The 2011–20 Inclusive Education Development Programme in the Republic of Moldova defines inclusive education as a process of development of the education system based on a new attitude of the state and society towards excluded and/or marginalized children, young people and adults. As such, inclusive education characterizes an open and flexible education system tailored to the needs of the individual.
Similarly, the 2012 Education Code refers to inclusive education as actions related to the development and use of the existing resources and experience, and provision of various types of services and support for excluded and/or marginalized people, by ensuring equal opportunities and chances for enjoying the basic human right to development and education.
Special education needs
In general, special education needs refers to people with learning impairments who require special support to overcome these difficulties.
General education for children with disabilities is provided in:
- Regular schools through inclusive education
- Specialized institutions by type of disability through special education
- Home training.
Preschool education for children with disabilities is provided in:
- Preschool institutions with specialized and inclusive groups
- Auxiliary boarding schools that provide care and education specifically to children with mental disabilities
- Special boarding schools providing care and education for children with sensory and locomotor disabilities.
The 2007–12 Reform of the Residential Childcare System aimed to reduce the number of children in boarding schools and to integrate them progressively into regular education. As highlighted in the 2014–20 education sector plan, integration barriers persist due to shortages in teachers trained to work with children with special education needs, as well as inadequate infrastructure and educational materials.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Disability is determined by the National Council for Determining Disability and Work Capacity under the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family. Established in 2013 and articulated in four regional councils, the National Council was part of a more comprehensive reform in determining disability in adults and children with the transition from a medical to a social model. The criteria for determining disability are approved by an interministerial order of the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.
The 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, as amended in 2016, enshrines the right to access to free education through the ‘compulsory comprehensive public-school system’ (Art. 35.1). The right to choose an appropriate education lies with the parents (Art. 35.9). The Constitution also contains a non-discrimination provision on the grounds of ‘race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, opinion, political affiliation, property or social origin’ (Art. 16.2). The 2012 Education Code explicitly regulates inclusive education and establishes education for children with special educational needs, such as people with learning, communication and interaction, sensory, physical, emotional, behavioural and social difficulties, as an integral part of the education system.
Within this legal framework, the 2014–20 education strategy aims to establish a system of education that is accessible to all by promoting and ensuring inclusive education at all educational levels. In particular, the Strategy intends to promote the role of inclusive education at the level of families, communities and educational institutions in ensuring equal opportunities for quality education for all children, provide the necessary psycho-pedagogical assistance for children with special education needs, and encourage infrastructure and learning materials for quality inclusive education.
The 2011–20 Inclusive Education Development Programme outlines the strategic framework for the promotion of inclusive education at the national level. The Programme endorses the concept of inclusive education as providing equal opportunities for all, regardless of their cultural, social, ethnic, religious or economic affiliation, or their intellectual or physical abilities. The 2015–17 Action Plan for the Implementation of the Inclusive Education Development Programme aimed to operationalize the programme’s objectives by, among other measures, strengthening institutional capacities at all education levels.
Regarding the protection of persons with disabilities, the 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Moldova recognizes they have the right to a special form of protection and mandates the state to ensure the conditions for, among other things, their education, training and integration (Art. 51.1).
In the social sector, the 2012 Law on the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities establishes the right of persons with disabilities to equal access to social services, including education. The 2007–12 National Strategy and Action Plan for the Reform of the Residential Childcare System, with support and technical assistance from UNICEF, initiated the process of assessment and family reintegration of children in regular educational institutions.
In the education sector, the 2014–20 education strategy sets as an objective the promotion and provision of inclusive education through the harmonization of national legislation on inclusive education to the European standards, to be accomplished through the creation and reorganization of psycho-pedagogical assistance services and the provision of adequate infrastructure and material conditions.
The 2006 Law on Ensuring Equal Opportunities for Women and Men reaffirms gender equality as a key principle and contains provisions for the elimination of forms of discrimination based on sex; it was followed by the 2006–09 National Plan for Promotion of Equality Between Women and Men. Following up on the 2009–15 National Strategy on Gender Equality, Moldova approved the 2017–21 National Strategy on Ensuring Equality Between Women and Men, which aims to mainstream gender in a wide range of policy areas, including education. In particular, it intends to integrate gender dimensions in teacher education and to include gender aspects in career counselling to overcome gendered professional roles.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, as amended in 2016, enshrines the right to choose the language of instruction according to the law (art. 35.2), while the country‘s official language is ensured in all education institutions (art. 35.3). The 2012 Education Code recognizes the right to education of all national minorities in Moldova. For territories with a prevalence of national minorities, education is provided in the language of the respective minority. According to the legislation in force, all citizens have the right to be trained in their mother tongue.
