Education is defined to be inclusive ‘if it does not exclude, does not discriminate or does not create stereotypes on a basis of gender, abilities, ethnic background, social status, health condition or any other’ in the Strategy for the development of continuous education. Including the definition of inclusive education into the 1997 Law on Education is under discussion. As specified by the 2019–23 education sector plan, an inclusive education system is not limited to accepting children with special needs into regular classes without changing the learning environment.
Special education needs
An explicit definition of special education needs has not been found.
Existing legislation does not mandate the state to provide education in inclusive settings. Both the 2008 Law on Social Protection of People with Disabilities (Art. 17) and the 1997 Law on Education (Art. 23) include the opportunity for learners with disabilities to study in special and segregated schools if they fail to fulfil the requirements of regular education.
According to the 2019–23 education sector plan, there are 188 special preschool institutions and 85 boarding schools for children with mental and/or physical disabilities across the country.
Regarding ethnic and linguistic groups, four in five schools use Uzbek as medium of instruction, while Russian, Kazakh, Karakalpak and Tajik are used in 7.6%, 3.5%, 3.3% and 2.2% of general secondary schools, respectively. Kyrgyz and Turkmen together account for less than 1%.
Early identification, assessment and screening
Disability is assessed by a medical examination based on a list of diseases. Physical and severe sensory impairments are also recognized as disabilities, while there is less awareness of less extreme sensory impairments, as well as mental health and behavioural development disorders.
According to the 2008 Law on the Rights of the Child, parents select the type of education institution, either regular or special, in the interest of the child, based on the recommendations of the medical, psychological and pedagogical commission (Art. 29). To access regular education, a special recommendation of the commission is often required, as reported by the United Nations’ 2019 Situation Analysis on Children and Adults with Disabilities.
The 1992 Constitution, as amended in 2011, enshrines the right to education for all, including free secondary education (Art. 41). Particular protection is guaranteed to the rights of minors, persons with disabilities and the elderly (Art. 45). Promoting and protecting the interests and rights of children, the 2008 Law on the Rights of the Child reaffirms the right of every child to obtain education. To fulfil the constitutional right, it mandates the state to ensure free compulsory general secondary, secondary special and vocational education (Art. 23). State support is guaranteed to orphans and children left without parental care or other legal representatives (Art. 27), children in socially vulnerable situations and children with disabilities (Art. 29).
Similar to the constitutional provision on equality and non-discrimination (Art. 18), the 1997 Law on Education, last amended in 2018, lays down the right to obtain education for all, ‘regardless of their gender, language, age, race, ethnicity, beliefs, religion, social background, occupation, social status, residence, duration of living in the Republic of Uzbekistan’ (Art. 4). In 2018, in consultation with UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Bank, the State Inspection for Supervision of Education Quality (SISEQ) worked with the Ministry of Education and other related ministries on a revision of the Law on Education to expand its provisions and dedicate more attention to realizing inclusive education. As specified in the 2019–23 education sector plan, the new document is expected to provide a broader definition of inclusive education, ensuring equal education opportunities to all, ‘regardless of their background, abilities and gender’, and addressing children with all abilities.
After the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, the National Concept of Inclusive Education was adopted to reaffirm the intention to provide quality education to all children regardless of their social, physical and intellectual capabilities. Along these lines, the 2013–17 education sector plan aimed to support the inclusion of children with special needs in regular education by, among other interventions, improving accessibility of infrastructure, raising awareness and enhancing teacher training.
In line with the 2017–21 National Development Strategy, which aims to improve education services and expand preschool and vocational education, the 2019–23 education sector plan has planned for the strengthening of the regulatory framework for the development and implementation of an inclusive education system. The latter includes a social model for needs assessment and identification and the promotion of an accessible learning environment. Among the measures to ensure a safe and enabling learning environment, the Acceptability scheme intends to address violence and exclusion of certain groups of learners due to gender issues and disabilities.
As stated in the 2008 Law on the Rights of the Child, education institutions are required to ensure accessibility for children with disabilities and children with physical and/or mental development difficulties (Art. 25). The latter are entitled to obtain training and education according to a specifically designed programme, appropriate for their capabilities (Art. 29). The 2008 Law on Social Protection of People with Disabilities lays down the right of persons with disabilities to receive education from preschool to higher education (Art. 6), in regular or in special settings, ‘in case of necessity’ (Art. 17). With the aim to expand the system of social protection for the target group, the Decree ‘On measures for fundamental enhancement of public support system of people with disabilities’ includes the government's explicit intentions to regulate the rights of people with disabilities in a comprehensive legislative document.
