).
With the endorsement of inclusive education in the 2012–20 Education Development Strategy, children with special needs have been progressively integrated into regular schools. As of 2011, 635 comprehensive schools were involved in inclusive programmes. In parallel, 15 special boarding schools and 14 special kindergarten still targeted children with special needs.
The 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education reiterates that special preschool and general education institutions are among the training forms available upon student and parental choice. It also promotes partnership between special and regular schools.
Early identification, screening and assessment
The Medical-Social Commission of Experts, under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, and the Psycho-Medical-Pedagogical Commission (PMPC), under the Ministry of Education and Science, are responsible for the assessment and registration of children with special education needs, after an initial medical-social identification carried out in a hospital by the Ministry of Health. The PMPC refers for educational issues, assessing learning difficulties and recommending children’s placement, after consultation with their parents. It consists of a multiprofessional team, including, among others, speech and language specialists, a psychologist, and defectologists.
As acknowledged in the 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education, early identification and intervention mechanisms are fragmented, while an integrated approach occurring in preschool and in schools is recognized to allow a timely response to emerging risks.
The 2010 Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, as amended in 2016, enshrines the right to education for all (Art. 45.1). It establishes the compulsoriness of general basic education and the free-of-charge provision of general basic and secondary basic education in state educational institutions (Art. 45.2). It further prohibits any discrimination on grounds of ‘sex, race, language, disability, ethnicity, belief, age, political and other convictions, education, background, proprietary and other status as well as other circumstances’ and mandates the state to create equal opportunities for different social groups (Art. 16.2). At the international level, Kyrgyzstan ratified the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in May 2019.
A landmark national legislation, the 2006 Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on Children, as amended in 2012, domesticated the international commitments of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It reaffirms the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and further commits to promoting the interest of children to ensure them basic standards of protection and to reviewing existing inconsistent procedures and legislation. Concerning education, the Code reiterates the right to education for all children based on the place of residence (Art. 10.2), declaring unlawful any restriction to the access to general education (Art. 10.3) and to preschool education (Art. 10.5). For learners with disabilities, orphans and children without parental care, the Code establishes the creation of special conditions, including through special groups, classes and/or centres where free education and training are provided (Art. 10.6).
In education, the 2003 Law on Education, replacing the version of 1992 and last amended in 2019, regulates the general education system. Drawing on the Constitution’s provision of non-discrimination, it lays out the right to education (Art. 3) and mandates the state to create the necessary socio-economic and legal conditions for providing free compulsory basic general, secondary general, primary vocational and, on a competitive basis, secondary vocational, higher professional and postgraduate professional education (Art. 7). The Law does not mention inclusive education, but it advocates for the accessibility of general education. The 2007–10 Education Development Strategy aimed to increase access to quality education for children with special needs through inclusive education programmes.
More comprehensively, the 2011 document Information on inclusive education in the Kyrgyz Republic conceives of inclusive education as a successful approach for the integration of children with special needs into society by ensuring a higher coverage of children with special needs in preschool and general education. It is with the adoption of the 2012–20 Education Development Strategy and its 2012–14 action plan that inclusive education was endorsed as a general approach at all education levels. Among its objectives, the Strategy promotes inclusive education while maintaining specialized schools for children with special needs. As regards its implementing actions, conditions for inclusive education are expected to be created through the development of new curricula, models and programmes of in-service training for teachers working both in special schools and in regular schools embracing an inclusive education programme.
In line with the 2012–20 Education Development Strategy and the 2018–20 Action Plan for Education Development (APED), the European Union supports the continued reform of the education system, with emphasis on equitable access to disadvantaged groups, such as girls and women and learners with ethnic and linguistic minority backgrounds. The EU multi-annual action programme for 2018 and 2019 intends to set up an effective student competency-based assessment and introduce professional development for teachers to strengthen their non-discrimination and gender expertise.
Along with this strategic framework, the 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education was drawn up in 2019 with support from UNICEF and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). With the aim of establishing a holistic education system that is functional for people with special education needs, the Concept calls for ensuring equal access to education for all and for an individually tailored provision. The Concept intends to provide for the improvement of the enabling legislative environment and pursues an integrated approach including diagnosis, curriculum, special services, support and rehabilitation services, monitoring and evaluation.
Replacing the 1992 Law on Social Protection of Disabled People, the 2008 Law on the Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities lays legal foundations for the social protection of persons with disabilities and for ensuring them equal opportunities. Concerning education, it mandates the state to create the necessary conditions for access to all education levels, free of charge (Art. 33). Education provision may be full-time, part-time or in distance mode, in special groups, classes and/or through individual study plans, including home training (Art. 34).