Specific programmes have been introduced to promote education of Roma children. A subject in History and Culture of Roma People was introduced in schools in areas populated by Roma. Furthermore, Roma children from socially vulnerable families are provided with free textbooks and teaching materials, while free meals are provided to all pupils in grades 1–4.
The 2011 Law on Integration of Foreigners in the Republic of Moldova lays down the right of refugees and beneficiaries of humanitarian protection to have access to sociocultural adaptation sessions, courses in the state language and education. Minors, who are entitled to protection, attend a free course in the state language to be integrated into the educational system, during which children attend free theoretical, practical and recreational educational activities at schools. As with other disadvantaged social groups, such as orphans and students with disabilities, refugees’ access to higher education is supported by the state through the reservation of a specific access quota.
Coordination across government levels
At central level, the Ministry of Education cooperates with the Institute of Sciences of the Education and the Republican Centre of Psycho-pedagogical Assistance to develop and manage the implementation of the inclusive education policy. At district level, the Education Directorate, the inclusive education officers and the Psycho-pedagogical Assistance Service are involved in the implementation and enforcement of the policy, in the identification of needs, and in ensuring professional development of practitioners and teachers. At local level, the main actors involved are multidisciplinary intra-school commissions, individualized educational plan teams, the Resource Center for Inclusive Education and assistance personnel. They have direct contacts with parents and families and ensure the social protection of children.
Coordination across sectors
At central level, ministries and government agencies working on education, social protection and assistance, and health are directly involved in inclusive education issues as part of a cross-sectoral collaboration. With this purpose, a Council is set up for the implementation of the 2011–20 Inclusive Education Development Programme.
Under the Ministry of Education, the National Council for Coordinating the Reform of the Residential Childcare System and Developing Inclusive Education was established in 2010 to coordinate interministerial and civil society organizations. It is chaired by a senior official of the Ministry of Education, but according to the National Strategy, the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family is expected to take on the responsibility of coordination at the national level.
With reference to gender, following the adoption of the 2006 Law on Ensuring Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, gender units have been set up both at national and local government levels. A coordinating group in the field of gender equality has been established under the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family.
The 2012 Law on Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities established the need to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility in roads/transport and buildings, including schools.
The 2012 Law on Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities also establishes that persons with disabilities must be equipped with the necessary materials to foster their inclusive education. Against this backdrop, the National Centre for Information and Rehabilitation of the Blind’s Society in Moldova has contributed to converting textbooks and other teaching and training materials into Braille and audio forms. Without Barriers is a programme aiming to facilitate access to higher education for students with visual disabilities. The programme has provided students with custom audio learning materials or materials in Braille format.
In 2012, a course on inclusive education was introduced at university level as initial teacher training, as part of the psycho-pedagogical module, for all professionals working in the field of education, established by the 2005 Education and Teacher training programme. Initial training in inclusive education is carried out in eight higher education institutions and in eight specialized secondary schools throughout the country.
Continuous professional development in inclusive education is offered at the Institute of Inclusive Education Sciences and other institutions in the field of continuous training. Non-government organizations have contributed to an inclusive education module for the initial training of students of pedagogical specialties at universities and colleges, a lifelong learning curriculum in the field of inclusive education for pre-university education, and continuous professional development programmes on inclusive education.
The 2012 Law on Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities establishes the need to support teachers and/or assistants and other support services to ensure access to education for children with disabilities.
The country has an annual education monitoring report.
In relation to inclusive education, an Inclusion Index has been established at school level. The level of inclusion of schools is accessed according to three dimensions: the creation of inclusive culture through the establishment of inclusive values and strengthening of the community; the development of inclusive policies through specific practices for all and support for diversity; and the development of inclusive learning practices.
With reference to gender, at national level the National Bureau of Statistics has undertaken significant actions to develop gender-disaggregated statistics with the support of international agencies. In particular, the Gender Statistics section is in charge of collecting gender-disaggregated data.