According to the 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education, inclusive education is ‘a dynamic process of addressing and responding positively to the diversity needs of individual and groups through participating in learning, cultures, and communities and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education. It involves changes, modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies that include all persons in education system. It is a process that helps expand the education system responsibility in delivering education services to all learners.’
An inclusive education class refers to a ‘class that includes all children in education system both formal and non-formal, without any limitation due to race, behavior, physical, intellectual, society status, language, culture, religion or other specific criteria.’ Conversely, an integrated class refers to ‘a separate class for only learners with disabilities conducted in formal schools.’
Special education needs
As specified in the 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education, a person with special education needs requires ‘additional supports and adaptive pedagogical methods in order to participate and meet learning objectives in an educational program.’ Disadvantages can be ‘physical, behavioral, intellectual’ or may relate to ‘language, culture, migration, living on the streets, poverty, emotional and social capabilities.’
In 2000, in collaboration with the Disability Action Council, a pilot project funded by UNICEF was carried out in one cluster school in Svay Rieng province to include children with disabilities in regular schools. The project has since expanded to 15 provinces, 15 districts, 14 cluster schools and 80 schools. Since 2011, inclusive preschool education programmes have been also implemented.
At present, education provision for blind and deaf children as well as children with learning disabilities occurs in special schools, in inclusive education settings or in integrated classes according to the following breakdown:
- Special education for learners with visual and hearing impairments is provided in five special schools.
- Blind students are progressively integrated, studying half of the school day in regular classes and half in special schools from grade 3 until grade 6. Deaf children are included starting in grade 5.
- Integrated classes for blind and deaf children and learners with learning disabilities are established in regular schools, reaching out to remote areas where there are no special schools. There are nine integrated classes for deaf students in four provinces (Svay Rieng, Takeo, Prey Veng and Preah Sihanuk).
There are 34 floating schools and 1,933 pagoda schools, which are public schools located in pagoda compounds. According to the Ministry of Cults and Religion, 363 Islamic schools provide education across the country, and Buddhist education centres include 272 Buddhist primary schools, 87 Buddhist secondary schools, and 520 Buddhist Dharma schools. Religious schools operate semi-privately, with teachers working as public employees. Alternative care services, including pagoda-based care, residential care options and boarding schools are also considered as means to provide children with access to free and high-quality education, especially those living in rural and remote settings, coming from poor households or experiencing other vulnerabilities.
The state school system provides special education programmes for specific groups through accelerated classes, multi-grade classes and bilingual education services. In the 2014–18 education strategic plan, Cambodia discussed strengthening non-formal education provision, for instance, through school reentry programmes and/or catch-up classes, preschools and other community programmes to cater for the needs of all learners.
Early identification, screening and assessment
The 2008 Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities aims to develop a tool for the identification of children with disabilities and to train school principals, village health workers and support personnel on needs identification based on a checklist and a screening toolkit. In 2017, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) approved inclusive education guidelines to help teachers and school administrators identify children with disabilities.
The 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education intends to ensure early identification and immediate intervention by enhancing collaboration across relevant ministries and institutions to implement the use of the identification toolkit, to assess and promptly intervene and to provide assistive devices and rehabilitation services to facilitate access to education.
The 1993 Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia lays down the right to education for all citizens (Art. 65). Based on the principles of education freedom and quality (Art. 66), free primary and secondary education, for at least nine years, is guaranteed by the constitutional document (Art. 68) and reaffirmed in the 2007 Education Law (Art. 31).
The 2007 Child Friendly School Policy aims to ensure schooling access to children affected by difficult circumstances, such as poor children, girls, orphans, victims of domestic violence, children belonging to ethnic minorities, children affected by HIV/AIDS and other disadvantaged children. Based on that policy, the 2016 New Generation Schools Policy intended to create new standards of accountability and governance to increase the quality of education. Offering all Cambodian children and youth equal education opportunities, regardless of social status, geography, ethnicity, religion, language, gender and physical form, is one of the objectives set forth in the 2014–18 education strategic plan.
