An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found. However, the Department of Education is working in partnership with the International Federation and the British Council to develop a political framework for the development of equal and inclusive education. The framework is aimed at integrating people with special needs into ordinary schools with their peers.
Special education needs
The 2009 National Inclusive Education Project targets the blind and the poor-sighted, the physically disabled, people with hearing impairments, with learning difficulties and slow learning, and students with speech and communication difficulties. According to the Iraqi National Scientific Committee on Special Education, a ‘slow learning child’ is ‘a normal child in his general framework but one who finds a difficulty for one reason or another to attain the average educational level his normal peers attain. Moreover, he is not to be classified within the category of the mentally-retarded people.’
Law 38 of 2013 on the Care of Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs defines persons with special needs as those who ‘have a malfunction in performing their role or tasks in education, sport, in the professional environment or in the context of family relations, in comparison with their peers of the same age and socio-economic background’ (Art. 1 [ii]).
Iraq is divided in 18 governorates/provinces, 15 in Central and Southern Iraq (CSI) and three in the northern part of the country. These two governments have two distinct ministries of education. The education of persons with disabilities takes place in special or mainstream settings, where they integrate special education classes, namely parallel classes for learners with special education needs. If the organization of education for learners with visual, hearing and physical impairments is nearly the same in the two governments, some differences exist in the duration of the courses. For example, learners with visual impairments attend special institutes until grade 6 in CSI and until grade 9 in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). A recent study illustrated that there are large differences in the number of special institutes and the students enrolled among cities and governments. For example, in Baghdad, Anbar and Babil special schools target mainly those with hearing and intellectual impairments, while the share of students with visual and hearing impairments is about the same in the special schools in Basra.
During the discussion on the impact of armed conflict on people with disabilities between the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Iraqi government, it emerged that different arrangements exist to educate persons with disabilities. For example, there are separated classes for children with disabilities as well as special courses from stages 1 to 4. As of 2019, there were 1,325 schools with special classes for children with disabilities, of which 107 were in rural areas.
Article 14 of the Ministerial Decree No. 22 of 2011 mandates the Ministry of Education to create special classes and schools where students who are ‘slow learners or have visual or hearing weakness’ can be taught. The decree does not make any mention of offering opportunities for integration of those students nor does it specify other forms of physical or mental disabilities.
The 2011–20 national education strategy aimed to increase the number of regular public schools that offer special education for students with special needs to 7,500 schools. However, in 2018, in collaboration with the European Union and the British Council, the Government of Iraq worked on a national framework to develop equal and inclusive education, which also involved working towards integrating special needs education into its already existing government public schools. This process entails equipping the schools, preparing the necessary curricular and teaching materials and training teachers and supervisors.
Iraq ratified the Convention Against Discrimination in Education in 1977 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994. The right to access education for all children at all levels is enshrined in Article 34 of the Iraqi Constitution. It is reaffirmed in the 2011–20 National Strategy for Education and Higher Education and in other legislative instruments, including the 2013 Disability and Special Educational Needs Care Act.
Primary education is mandatory, and the state is committed to combating illiteracy. Free education in all its stages is a right for all Iraqis. Article 8 of the 1998 Law of Education stipulates that primary education is compulsory for all those aged 6 and above.
Article 32 of the Constitution states that ‘the State shall care for the handicapped and those with special needs, and shall ensure their rehabilitation in order to reintegrate them into society, and this shall be regulated by law’. Article 29 lays down the right to education for every child. Parents have the right to respect and care from their children, especially in times of need and disability.
In 2009, the Ministry of Education developed a national plan for inclusive and special needs education (Instruction Reference 4785) committing to ‘establishing primary schools with sufficient periods and classes to ensure the care and education of young people between the ages of 10 and 15 years’, as well as guaranteeing the enrolment of students with learning disabilities in primary schools. It further intended to cater for the needs of ‘slow learners and physically impaired students’ and to ensure that those who are especially talented and gifted receive a sponsorship.
Iraq ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013. Law 38 of 2013 on the Care of Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs aims to raise awareness about disability issues and provide persons with disabilities with equal opportunities, including in education. The law sets out the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to ‘ensure primary and secondary education for persons with disabilities and special needs in accordance with their educational capacities and programmes, their comprehensive educational integration and equal education for this category’ (Art. 15 [ii]). It establishes that the Ministry of Education ‘develops educational curricula’ suitable for children with disabilities, ‘identifies and provides basic requirements and supplies’ to assist children with disabilities in their learning process and ‘provides qualified educational and technical teaching staff to deal with students from early ages upwards’. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is expected to ‘provide educational opportunities for persons with disabilities in accordance with their capacities’ (Art. 15 [iii]).
