Both the 2013 Law on Education (art. 4.5) and the 2014 Law on State Guarantees of the Rights of the Child (art. 36.6) define inclusive education as the conditions for children with disabilities to access and/or receive education in regular education institutions, as reiterated in the 2019 Voluntary National Review (VNR).
Special education needs
An explicit definition of special education needs has not been found.
As prescribed by the 2013 Law on Education, children with physical or mental disabilities may access regular schools; however, special schools still provide segregated education to learners who cannot attend inclusive settings because of health reasons (4.5). The latter may attend remedial pre-school, classes or groups which have been established by type of disabilities, such as:
- preschool institutions for children with speech disorders;
- preschool institutions for children with mental disability;
- preschool institutions for children with physical disorders;
- preschool institutions for children with visual impairments;
- preschool institutions for children with hearing impairments;
- preschool institutions for children affected by early tuberculosis symptoms.
Children who need long-term treatment are admitted to special remedial-health schools or may alternatively receive education at home. As of 2013, there were two special schools targeted at orphans and children without parental care in the capital city of Ashgabat and in Balkanabat.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Consisting of specialists in health care and special teachers, such as psychologists, speech therapists, defectologists, medico-pedagogical commissions are responsible for identifying children with speech disorders, physical (motor, visual, and hearing) impairments, and intellectual disabilities and referring them to specialized institutions. They are also in charge of retransferring these children from one specialized institution to another. Parents are not required to be consulted.
The 2008 Constitution of Turkmenistan, as amended in 2016, enshrines the right to education for every citizen. It ensures free education in public education institutions (art. 55). Equal rights and freedoms are guaranteed regardless of “nationality, skin colour, gender, origin, property and official status, place of residence, language, religion, political beliefs, and other circumstances” (art.28). The 2014 Law on State Guarantees of the Rights of the Child, amended in 2016, extends the non-discrimination protections to include education and health conditions (art. 4.). It recognises the right to education for all as inalienable constitutional right and commits to encouraging the children’s education and talent development (art. 18).
In education, the transition to a 12-year secondary education system guided by the Concept on Transition to 12 Year General Secondary Education made it necessary to revise the Education Act in 2013. The Law on Education embraces inclusive education for children with disabilities (art. 4.5), special education is provided to orphans and children without parental place and for learners in need of long-term treatment (art. 19).
A broader concept of inclusiveness, referring to all learners irrespective of their nationality, gender, origin, socio-economic backgrounds, residence, religion, language and abilities, was included in the 2016 Policy to Ensure Quality Education and Learning Environment, formulated with technical support by UNICEF. It includes gender sensitivity and accessibility to a safe and protective education environment among its objectives. As part of the general education reform, the policy aims to improve the education services by strengthening, among others, teacher training and the monitoring system.
As prescribed in the Fundamental Law, persons with disabilities and orphans are guaranteed special state support. Providing the legal framework for the social system, the 2007 Social Security Code prohibits discrimination based on disability, understood as any “distinction, exclusion or preference” that restricts the fulfillment of persons with disabilities’ rights and freedoms (art.146). Likewise, discrimination on the grounds of disability is prohibited by the 2014 Law on State Guarantees of the Rights of the Child, amended in 2016 (art.42.1), which also stresses the need to take into consideration the individual abilities and interests of children with disabilities for their full development (art.42.3). The Law explicitly mentions the state’s commitment to to providing children with disabilities with regular education, according to an inclusive approach (art. 36.6). Yet, the legal framework still reflects a medical approach to disability.
In education, the 2013 Law on Education lays out the conditions for the education of persons with physical and/or mental disabilities in regular education institutions. Special schools are maintained to impart education to children who cannot attend regular schools due to health reasons, providing them with adequate pedagogical approaches (art.4.5).
Gender equality is enshrined in the 2008 Constitution of Turkmenistan (art.29). This constitutional principle is reaffirmed in the 2015 Law on State Guarantees of Ensuring Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which reiterates equal gender opportunities in all spheres of public life (art.3) and prohibits any form of discrimination on the grounds of sex (art.6). A National Action Plan on gender equality 2015-2020 was adopted with support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Plan defines the strategies and priorities to achieve gender equality, including in the education sector.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Turkmen is recognised as the official language of the state by Constitution, while the right to use other native languages is guaranteed to all citizens (art.21). As stated in the 2013 Law on Education, the Turkmen language is taught in all education institutions (art.5.2), while the study of native languages other than Turkmen is assisted by the state as prescribed by law (art.5.3). Non-state education institutions can use other languages as medium of instruction, but the state language is requested to be used to teach the national component of the educational programme (art.5.5).
At present, only Turkmen is comprehensively taught. Students from Uzbek and Kazakh ethnic groups have limited opportunities to access to higher education, as national university entrance exams are in Turkmen. Therefore, the enrollment rate in the Uzbek and Kazakh schools has been progressively declining.
As established by the 2017 Law on Refugees, asylum seekers (art.8), persons recognized as refugees (art.15) and persons entitled to special protection (art.16) have the right to access pre-school and general secondary education on the same terms of the citizens of the country (art. 8.9, 15.6, 16.5). Educational authorities are mandated to provide access to education to minors and take measures to protection the rights and interests of unaccompanied minors (art. 18.8).
Among its regulatory and executive functions, the Ministry of Education is responsible for developing the conditions for enrolment into state education institutions, setting standards and keeping records of learners’ access, participation and completion of compulsory education. As specified in the Regulation 3824/1998 About approval of the Regulations on the Ministry of Education of Turkmenistan and its structure, the Ministry is also in charge of providing regular transportation services to education institutions for learners living in rural areas and of improving the professional development of education personnel. While the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection coordinates and organizes the provision of social services to persons with disabilities, the Ministry of Healthcare is responsible for the medico-social disability identification and assessment.
As regulated by the Decree 431/1991 On Actions for the Improvement of Work of Special Educational Institutions for Children and Adolescents with Physical or Mental Development Impartments, the Ministry of Education is also entrusted with the coordination responsibility for the organisation and provision of special education services at all department levels and targeted at all type of disabilities.
Different ministries are involved in the social protection of children with disabilities, including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Healthcare and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of Turkmenistan. A coordination structure is missing. The fragmentation of the sector persists at the local level, where executive authorities (hakimliks) and local public authorities (gengesh) are not coordinated in approaching disability.
Concerning gender, the Cabinet of Ministries is the authorized body to ensure gender equality, from the definition of legislative mechanisms to their implementation (Chapter 2 - Law on Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Women and Men).
According to the 2007 Social Security Code, state authorities at all levels are mandated to ensure accessibility of public buildings, facilities and premises to persons with disabilities and to facilitate the use of public transportation, communication and information (art.162-163, as amended in 2008 and 2009).
Curriculum and learning materials
With support of UNICEF, the Child Friendly School Initiative (CFS) starting from 2006 has led to the development of a child-focused approach in CFS resource centres and youth clubs throughout the country. Yet, legislation regulates that curricular activities are fixed and established by the state education department, including lesson timetables. Curricula in special residential schools for deaf children and learners with hearing impairments are designed based on their health conditions, needs and capabilities.
According to the Law on Education, teachers who have been deployed to remote villages are entitled to appropriate social conditions, including a salary benefit (art.45.3).
The 2016 policy to ensure quality education and learning environment aims to train and motivate teachers to address the child’s needs and to revise pre- and in-service curricula.
An inclusive monitoring and reporting mechanisms have not been found.