The Department of Education defines inclusive education as ‘a process of developing educational system that ensures the opportunity for receiving education in a non-discriminatory environment in their own community by respecting the multicultural differences’. Its actions target girls and women, children with disabilities, Dalit children, children belonging to minority ethnic groups, street children, children affected by conflict situations, those affected by trafficking and sexual abuse, children from poor households, children of bonded labourers, children in jail, children affected by HIV/AIDS, child labourers, children studying in Madrasa Gumba or monasteries and refugees.
The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan defines inclusive schools as settings in which children with disabilities receive education in regular schools with their peers. However, education policy and strategy documents do not always provide a clear definition or interpretation of the term, even though they refer to the concept of inclusive education.
Special education needs
A definition of special education needs has not been found.
In the early 1960s, education for persons with disabilities began to be provided in special schools, according to the type of disability. Schools were established for learners with hearing impairments and with physical and intellectual disabilities. In the late 1980s, state education provision was integrated by schools run by non-government organizations, such as the Nepal Disabled Association, the Nepal Association for the Welfare of the Blind, the Association for the Welfare of the Mentally Retarded and the Welfare Society for the Hearing Impaired.
The 1996 Special Education Policy establishes the provision of education for learners with disabilities in:
- Special schools: targeted at learners with different types of disabilities. They are separated from regular schools and most of them are residential
- Integrated schools: special education provision in separate classes, called resource classes, through special teaching and learning materials for children and youth with light and medium disabilities, including with visual impairments.
The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan specifies that integrated schools are considered bridge institutions between resource schools, which provide education to children with disabilities in separate learning environments, and inclusive schools, where children with disabilities receive education in regular settings with their peers.
Other forms of education provision include:
- Mobile schools, established for migratory communities of Himalayan districts where extreme climatic conditions do not permit people to live in the same place throughout the year
- Traditional schools, which provide religious education and are run by religious institutions, such as gumbas (Buddhist monasteries), gurukuls (Vedic schools) and madrasas (Muslim education institutions)
- Community and model schools, operated by local communities with the support of the state
- Institutional schools, run by non-state actors with the permission of the government.
The 2015 Constitution enshrines the right to equality, prohibiting any form of discrimination 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 grounds’ (Art. 18). It lays down the right to access to basic education for ‘all citizens’ (Art. 31). As an example of inclusive education provision, the 1971 Education Act, through the Seventh Amendment in 2001, establishes free education in community schools for learners from poor households, girls, Dalits and Janjati (Art. 16.D.2).
Education of indigenous peoples and Dalits, women and minorities is addressed in the National Human Rights Action Plan 2010–2013. Adopted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, the 2004–15 National Plan of Action for Children also dedicates a specific section to education and sets objectives including gender equality, the establishment of an inclusive and responsive education system for children with special learning needs, and the promotion of a child-friendly teaching and learning environment.
In the education sector, the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy for the School Education Sector provides a broader framework of equity and inclusion in education. Along its eight dimensions of equity, including gender, socio-economic status, geographical location, health and nutrition status, disabilities, caste and ethnicity, language and vulnerable groups, the strategy aims to provide equitable access, participation and learning outcomes to learners with disabilities, students from poor, remote or low-caste households and/or those belonging to disadvantaged ethnic groups. The Consolidated Equity Strategy intends to address equity issues by developing a composite Equity Index and to inform planning documents with its need-based approach.
Marking an important step in the restructuring of the education system, the 2009–15 School Sector Reform Plan refers to inclusion in education specifically for early childhood education and aims to ensure all children’s access to and participation in education. With reference to free basic education, special provisions are dedicated to students in Karnali Zone, students from Dalit communities, girls and students with disabilities.
The 2015 Constitution dedicates specific provisions to ensuring the right of education of persons with disabilities. The latter are entitled to free higher education (Art. 31.3) and to free education through Braille and sign language in the case of visually impaired and hearing-impaired learners, respectively (Art. 31.4).
The 1982 Disabled Protection and Welfare Act was the first act intended to protect and promote the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, including the right to education. It was replaced by the 2017 Disability Rights Act, enacted to domesticate the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Based on a human rights-based approach to disability, the act was formulated by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in close collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the sector, including the National Federation of the Disabled Nepal. Reiterating the non-discrimination provision (Art. 21.5), the act intends to provide education through alternative means, such as Braille, sign language and technological devices (Art. 21.6), as well as disability-friendly teaching and learning materials (Art. 21.11).
In the education sector, persons with disabilities are categorized as physically impaired, intellectually impaired, hearing impaired, visually impaired, low vision, hearing and visually impaired, and with vocal and speech-related disabilities. The 2006 National Policy and Plan of Action on Disability reaffirms the right of education for children with disabilities through free special education provision, but it also mentions inclusive education as a means to increase education opportunities according to the principle of proximity. More recently, the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy draws particular attention to persons with disabilities, acknowledging their marginalization in terms of access to and participation in education. Among its aims, it seeks to expand existing assessment and referral mechanisms and targeted services to these learners.
In 2017, an Inclusive Education Policy for Persons with Disabilities was adopted. Informed by the principle of non-discrimination, the policy document reaffirms the right to all children with disabilities to be educated in their own communities but also allows for the possibility of educating them in separate settings. A Master Plan to operationalize the policy in terms of infrastructure accessibility, teacher training and flexibility of the curriculum is expected to be developed.
The 2015 Constitution explicitly prohibits child marriage as a punishable offense (Art. 39.5). The 2006 Gender Equity Act is a cornerstone act that amends other acts to guarantee gender equality within the country’s legal framework. With reference to child marriage, the 2002 Eleventh Amendment to the Muluki Ain sets the legal age of marriage as 20 years for both men and women.