The approach towards inclusive education has overlapped with integration, starting from the need to enlarge access to children with disabilities, such as in the 2011 document Information on Inclusive Education in the Kyrgyz Republic and in the 2007–10 Education Development Strategy. Health status and/or disability is still a major factor in exclusion from education, as reported in a 2012 UNICEF country study and highlighted in the 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education. The latter advocates for the adoption of an inclusive education approach to meet the needs of the target group and to ensure relevant regulatory, organizational and material support. The 2018–20 APED includes plans for the creation of the necessary conditions to provide inclusive education for children with special needs in comprehensive or special schools. It intends to provide adequate support to schools in terms of psychological, medical and pedagogical consultation services and by equipping them with adequate materials.
Inclusive education has been implemented through international and multilateral donor programmes. For example, 40 training organizations were involved in a pilot of including learners with special education needs in schools in seven regions within the framework project Improving Access to Quality Basic Education for Children with Special Needs, with support from the Asian Development Bank, in 2009. The project consisted of addressing the needs of the children while including them in regular school activities. To that end, modules, manuals and guidelines were introduced for teacher training and individual learning plans were developed. As a result, in 2011, 36 secondary schools, 3 special schools and 2 kindergartens adopted inclusive education.
The 2010 Constitution of Kyrgyzstan contains a gender equality provision (Art. 16.4). The 2008 State Guarantees of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women, as amended in 2011, provide a legal framework for gender equality. They acknowledge the perpetuation of gender stereotypes through media, education and culture as indirect forms of gender discrimination (Art. 5). The National Strategy for the Achievement of Gender Equality by 2020, approved in 2012, includes a section on the creation of a functional educational system, which is considered pivotal for establishing gender equality.
Based on the profiles compiled as part of the EU-funded Gender Study for Central Asia in 2017, a gender-sensitive approach was adopted in the 2018–20 APED. The latter includes plans to raise awareness about vocational education opportunities for women and girls.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
While Kyrgyz is the state language (Art. 10.1), Russian is used in the capacity of an official language (art. 10.2), as established in the 2010 Constitution. The Constitution also recognizes the right of all ethnicities to preserve their native language and its learning and development (Art. 10.3). In line with the constitutional document, the 2003 Law on Education reiterates the state’s commitment to creating equal conditions for learning the state official language and another international language. Instruction in another language is also allowed under certain conditions. Education in Kyrgyz is also promoted outside the country (Art. 6).
Disaggregated data on out-of-school children by ethnic group is not available. However, gaps in school attendance by language spoken were reported in the 2006 MICS household survey reports.
The 2012–20 Education Development Strategy aims to preserve cultural and linguistic diversity and promote tolerance within a multicultural and multilingual environment. However, its action plan focuses on developing new subject curricula to increase the teaching and learning of Kyrgyz, Russian and English and to enhance the state language among groups whose language of instruction is Russian.
People living in rural or remote areas
Regional differences in the enrolment rate persist. Rates of out-of-school children in Batken, Naryn and Chui regions (oblasts) were higher than in other regions. As acknowledged in the 2012–20 Education Development Strategy, learning outcomes also vary across geographical areas, as well as by language of instruction. The quality of education is affected by teachers’ preparation and the unequal distribution of resources including teaching and learning materials.
The 2006 Act on the Provision of Meals at General Education Schools regulates school meal provision. In 2008, the food programmes were upgraded for learners in general education.
The Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Internal Affairs commit to strengthening cooperation between internal agencies and educational authorities to adopt preventive measures and to identify and address children who are not in school through the strategic prevention operation Back to School. The initiative intends to provide clothing, shoes and stationery, register children from potential disadvantaged backgrounds, and organize alternative evening classes and remedial courses, including language classes.
Many children are affected by the wave of migration that the country has been experiencing. Up to 17% of the population has left the country, as reported by a 2013 study. Children left behind are likely to have experienced trauma, family instability, discrimination and school dropout. The 391/2015 Decree on the assistance to vulnerable children and families, including children left behind, establishes that general education institutions as well as local and education authorities take measures to involve children who are not in education (Sec. 7).
Internal migration, in particular to Bishkek and Osh, has also affected education provision negatively with the creation of new suburban settlements (novostroiki) that lack infrastructure, including social and educational services.
