In the 2015 National Policy for Open and Distance Learning, inclusive education is defined as an ‘approach to teaching and learning based on a philosophy and pedagogical practices that allow each learner to feel respected, confident and safe so as to better promote the development of his or her full potential.’
Inclusion in the Seychelles education system concerns ‘increasing the participation of all children in learning and play [and] helping every child to develop his or her full potential, regardless of race, gender or any disability that he or she might have. It is also about supporting settings to become responsive to children and young people’s backgrounds, interests, experience, knowledge and skills.’
Special education needs
Special educational needs refer to ‘those pupils who for whatever reasons require additional support’. The Inclusive Education Policy, however, targets learners with special education needs and disabilities, i.e. ‘educationally marginalized children’ who are the ‘learners who may need extra or different assistance from that given to other learners of the same age’. Ten different categories of special education needs and disabilities or educationally marginalized children are recognized.
Article 15 of the 2004 Education Act stipulates that ‘the Minister [of Education] shall provide special education programs for learners of compulsory school age, who, by reason of intellectual, communicative, behavioral and physical or multiple exceptionalities, are in need of special education’. Furthermore, ‘A student who is entitled to a special education programme shall have the programme delivered in the least restrictive and most enabling environment.’ Examples of special education schools include:
- the School for the Exceptional Child, designed for children with special needs including autism, Down syndrome, visual impairment and physical disabilities
- Au Cap Centre on Mahé for children with hearing impairments
- Baie Ste. Anne Centre on Praslin for children with disabilities.
The Inclusive Education Policy claims that the practice of ‘mainstreaming’ learners with disabilities should be an integral part of national plans for achieving education for all. Learners should be placed in special schools only in ‘exceptional cases’ and ‘their education need not be entirely segregated’. Part-time attendance at regular schools is also encouraged with primary and secondary schools and special schools. Special schools serve as training and resource centres for staff in regular schools. In addition, staff of special schools can guide those in mainstream schools in the matching of curricular content and teaching methods to the individual needs of learners.
The Inclusive Education Policy defines an ‘inclusive school’ as:
‘... a school with high expectation of meeting learners’ needs and where these needs are met. This is achieved through the provision of planned and differentiated learning opportunities matching the needs of the individual child. An inclusive school is one in which continuing emphasis on valuing individual differences leads all learners, irrespective of social or cultural background, disability or difficulty in learning. The inclusive school is one where there is a growing body of evidence to show that making schools more inclusive, more responsive to diverse needs, provides opportunities for learners to develop to their utmost potential as prescribed in the National Curriculum Framework.’
Early identification, screening and assessment
Learning difficulties (mild, moderate, severe, profound) and multiple difficulties or disabilities are assessed through IQ or baseline testing, including learners with:
- Learning difficulties who ‘have problems in acquiring basic literacy skills, as well as problems in learning basic self-help skills such as dressing and toileting’
- Specific learning difficulties, who ‘experience difficulties to access the curriculum in the area of language (reading, listening, speaking and writing) and mathematics … not directly associated with intellectual, physical or sensory’
- Speech and language difficulties who have ‘[d]ifficulty or [are] not able to articulate’
- Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties who ‘exhibit inappropriate behaviours or emotions that result in disruptions for themselves or others in their environment’
- Visual difficulties, ‘from those … with glasses (low vision) to those who are blind’.
Seychelles signed the Convention Against Discrimination in Education (2010), the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (1990) and the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (2009). Article 27 of the 1993 Constitution, amended in 2011, states that ‘Every person has a right to equal protection of the law including the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set out in this Charter without discrimination on any ground except as is necessary in a democratic society.’ Furthermore, education ‘shall not be less than ten years’.
One of the purposes of the 2011 Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education is to ‘address the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children’. The 2013 National Assessment Framework emphasizes that assessments should cater for both individual and group diversity. Assessment tasks must be accessible to all children, including those with special needs.
Article 36 of the Constitution asserts that the State recognizes the right of the disabled to special protection. It aims to promote programmes specifically aimed at achieving the greatest possible development of the disabled. The Inclusive Education Policy seeks to provide the right to education for all learners regardless of the degree of their disability and ‘the right of education for learners who are non-disabled together with those who are disabled in a learning environment where they can learn from, appreciate and value each other’. The right of learners with disability to continue their education to tertiary level is also highlighted. Disabled students in Praslin have access to free, specialized transportation.
The 2002–15 Plan of Action for Gender Equality in Education aimed to ensure that all the processes of schooling (content, medium and context) are gender responsive. The Inclusive Education Policy underlines the importance of gender equality. Finally, the Education Sector Medium-Term Strategic Plan for 2013–17 ‘and beyond’ put in place mechanisms to reduce gender gaps by 10% by 2017.