The 2016 National Strategy to End Child Marriage provides an overarching policy framework to combat child marriage and promotes legal accountability. It further calls for reviewing laws and policies related to child marriage in line with constitutional and international human rights standards. The Strategy for Gender Equality in Girls’ Education and the 2010 Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy represent the most recent actions specifically targeting gender and have been implemented through various programmes with the support of development partners. The 100% Girls’ Scholarship Programme (GSP), for example, has been a key intervention in fulfilling the commitment of ensuring marginalized and disadvantaged girls’ access to education, as has the Girls’ Education Fund, targeted at Dalit students and girls with disabilities at higher secondary and university levels. The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan intends to increase girls’ participation in and completion of basic education, institutionalizing a focal point network to address gender-based violence in schools. Strengthening protection mechanisms in schools, home and community is also among the actions of the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy, which plans to increase awareness on gender-sensitive and safe learning environments.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The 2015 Constitution enshrines the right of indigenous people to obtain education in their mother tongue. It further promotes the reservation and use of each community's language, script, culture, cultural civilization and heritage (Art. 32.3). A specific provision is dedicated to the rights of Dalits, who are entitled to free education from the primary to higher education level (Art. 40.2) and to use, preserve and develop their traditions and knowledge (Art. 40.4). The 1971 Education Act, as amended in 2006 through the Education and Sports Related Amendment Act, states that English and/or Nepali are the media of instruction; however, education up to primary level can be given in the mother tongue (Art. 7.2[a]).
Acknowledging that children belonging to the Chepang ethnic group report the lowest rate of access to basic education, followed by students from Dalit communities, the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy intended to implement targeted interventions based on disaggregated data, including the provision of scholarships and grants and education in the first language at the primary level. It further aimed to develop a medium of instruction (MOI) policy to address linguistic diversity in schools.
With more than 120 languages spoken, 1 in 2 people in the country do not have Nepali as their first language. International partners have been engaged in promoting education in the mother tongue. For instance, the Finnish government carried out the Multilingual Education Programme for All Non-Nepali Speaking Students of Primary Schools in Nepal, and the World Bank and Denmark’s development cooperation have jointly contributed to promoting bilingual teaching through the Vulnerable Community Development Plan for Nepal Education for All Programme. The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan intends to implement a policy for the medium of instruction and mother tongue education to introduce a trilingual medium of instruction and promote Nepali as a subject for children whose first language is not Nepali.
The 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper has been implemented with a focus on, among other aspects, social inclusion through participation and empowerment of women and of marginalized or vulnerable groups and communities.
Migrants and refugees
A national refugee and statelessness legal protection framework has not been adopted and refugee children often do not have access to education.
Under the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education is primarily responsible for the management of inclusive school education. It also coordinates governmental agencies acting in the field. On the other hand, a Special Education Unit (SCU) is involved in specific activities for the promotion of special education, such as public awareness programmes and data collection.
A Special Education Council, chaired by the Minister of Education, is responsible for policy formulation in the field of special education and coordinates related programmes. It is an intergovernmental body involving the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, the National Planning Commission, the National Disabled Federation and the Ministry of Finance.
The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan intends to strengthen institutional capacity to provide inclusive education for children with disabilities and special needs and to increase cooperation with non-state actors to cater for the needs of children with complex or severe disabilities.
Alongside the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare remains the focal point for the coordination of activities within governmental and non-governmental institutions whose activities are targeted at persons with disabilities.
The Department of Education works in partnership with central level agencies and local bodies.
The 2013 Guidelines on Physical and Information Accessibility of Persons with Disabilities aim to regulate accessibility to schools in general for students with disabilities, while the 2010 national Child-Friendly School framework aims to promote the establishment of child-friendly learning environments.
The secondary-level education curriculum was revised to embrace gender-friendly content and a new curriculum has been developed taking into account this principle.
The Curriculum Development Centre has developed textbooks for primary level and supplementary reading materials in 22 mother tongues. The Central Department of Linguistics of Tribhuvan University has been involved in developing textbooks in seven different languages. The content takes into account communities’ sociocultural contexts.
The National Center for Educational Development is responsible for providing training for school teachers. Although there is no mandatory teacher training policy on inclusive education, several education plans, such as the Basic and Primary Education Project and the Secondary Education Support Programme, refer to teacher training and professional development. The Teacher Professional Development programme, launched with the School Sector Reform Plan, is a recent example in the sector.
The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan aims to establish professional development courses based on a child-centred and an active learning approach, inclusive education, formative assessment and differentiation to meet the learning needs of every student.
The National Center for Education Development has implemented a Gender Awareness Module within the Teachers’ Professional Development module.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The National Center for Education Development (NCED) collaborates with the Curriculum Development Centre, which develops textbooks and learning materials. With reference to inclusive teacher training, the latter has been engaged with local non-government organizations in providing materials in diverse local languages, while the NCED has offered in-service training to mother-tongue teachers. Other initiatives have been promoted; for example, Save the Children Norway has supported local districts in providing training to native language-speaking teachers, while UNESCO has supported the Project Literacy programme for ethnic minorities based on bilingual and multilingual methods.
Nepal provides annual state education reports.
The report includes both qualitative and quantitative information and reviews the implementation of the School Sector Development Program, which encompasses the formal and non-formal education sectors.
The 2016–23 School Sector Development Plan aims to institutionalize the use of the Equity Index to rank, analyse and compare prevalence, composition and trends of education disparities within and across districts. Developed by the Ministry of Education with support from UNICEF, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education, the Equity Index includes disparity-based formulas and derives data from household- and school-based census, including information on gender, location, socio-economic background, ethnicity and caste, and disability. Launched in 2017 to operationalize the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy for the School Education Sector, the Equity Index informs both national and local planning and budget allocation with the aim to address deprivation across districts and sub-districts.