Existing national legislation does not include disability among the legal protections from discrimination. In education, the current version of the 1997 Law on Education replicates a medical approach for the education provision of children and youth with physical or mental disabilities, providing them with the opportunity to study in segregated special institutions (Art. 23). The new version of the Law on Education is expected to revise the provisions related to students with special needs and to expand their opportunity to study, including in regular or special schools or at home.
Recently, several resolutions have been adopted to facilitate the integration of learners with disabilities and to realize their inclusion. Resolution 2519/2013 of the ministries of Public Education, Health, and Labour and Social Protection of Population, for example, includes the possibility for the psychological-medical and pedagogical committee (PMPC) to recommend education placement or transfer for learners with physical or intellectual disabilities from special schools to another specialized institution or to a regular institution with an inclusive setting. The latter was complemented by the Order 2685/2015 of the Ministry of Education, which specifies the type of disabilities, including mild intellectual disabilities and hearing and/or visual impairments. In 2018, Resolution 417 regulated the procedures for the admission of students with disabilities to higher education based on additional quotas.
As a matter of policy, the 2019–23 education sector plan lays emphasis on the need to promote preschool education for children with disabilities by developing a long-term strategy reflecting an inclusive approach, by enhancing educators’ capacity and by raising awareness of the advantages of inclusion. Across all levels of education, the concept on the development of public education up to 2030 dedicates a specific section to the improvement of quality education services for children with disabilities. Among its actions, it aims to develop a mechanism to implement the right to inclusive education by proving schools with teaching aids and supportive devices, with prepared and multiprofessional personnel and with adequate infrastructure. The strategy also reaffirms the need to improve the education provision of special schools, equipping them with adequate teaching and learning materials and reconsidering their geographic location.
The development of an inclusive education system has also been fostered by multilateral assistance. Most recently, the European Union-funded 2014–16 project Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs, jointly implemented by the National Centre for Social Adaptation of Children with support from the Ministry of Public Education, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance, led to the drafting of a National Long-Term Strategy on Inclusive Education. Piloted in 24 schools and 24 kindergartens, the project promoted the inclusion of 1,500 children with special needs. Inclusive education services were provided, engaging pedagogical experts in special training and opening pilot resource centres in five regions of the country.
As stated in the 1992 Constitution, women and men have equal rights (Art. 46). However, the legislative framework protecting and promoting gender equality is incomplete. In particular, the Law on equal rights and opportunities of women and men has not yet been approved. Other legal documents formulated by the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan to address the concerns raised by the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee, of which Uzbekistan has been a signatory since 1995, are in a pending status, waiting for endorsement by the presidency, including a draft law on strengthening the Committee’s activities.
Gender disparities are significant mainly in higher education. Explanations have been identified in the marriage age and in the location of higher education institutions in urban areas, which hinders enrolment due to costs of accommodation and transportation in addition to a general reluctance to send daughters to study far from families. Within the overall 2017 reform of higher education, the re-launch of distance education programmes in selected higher education institutions may provide an opportunity to girls and women to continue their studies.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Uzbek is the official language of the Republic. A constitutional provision mandates the state to ensure a respectful approach towards the ‘languages, customs and traditions of all nationalities and ethnic groups living on its territory, and create the conditions necessary for their development’ (Art. 4). Likewise, the 1995 Law on the State Language, as amended in 2017, reiterates that ‘all necessary conditions are provided for citizens to learn the state language, to respect the languages of other ethnic groups and people living in the country; and to provide them with the opportunity to choose the language of instruction’ (Art. 4). While general, vocational, technical and higher education are provided in the state language and in other languages (Art. 6), preschool instruction is in Uzbek, and other languages are guaranteed in areas of residence of national linguistic groups (Art. 5).
Upon request of parents and students, special training groups can be set up to teach the native language of local linguistic groups in cities, districts, towns, villages and nomadic villages. General education is provided in seven languages: Uzbek, Karakalpak, Russian, Tajik, Turkmen, Kyrgyz and Kazakh. However, provision is currently challenged by the shortage of available teachers.