Iraq ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986 with some reservations; however, there are no specific laws or policies for the inclusion of gender minorities in the education system. As of 2018, 60,000 children (31,200 girls) received warm school uniforms for winter by UNICEF. For the 2018–19 winter response, as of 31 December, UNICEF and partners had reached 90,322 children, including 42,400 girls, in 15 camps across northern Iraq.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Article 35 of the Constitution encourages the promotion of cultural activities ‘in a manner that befits the civilizational and cultural history of Iraq, and it shall seek to support indigenous Iraqi cultural orientations’. Article 4 of the Constitution and Article 16 of the 2011 Ministerial Decree No. 22 on Education enshrine the right to be educated in the mother tongue. Turkmen, Assyrian and Armenian are expected to be taught in public schools in accordance with education guidelines. The Constitution also encourages ‘opening schools that teach the two languages, in accordance with the educational guidelines’ (Art. 4). Along these lines, the Decree No. 22 on Education outlines the country’s commitment to linguistic and cultural diversity.
Article 2(7) of the 1998 Law of Education lists the key objectives of the education system and emphasizes the importance of religious education and ethics to help teach Islam based on the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad.
People living in rural or remote areas
The 2011–20 national education strategy highlighted the need to expand the number of schools established, especially in remote and rural areas. The 2018–20 Poverty Alleviation Strategy aimed to design programmes for illiteracy eradication in poor urban and rural areas.
The 2018–20 Poverty Alleviation Strategy set out among its priorities the improvement of education quality and opportunities for the poor by expanding education provision, literacy and vocational training and by improving nutrition in schools. Particular emphasis was laid on girls in rural areas. The strategy’s fourth goal aimed to guarantee good and suitable education and opportunities for lifelong education. The strategy highlighted the need for future assistance for the education of children from poor households. It further intended to implement school nutrition programmes, including by helping schools produce the needed meals as well as providing needed training for the school staff. The 2018–22 National Development Plan also commits to enhancing the education of the poor among its key objectives.
Article 11(1) of the 1998 Law of Education mandates the Ministry of Education to establish primary schools for shorter periods and specific classes in order to support 10–15-year-old adolescents who have been delayed in enrolling and attending school. Article 26 encourages the setting of night shifts in schools to accommodate those who might need to combine work with education.
The 2011–20 National Strategy for Education aimed to increase to 28 the number of public schools that offer support for gifted students. Article 11(2b) of the 1998 Law of Education establishes classes and schools to ensure the education and support of gifted and talented students.
Internally displaced persons and refugees
Iraq has not yet ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. However, the 2018–20 Poverty Alleviation Strategy includes the need to integrate and provide full basic education to children of internally displaced families among its key strategic activities. UNICEF Iraq has provided humanitarian support activities to ensure that children affected by the conflict have the opportunity to be educated, for example, by rehabilitating damaged schools, providing new learning spaces and teaching and learning supplies, and establishing teacher incentives alongside training on education in emergency. To reduce financial barriers to learning faced by children affected by conflict, displacement or poverty, UNICEF Iraq and partners delivered monthly cash assistance for each child.
The responsibility for the education of students with disabilities is shared between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Ministry of Education holds the responsibility of education in mainstream schools, while the latter oversees special schools along with institutional care and the provision of benefits to cover food, transport and social care facilities. While Article 11(2a) of the 1998 Law of Education regulated the Ministry of Education’s responsibility for establishing classes and schools only for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities, including with hearing and visual impairments, the 2013 Disability and Special Needs Act gave the full responsibility to the ministry for the education of learners with disabilities, in either special or mainstream settings.
The oversight of the welfare of persons with hearing, physical, visual and intellectual impairments attending special institutes is part of the mandate of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which also organizes trainings for teachers in mainstream schools to teach students with disabilities. This include the provision of sign language training for those who teach students with hearing impairments.
Article 2(9) of the Law of Education regulates the creation of institutions for adult education and provide the needed resources and infrastructure. The 2018–20 Poverty Alleviation Strategy aimed to build, rehabilitate and conduct regular maintenance of schools in poor areas, including improving infrastructure such as green spaces, spaces for sports and entertainment, and suitable accessible toilets for both genders. The strategy highlighted that 144 new schools were built in some of the poor areas and that mud schools were demolished.
The UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme provides WASH facilities in schools, including separate latrines for children with disabilities.
Article 15 of the 2013 Law on the Care of Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs lays down the right to basic and secondary education for children and young students with disabilities and special needs through curricula suitable to their learning needs and abilities. The Ministry of Education’s efforts in this respect include revising curricula and teaching methods. In both CSI and KRG, the general curriculum is delivered with adaptations according to the type of impairments and disabilities. Learners with hearing impairments can also receive part of the curriculum in sign language.
Concerning assessment, those with visual impairment undertake the official exams with mathematics omitted, while those with physical impairment undertake both primary and intermediate exams. Students with visual impairments receive the support of a reader and scribe during exams.
The Iraqi government continues to provide support for pre-service as well as in-service training for teachers; however, there is no clear indication of the specific training or professional development available for teachers specialized in inclusive education for all learners. UNICEF sensitizes teachers on inclusive education, needs identification and referral. The 2018–20 Poverty Alleviation Strategy prioritizes the training of rural teachers.
No information has been found on a monitoring system on inclusion in education.