As a comprehensive legal instrument for the rights of any person with ‘physical, visual, hearing, intellectual impairments, mental disorders and any other types of disabilities’, the 2009 Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reaffirms that learners with disabilities have the same rights as their peers to access education and financial support (Art. 27). In line with that law and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), ratified in 2013, the 2014–18 National Disability Strategic Plan (NDSP) outlined 10 key strategic objectives and intended to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to quality education and vocational training services (strategic objective 5). Informed by the principle of non-discrimination, it aimed at developing adequate learning materials, including in Braille format, and at providing education using appropriate means of communication and in an adequate environment, particularly for blind, deaf or deafblind children.
To implement the 2014–18 NDSP and strengthen the effectiveness of the 2009 Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in conformity with the provision of the CRPD, a Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency was set out by the Royal Government of Cambodia in 2018 with the aim of informing government activities in the promotion and enhancement of the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.
In education, the Education Law, chapter 7, Articles 38 and 39 addresses special education, specifically mentioning the rights of children with disabilities to learn with their peers and the provision of a special education service for learners with disabilities and gifted and/or talented learners. ‘Disabled persons’ have the right to attend regular education programmes with their peers if they receive facilitation and additional teaching in regular schools or special education in separate special classes. The Education Law also envisages the opportunity to study in community schools at the local level (Art. 39).
In line with the 2007 Child Friendly School Policy and guidelines, the 2008 Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities aims to ensure equal rights to children with disabilities. The Policy reiterates the state’s commitment to identify all children with disabilities within local communities, ensuring them, and especially girls with disabilities, access to and participation in all schools and providing them with appropriate educational services.
Building on the 2008 Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities, the Policy on Inclusive Education was adopted in 2018. With the goal of ensuring that all persons with special needs receive adequate education, the policy aims, in part, to provide access to inclusive and equitable quality education and to provide lifelong learning opportunities. Enforced by the 2019–23 Action Plan on Inclusive Education, it includes the development of individual education plans and a fair assessment mechanism based on the principle of flexibility and reasonable accommodation. Through the introduction of supportive services, it promotes the inclusion of learners with special needs into regular classes, where possible, and in integrated classes for age-appropriate learning across all levels of education.
The 1993 Constitution prohibits any discrimination against women (Art. 45), while the 2007 Education Law recognizes gender equality (Art. 35). Gender has been mainstreamed in policies and plans in education and has been targeted in specific documents, such as the 2011–15 Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Plan and the Strategy for Gender Equity in TVET 2014–18. The 2014–18 Gender Strategic Plan (Neary Rattanak IV) aims to increase women’s and girls’ access to education and vocational training, particularly women from vulnerable groups, such as the aged, poor and disabled, ethnic minorities and those living with HIV, by raising awareness, through scholarships and other financial assistance mechanisms and by promoting gender-responsive social attitudes.
The 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education includes a specific focus on inclusive and equitable quality education for girls and women with special needs. To ensure their enrolment and retention in schools, it intends to provide targeted scholarships, organize awareness activities and take appropriate measures to ensure a safe school environment.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous groups
The 2007 Education Law aims to provide lifelong education to encourage the knowledge and protection of national cultures and languages (Art. 2). The official language of teaching and learning is Khmer and private schools are also requested to include it in their education programmes. The medium of instruction for ethnic and linguistic minorities is determined by the Ministry of Education (Art. 24).
Within the legal framework, a Bilingual Education Commission developed formal guidelines in 2010 on the Implementation of the Bilingual Education Program for Indigenous Children in the Highland Provinces and in 2013 on the Identification of Language for Learners of Khmer Nationality and Ethnic Minority Origin. After a pilot project in 2002, the MoEYS implemented multilingual education (MLE) in primary schools with the support of UNICEF and Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) International, later extending it to pre-primary schools.
With the endorsement of a National Policy for Ethnic Minorities Development in 2008, the MoEYS launched the 2014–18 Multilingual Education National Action Plan (MENAP). The MENAP aimed to ensure inclusive access to ethnic minority girls and boys by promoting capacity building of education officials, providing teaching and learning materials, expanding education infrastructures and converting community schools to state schools. Ethnic minority learners can access preschool and the first three years of primary school in their mother tongue, namely Tumpoun, Kroeng, Ponorng, Kouy, Kroal, Kavet, Kachok, Laotian and Prao. In 2015 and 2016, MENAP was implemented in 18 districts in 5 target provinces, including Ratanakiri, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Kratie, reaching 4 state pre-schools and 80 community pre-schools.