People living in rural or remote areas
The 2019–23 education sector plan identifies students of small schools located in remote, mountainous or desert areas as one of the most vulnerable groups of learners in terms of access to quality education, in particular due to the shortage of available and prepared teachers. These schools are included in the programme of infrastructure modernization.
As regards preschool education, a new model of less costly half-day provision in rural areas, introduced in 2013 within the Improving Preprimary and General Secondary Education Project and with support from the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), has increased access.
Particular attention is paid to providing support to children from low-income households and to the education and care of orphans and children without parental care, in accordance with the 2008 Law on the Rights of the Child (Art. 27). The 2008 Regulation ‘On the procedures of paying fees to preschools and boarding schools’, approved by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance, exempted low-income households from paying fees. In 2010, a joint resolution of the Ministry of Public Education and Higher and Secondary Special Education was approved on the provision of additional, fee-based services in educational institutions.
As part of the state assistance, children from poor households have been provided with winter clothing since 2002.
The education system is regulated and governed by the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education and the Ministry of Preschool Education. The latter was established in 2017 as part of the reform of the preschool system. However, cross-sectoral collaboration among line ministries remains weak.
School education management is structured in three levels, namely involving the ministry, territorial and district authorities, for preschool, general secondary and out‐of‐school education, while the district authorities are not involved in specialized secondary vocational education. Higher education is managed exclusively at the national level.
Concerning gender, the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, established in 1991 and led by the deputy prime minister, acts nationwide through a network of branches in every local administrative territorial institution.
Accessibility of transport, facilities and information, including social infrastructure, is regulated by national legislation, which also imposes fines in case of non-compliance. However, as reported by the United Nations’ 2019 Situation Analysis on Children and Adults with Disabilities, the legislative provisions remain unimplemented.
The curriculum for certain type of special schools is currently restricted. In addition, the current legislative and policy framework does not refer to adapted assessment and entry examinations to higher education for people with disabilities, challenging their access to colleges or universities.
With support from UNICEF, the government is currently revising the national curriculum.
In 2004, within the Basic Textbook Development Project for secondary schools, the Asian Development Bank analysed the efficiency of textbook production to increase the quality and relevance of basic education with particular attention to gender. The Second Textbook Development Project followed in 2009 to provide affordable learning and teaching materials and to allow students from poor households to borrow them free of charge.
The strengthening of the training and preparation of educators and pedagogical staff has been addressed in specific government measures. In particular, the 2006 Resolution on the Further Development of the System for Re-training of Pedagogical Staff specified the requirements for in-service teacher training, to occur no less than once every three years. Despite their mandatory nature, however, professional development opportunities are limited.
Currently, annual 40-hour courses on inclusive education have been established, while the Republican Centre for Social Adaptation of Children has introduced a 24-hour programme within an inclusive education project, approved by Tashkent State Pedagogical University.
The 2019–23 education sector plan recognizes the need to raise the capacity of teachers to address the diversity of learners’ education needs. Likewise, the concept on the development of public education up to 2030 raises the issue of introducing appropriate programmes of teacher training on inclusion in higher education institutions.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Although education is provided in multiple languages, teacher training is only provided in three languages, namely Uzbek, Russian and Karakalpak. Since training institutions providing re‐training and professional development lack capacity, teachers teaching in Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen and Kyrgyz receive training either in Uzbek or in Russian.
People living in rural or remote areas
Small schools in rural and remote areas are affected by teacher shortages and, in addition, teachers are not able to attend regular continuous education. To address the issue, the 2019–23 education sector plan recognizes the need for flexible in-service training.
As part of the UN Development Assistance Framework 2010–2015, UNESCO has assisted the Ministry of Public Education with the development of an education management information system (EMIS), piloting the software for data collection and analysis in five schools. The finalization and scaling up of the system is in progress. At present, it includes the School Information System, and it is expected to be expanded to integrate information from other ministries. The Ministry of Preschool Education is currently piloting a subsector EMIS on preschool data with the purpose of harmonizing the information and creating an integrated version across subsectors. Figures about education are also reported by the Open Data Portal of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
As regards children with special education needs, existing data are limited. Data is collected by the National Statistics Committee and line ministries but only concerns learners in special schools and children with an official disability certificate receiving education in special or regular schools, reflecting a persisting medical approach in disability categorization.