People living in rural or remote areas
The National Policy for Open and Distance Learning states that providers shall promote flexibility in the provision of open and distance learning and ensure that the related institutional structures are dynamic and respond to the changing demands and needs of learners.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Article 21.3 of the Constitution states that ‘a person attending any place of education shall not be compelled to impart or receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance.’ The 2013–17 education strategic plan highlights the importance of increasing cultural diversity in promoting identity. Creole is the medium of instruction in Crèche, P1 and P2; English is the language of instruction from P3 onwards.
The 2008 National School Nutrition Policy, developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, guides schools towards the promotion of healthy eating and general well-being. It provides information to schools to reach large portions of the population, including young people, school personnel, families and community members, stating, ‘Schools offer more effective, efficient and equal opportunities than any other setting to promote health and healthy eating.’
The Ministry of Education has the lead responsibility for the implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy and established a Special Needs Unit in 2013. It sets the direction of education policies for schools, establishes standards for assessing student achievement and approves textbooks and learning materials. Locally, primary schools have one special education needs coordinator working alongside teachers and assisting students with learning difficulties.
Interventions must seek strategic partnerships and collaboration, in particular with the Ministry of Health and Social Services and specialist resource centres. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health are jointly responsible for student placement. The National Council for Disabled Persons offers vocational training and skills development programmes for students with disabilities to enable them to enter the world of work.
The Inclusive Education Policy recognizes the need for better coordination and calls for a coordinating team to monitor its implementation to be set up. The third strategic goal is to set up ‘Specialist Resource Centres for all persons involved in special education at the School for the Exceptional Child’.
The Inclusive Education Policy states that the Ministry of Education should ensure that existing infrastructure and facilities are upgraded to comply with the norms and specifications stipulated by international agreements such as the International Standard for Building Construction (ISO/FDIS 21542). The policy seeks to provide the right for teachers working in the regular school system to be offered training and facilities to help integrate children with disabilities in regular schools. In addition, it underlines the need to develop and implement a special needs curriculum for learners within an inclusive setting as well as alternative methods of assessing and measuring achievements.
The 2013–17 strategic plan stresses the importance of providing special needs equipment to improve attainment and re-evaluating the adequacy of existing infrastructure for students with disabilities (only one post-secondary institution is equipped with a toilet for students with disabilities). It was expected that by 2017 all schools would have upgraded facilities such as ramps, rails in restrooms, increased door width for wheelchair users and appropriate furniture.
Curriculum and learning materials
The 2013 National Curriculum Framework recognizes that learning and teaching ‘have to respond to the needs of different learning styles and to the abilities, talents, identities and experiences of all learners, irrespective of their gender, race, physical abilities, religious and socio-linguistic background, social or financial status.’ The Inclusive Education Policy aims ‘to develop and implement special need curriculum for learners within an inclusive setting.’
The Ministry of Education had to define the standard for pedagogical materials by mid-2015. As of 2017, all schools should have enough pedagogical materials, up-to-date textbooks and teaching guides.
The National Policy for Open and Distance Learning asserts that inclusive education and training is not adequately integrated in programmes and services, noting, ‘There is limited information regarding inclusive practice in programs delivered through open and distance learning or about various categories of learners who have experienced learning through open and distance learning.’ Similarly, the 2014–19 Information Communications Technology in Education and Training Policy prioritized the procurement of specialized technologies and software for learners with special education needs.
According to the Inclusive Education Policy, the training of teachers in regular schools should include modules on special education needs and the training of special education needs coordinators should include a wide range of modules on special education needs and disabilities. Special schools or centres serve as training and resource centres for staff in regular schools. The resource centres have the mandate to provide resources for the continuous professional development of teachers and special education needs coordinators. In addition, external support should be provided by resource personnel (advisory teachers, educational psychologists, speech and occupational therapists) for teachers in inclusive classrooms. In particular, special school staff can guide those in mainstream schools on how to match curricular content and teaching methods to the individual needs of learners.
The 2013–17 strategic plan reaffirms the importance of training all staff in inclusive education and developing and implementing a comprehensive teacher development policy that addresses issues of gender, recruitment, training and deployment of teachers, including part-time teachers. It asserts that no training is available for teachers to teach children with special needs (including gifted children and children with difficulties). The plan set out to explore the possibility of training and employing candidates with disabilities as teachers. Finally, it mentions that that there are no educational psychologists to support schools and that special education needs coordinators are insufficiently trained to cater for the diverse needs of pupils.
Seychelles does not have a national monitoring report. It is, however, a member of the SADC Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality. The Inclusive Education Policy does not provide specific indicators on inclusive education but underlines the need to monitor the individual progress of learners and to hold service providers accountable for the progress made by vulnerable groups.