Coordination across government levels
The education system is highly decentralized. As regulated by the 2003 Law on Education, the Ministry of Education and Science determines the overall national education policy and strategy (Art. 34 and 35), while local authorities are entitled to allocate revenue allowances. However, actual autonomy is hampered by the scarce availability of financial resources. Local education departments, in cooperation with local authorities, appoint principals and teachers, and national legislation still regulates education provision. The implementation of the sectorial budget challenges the capacity of the Ministry of Education and Science to effectively allocate resources, while teacher salaries remains centralized, with the exception of the city of Bishkek.
Coordination across sectors
A Council on Issues of Disabled People was established in 1999 under the Presidency of the Republic with the mandate to coordinate national policies. However, the Council does not have a coordinating role. The lack of cooperation across ministries, in particular the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Health, was reported as one major hindrance to the effective implementation of policies in the 2009 OECD Reviews of National Policies for Education.
Forms of coordination across ministries have been established within ad-hoc projects, such as the Asian Development Bank-funded initiative Improving Access to Quality Basic Education for Children with Special Needs, which entailed a working group comprising the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health Care, and Ministry of Labor and Social Development, together with parents’ associations and civil society groups representing the interests of people with disabilities. Part of the working group’s mandate was to address and provide recommendations for resolving education issues concerning children with special needs.
Concerning gender, a National Council on Gender Development was set up in 2012 as an advisory and consultative body to coordinate the formulation and implementation of national policies on gender development issues.
As established by the 2008 Law on the Rights and Guarantees of Persons with Disabilities, infrastructure and transportation services for public use are required to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities (Art. 43). The design and construction of new facilities and settlements must provide the necessary conditions for access and use by persons with disabilities (Art. 44), while existing ones must be adapted accordingly (Art. 45). Formulation of new requirements for ensuring the accessibility of buildings at all education levels was one of the measures planned in the 2018–20 APED.
The 2003 Law on Education grants more autonomy to schools in terms of the adaptability of the curricula to respond to local needs and to provide individualized education programmes. New National Framework curricula were developed for general primary and secondary education according to a competence-based approach. As provided in the 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education, individual curricula are expected to be tailored to the needs of children with special needs and approved by the educational institutions together with parental consent. The 2018–20 APED includes plans for the development of curricula for inclusive and special schools, with a particular focus on learners with disabilities, for grades 1 to 4 and 5 to 9.
The supply of textbooks has been identified as one of the main policy priorities of the 2012–20 Education Development Strategy, since shortages of teaching and learning materials still occur. As reported, textbooks are mainly printed in the official language, Kyrgyz, followed by Uzbek and Russian, while Tadjik textbooks account for a small share. Local authorities are responsible for the provision of free textbooks to rural schoolchildren from low-income households. To respond to these shortages, the Strategy also proposes a stock of rental textbooks, with profits to be reinvested in the design and publication of new textbooks.
Concerning gender, the 2018–20 National Plan of Action for Gender Equality intends to introduce courses on the prevention of violence against women and girls and to train textbook authors on gender issues.
The 2001 law on the status of teachers, as amended in 2013, regulates the legal status of teachers. While national tertiary institutions provide pre-service training, local authorities are in general responsible for the provision of in-service teacher training. As established by the 2003 Law on Education, teachers are required to attend professional training every five years (Art. 29).
It has been reported that teacher education does not adequately prepare practitioners in regular schools for the implementation of inclusive pedagogical approaches. Customized training has been provided within standalone projects, such as an Asian Development Bank project that funded trainings for school directors and teachers in 2009–10, including the production of interactive modules for primary teachers.
The 2019–23 state concept for the development of inclusive education advocates for appropriate training for teachers working in classrooms that include learners with special education needs. They are expected to cooperate with a special or social teacher and specialized professionals, such as psychologists and medical and pedagogical experts, at the local level. The 2018–20 APED envisages the development of modules for adequate pre- and in-service training for teachers working both in special institutions for children with disabilities and in regular schools implementing inclusive programmes, within the EU-funded multi-annual action programme. The latter also assists with the promotion of a multilingual educational environment by integrating multilingual teaching modules into teacher education.
According to law, local authorities are also in charge of providing material and economic support to teachers deployed in rural areas. However, a state study has revealed that the guarantees are not implemented across all regions.
With UNICEF support, the information database of educational institutions intended to create a platform for the collection and analysis of data on education. As highlighted by the 2012–20 Education Development Strategy, the education management information system (EMIS) lacks adequate coordination between the central and the local levels. In addition, information collected about the system is not comprehensive, hampering effective evidence-based decision-making.
At present, the EMIS is only partially functional. Within the EU-funded multi-annual action programme, the commitment to improve the results-based management and operations of the EMIS in terms of data availability, relevance and timeliness has been reiterated.