The Department of Education (DOE) defines inclusive education as the “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 traget girls and women, children with disabilities, Dalit children, children belong to ethnic groups, street children, children affected by conflict situations, those affected by trafficking and sexual abuse, children from poor households, children of bonded laborers, children in jail, children affected by HIV/AIDS, child labours, children studying in Madrasa Gumba or monasteries and refugees.
The School Sector Development Plan 2016-2023 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 started to be provided in special schools, according to the type of disability. Schools for learners with hearing impairments, physically and intellectual disabilities were set up. In the late 1980s, state education provision was integrated by schools run by NGOs, 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 provides 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 School Sector Development Plan 2016-2023 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 are 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 provide religious education and run by religious institutions, such as gumbas - Buddhist monasteries, gurukuls – Vedic schools, and madrasas – Muslim education institutions,
- Community and model schools are operated by local communities with the support of the state,
- Institutional schools are run by non-state actors with the permission of the government.
The 2015 Constitution enshrines the right to equality, prohibiting any forms 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 (art. 18). It lays down the right to access to basic education for “all citizens” (art. 31). As 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).
As cross-cutting area, education, indigenous peoples and Dalits, women and minorities are addressed in the National Human Rights Action Plan 2010–2013. Adopted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, the 2014-2015 National Child Policy also dedicates a specific section to education and sets out among its objectives 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-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 the education. Along its eight dimensions of equity, including gender, the socio-economic status, the geographical location, health and nutrition status, disabilities, case and ethnicity, language and children of vulnerable group, the Strategy aims to provide equitable access, participation and learning outcomes to learners with disabilities, students from poor, remote, low caste households and/or belonging to disadvantaged ethnic groups. The Consolidated Equity Strategy intends to address equity issues by developing a composite Equity Index and inform other country’s planning documents with its need-based approach.
Marking an important step in the restructuring of the education system, the 2014-2015 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, from Dalit communities, girls and students with disabilities.
The 2015 Constitution dedicates specific provisions to the right of education of persons with disabilities. The latter are entitled to free higher education (art. 31.3) and to access 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 (DPW) was the first Act that intended to protect and promote the rights and interests of the 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 (MoWCSW) in close collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the sector, including the National Federation of the Disabled Nepal (NFDN). 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 in physical impaired, intellectual 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 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. The Strategy aims therefore to expand, among others, existing assessment and referral mechanisms and targeted services to the concerned 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 provide them with opportunity to receive education 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 of Nepal explicitly prohibits child marriage as a punishable offense (art.39.5). The 2006 Gender Equity Act is the cornerstone Act that amends some country’s Acts in order 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 Girl’s Education, and the 2010 the 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% Girl’s Scholarship Programme (GSP), for example, has been a key intervention in fulfilling the commitment of ensuring marginalized and disadvantaged girls’ access to education as well as the Girls’ Education Fund targeted at Dalit girl students and girls with disabilities at higher secondary and university levels. The SSDP 2016-2023 intends to increase girls’ participation and completion of basic education institutionalizing focal point network to address gender-based violence in schools. Strengthening protection mechanisms in schools, home and community is also part of the actions of the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy, which plans to increase awareness on gender sensitive and safe learning environment.
Ethnic and languistic groups
The 2015 Nepal Constitution enshrines the right of indigenous people to obtain education in their mother tongue. It further promotes the reservation and use of 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 2063/2006 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 imparted in the mother tongue (art. 7.2(a)).
Acknowledging that children belonging to Chepang ethnic group report the lowest access rate to basic education, followed by students from Dalit communities, the 2014 Consolidated Equity Strategy intends to implement targeted interventions based on the collection of disaggregated data, including the provision of scholarships and grants and education in the first language at the primary level. Among others, it further aims to develop a Medium of Instruction (MOI) Policy to address linguistic diversity in schools.
With more than 120 languages spoken, 1 in 2 person in the country does not have Nepali as first language. International partners have been engaged in promoting education in the mother tongue. For instance, the Finnish Technical Assistance Support carried out a Multilingual Education Programme for all non-Nepali Speaking Students of Primary Schools in Nepal, the World Bank and the Denmark’s development cooperation have jointly contributed to promoting bilingual teaching through Vulnerable Community Development Plan for Nepal Education for All Programme. The SSDP 2016-2023 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 different from Nepali.
The 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper has been implemented focusing on, among others, social inclusion through participation and empowerment of women, 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 (DoE) 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 (SEC), chaired by Minister of Education (MoE), holds the responsibility for policy formulation in the field of special education and coordinates the related programmes. It is an intergovernmental body, involving the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW), National Planning Commission (NPC), National Disabled Federation (NDF), and the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
The SSDP 2016-2023 intends to strengthen the institutional capacity to provide inclusive education for children with disabilities and special needs and to increase the cooperation with non-state actors to cater for the needs of children with complex or severe disabilities.
Alongside the MoE, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MOWCSW) 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 (DoE) work in partnership with Central level Agencies (CLAs) 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 Framework for Child Friendly Schools aims to introduce the establishment of a child friendly learning environment.
The secondary level education curriculum was revised to embrace a gender-friendly content and a new curriculum has been developed taking into account this principle.
The Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) has developed textbooks for primary level and supplementary reading materials in 22 mother tongues. The Central Department of Linguistics of the Tribhuvan University has been involved in developing textbooks in seven different languages. The content takes into account the socio-cultural contexts of the communities.
The National Center for Educational Development (NCED) 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, the Secondary Education Support Programme refer to teacher training and professional development. The Teacher Professional Development (TPD) programme, launched with the School Sector Reform Plan, has been a recent example in the sector.
The SSDP 2016-2023 aims to establish professional development courses based on child-centred and active learning approach, inclusive education, formative assessment and differentiation to meet the learning needs of every student.
The National Center for Education Development (NCED) has implemented a Gender Awareness Module within the Teachers’ Professional Development programme.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The National Center for Education Development (NCED) collaborates with the Curriculum Development Center (CDC), which develops textbooks and learning materials. With reference to inclusive teachers training, the latter has been engaged with local NGOs in providing materials in diverse local languages, while the NCED 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 (SSDP), which encompasses the formal and non-formal education sectors.
The SSDP 2016-2023 aims to institutionalize the use of the Equity Index to rank, analyze 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 GPE, 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.