Building upon the previous action plan, the 2019–23 Multilingual Education Action Plan intends to include Charai as an indigenous language, expanding the project to six languages and reaching out to more children in preschool, and to primary and literacy MLE students. The objectives are not only to improve access to inclusive and equitable quality MLE, but also to promote participation of local indigenous communities into school management committees and in the development of mother tongue teaching and learning materials.
Poverty and people living in rural and remote areas
Based on the 2016–25 National Social Protection Policy Framework, a school feeding breakfast programme has been implemented in nine provinces, and scholarship programmes have been introduced at primary education level to encourage school enrolment of children from poor and vulnerable families. A National Scholarship Policy to provide financial support at all education levels is expected to be developed. Creating a Social Equity Fund to enable schools to access extra funds to help poor learners and abolishing unofficial fees are also objectives of the 2016 New Generation Schools Policy, while the 2014–18 education strategic plan also focuses on increasing the rate of primary education enrolment in the most remote areas.
With reference to students with disabilities, the 2009 Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities pays particular attention to those from poor households and establishes that they are entitled to receive free education in public education institutions at all levels and have access to books and materials (Art. 30). In March 2019, the MoEYS announced that students with disabilities who pass high school examinations will be automatically granted with university scholarships.
Cooperation across sectors
In line with the objectives of the 2014–18 national strategic development plan, decentralization has been taking place, with roles and responsibilities being transferred from the national level to sub-national councils, including the management tasks of the MoEYS. With this decentralization in mind, the 2014–18 education strategic plan focused on strengthening the institutional capacity development of education staff.
Increasing the capacity building of sub-national authorities to respond to gender issues in education, including the needs of vulnerable women and girls, in the process of designing and implementing sub-national plans and budgets is also among the objectives of the 2014–18 Gender Strategic Plan.
A working group on children with disabilities involving the Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport and the District of Education, Youth and Sport is expected to be redefined, as stated in the 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education.
Cooperation across government levels
In 2000, the MoEYS set up a Special Education office within the Primary Education Department, charged with the education provision of children with disabilities, ethnic minority children, poor children, girls and other disadvantaged learners. In late 2016, a new Special Education Department (SED) was established to lead implementation of the MENAP in cooperation with the Provincial Offices of Education. The SED also provides teacher training. In parallel, the Indigenous People Development Department, under the Ministry of Rural Development, promotes the living standard of indigenous people, maintaining their cultures, traditions and beliefs.
With reference to disability, the Disability Action Council (composed of the Minister in charge of Social Affairs, concerned ministries, and representatives of disabled people’s organizations and non-government organizations) provides technical advice on disability and rehabilitation issues and assists relevant ministries and institutions in developing and promoting policies, national plans and strategies related to disability. The 2008 Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities aims to enhance collaboration with the Ministry of Health on early intervention interventions and with the Ministry of Social Affairs on rehabilitation actions for children up to age 5. The 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education intends to redefine the working group on children with disabilities at MoEYS level and establish a Social Equity Fund for persons with special needs.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Cambodian National Council for Women are responsible for the promotion of gender equality in the country. Progress has been achieved in strengthening the institutional mechanisms to support gender mainstreaming and collaborations across the line ministries, including the Technical Working Group on Gender as part of the Government-Donor Coordination Committee and Gender Mainstreaming Action Groups.
The 2009 Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities mandates the Ministry of Education to provide accessible facilities for students with disabilities in terms of buildings, classrooms and study places, teaching and learning materials, and other equipment (Art. 29). The 2008 Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities also contains provisions for the implementation of the universal design standards for barrier-free infrastructures (Strategy 3). The intent to develop country-based universal design standards for the construction of all school buildings and good sanitation was reaffirmed in the 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education, which further promotes the construction of dormitories and sporting facilities for learners with special needs.
The 2008 Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities intended to introduce an inclusive education module with appropriate instruction materials to realize a child-friendly school. Deaf and blind students follow the general education curriculum with the support of sign language and Braille.
Within the 2014–18 MENAP, a multilingual education curriculum was developed using Khmer and five indigenous languages (Bunong, Kavet, Kreung, Tampuan and Brao). The 2019–23 Multilingual Education Action Plan intends to expand MLE curriculum and materials for pre- and primary schools in the Charai language and to develop new materials for non-formal education.
As stated in the 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education, the national curriculum and learning and teaching materials are expected to respond to the diverse needs of all learners and are compatible with the individual education programmes.
The MENAP also identified the need to produce locally relevant teaching and learning materials in the mother tongues to reflect the culture and local learning needs of specific language communities. According to the 48/2013 Prakas, ‘Identification of Language for Learners of Khmer Nationality and Ethnic Minority Origin’, the MoEYS has developed bilingual learning materials for students in grades 1 to 3. Sign language and Braille textbooks are provided to deaf and blind students, respectively.
As regards gender, the use of positive images of empowered women and girls and gender-sensitive role models for men and boys has been fostered to promote gender equality in education.
In line with the Teacher Code of Conduct, the 2013 Teacher Policy is designed to develop the competencies and accountability of the teacher workforce by, among other measures, developing teacher-training centres, providing in-service trainings and continuous professional development and motivating and retaining teachers.
To promote diversity and inclusion in the teaching profession, the 2015 Teacher Policy action plan intends to offer scholarships to future teachers from certain groups, including females, persons from poor households, those belonging to ethnic groups and persons with disabilities. It further aims to revise pre-service teacher training curricula to ensure that teacher education programmes are informed by principles of inclusive education and gender sensitivity. In promoting continuous professional development, it also provides incentives and credits on inclusive and multilingual education.
The goal to mainstream gender and integrate inclusive education into pre-service and in-service teacher training, particularly for primary education teachers, was reiterated in the 2014–18 education strategic plan.
As specified in the 2009 Law on the Protection and the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, teachers are trained to acquire knowledge on disability and teaching methods to work with students with disabilities (Art. 31).
A Special Education Institute has been set up by the MoEYS to train teachers who are working with people with disabilities at all education levels and to develop training curricula. In 2017, with funding support from the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children in Cambodia produced guidelines on teaching children with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. A manual to help teachers educate children with disabilities was produced by the MoEYS and Save the Children and launched in 2019.
Following up on the Teacher Policy Action Plan, the 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education intends to encourage learners with disabilities to embark on careers as teachers. In addition, it promotes teachers’ acquisition of knowledge on inclusive education and pedagogy on disability and diversity.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous groups
One component of the MENAP programme focuses on training in multilingual education for teacher and education officials. The new 2019–23 Multilingual Education Action Plan intends to further expand training for community and state preschool teachers and primary and literacy MLE teachers. In particular, a teacher training programme has been planned to be integrated into the Regional Teacher Training Centre in Stung Treng, with scholarships to be provided for vulnerable and indigenous teacher trainees.
People living in rural or remote areas
Several training programs exist for teachers to secure education staff for remote and disadvantaged areas. Policy action includes a yearly action plan for inclusive teaching in border areas, remote areas and ethnic areas. Moreover, 1,500 trainees are recruited annually from disadvantaged areas, and they assigned to return to these areas after training.
Cambodia provides regular education monitoring reports.
The 2014–18 EMIS Operational and Strategic Plan aims in particular to improve access to and use of timely, quality education data by providing administrators with appropriate ICT, planning and professional skills to ensure that disadvantaged and remote groups are adequately targeted in education planning. Among the planned activities, data from religious schools were expected to be integrated into the education management information system (EMIS) database, and all actors involved, including non-government organizations and development partners, were to be involved in the validation of school data. The 2018 Policy on Inclusive Education intended to update the EMIS to include data on learners with special education needs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training concerning data on persons receiving vocational training, and with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation for figures on persons in and outside the education system.
A database on children with disabilities is being developed based on a regular census carried out by the Ministry of Planning.