The 2013 Law on Education defines inclusive education as the creation of favourable conditions for children in education regardless of ‘gender, race, language, nationality, religious beliefs, physical or mental disabilities, abilities, cultural and social status’ (Art. 1).
Special education needs
An explicit definition of persons with special education needs has not been found.
According to the existing legislation (Law on Education), education provision for children with disabilities can occur in regular schools, in specialized schools or at home. The country has embarked on implementing an inclusive education approach. According to official figures, 6,139 learners with disabilities were receiving education in regular state schools in 2017, while 2,219 attended special boarding schools. Only one in eight children with disabilities studied at home.
As of 2015, the Ministry of Education ran 12 specialized boarding schools: three for children with hearing impairments, four for children with visual impairments, fours for learners with intellectual impairments and one boarding school for children with poliomyelitis.
Alongside boarding schools, rehabilitation centres provide training and social services to children with disabilities. The 14 centres are run by non-government organizations that work under procurement contracts with the support of the European Union.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Out of 3,836 general education schools, 620 provide instruction in Tajik and Uzbek, 224 in Uzbek, 36 in Kyrgyz, 26 in Russian, 22 in Tajik and Kyrgyz and a further 22 in Tajik, Russian and Uzbek.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Psychological medical pedagogical commissions (PMPCs) are responsible for early assessment and needs identification for children, under the supervision of local authorities at the rayon or oblast levels. Based on the diagnosis, PMPCs recommend education placement, which may include home schooling under the supervision of a local institution in case of lack of accessible infrastructure.
In 2006, new regulations were formulated with support from UNICEF to include multiprofessional practitioners in the PMPCs, such as social workers, specialists on visual and/or on hearing impairments and experts in developmental disabilities.
As of 2018, there were nine facilities carrying out assessment and early intervention. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population established a working group to reform the existing system of early diagnostics and intervention.
The 1994 Constitution of Tajikistan, as amended in 2003, lays down the right to education for all: ‘Everyone shall have the right to education’ (Art. 41). It mandates the state to ensure free general basic compulsory education as well as general vocational, primary specialized, vocational specialized and higher specialized education in public schools. The non-discrimination provision guarantees equal rights and freedoms ‘irrespective of the nationality, race, sex, language, religious beliefs, political persuasion, and knowledge, social and property status’ (Art. 17). With respect to special groups, the constitutional document guarantees protection and education to orphans and children with disabilities (Art. 34).
At the international level, Tajikistan has committed to numerous treaties and conventions, most recently the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2018. Due to the monist nature of its legal system, the international commitments are fully binding and, once ratified, are considered integral parts of the national legal system. Within the existing legal framework, the country is working on the development of a Codex of Education to make consistent the existing national education legislation.
The 2013 Law on Education, as amended in 2018, lays legal foundations for the education system and the education institutions acting in the country. In line with the constitutional provisions, it enshrines the right to all citizens to free education and equal access (Art. 6). In the social sector, the 2015 Children’s Rights Act provides a legal framework in conformity with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments.
The National Development Strategy up to 2030 considers inclusive education as a key indicator for the quality development of the education system. The National Strategy of Education Development up to 2020 reiterated the intention to implement inclusive education and to develop a system able to respond to individual needs of students, especially those at risk of exclusion.
The 2010 Law on Social Protection of Persons with Disabilities (LSPPwD) delegates to regional and local authorities the responsibility to fulfil the right to education of children with disabilities (Art. 8.1 and 46.3). Prohibiting any form of discrimination based on disability (Art. 11.2, 45.1 and 45.4), it establishes free education access to preschool, basic and vocational education both in regular and in special institutions based on an individual rehabilitation plan (Art. 17.2). The law also allows positive discrimination in reserving quotas for admission to secondary education for persons with disabilities. Home schooling is considered an option when attendance cannot be ensured. Although the law does not endorse an exclusively inclusive approach, it lays out the legal framework for its implementation, in line with the 2013 Law on Education (Art. 16.5).
The Law on Education lays down the right to education for all, including to children and youth with disabilities (Art. 16.5). However, it enshrines the possibility for children with disabilities to be educated in special education institutions if they do not have the opportunity to study in regular schools (Art. 22.3). It further uses a terminology that is not consistent with the 2010 LSPPwD. The latter in turn retains elements of the medical and defectology approach, defining disability mainly in terms of limitations.
To pave the way to a reform of the education system to ensure access for children with disabilities, a working group within the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), including different agencies and civil society organizations, developed the 2011–15 National Framework for Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities. Only approved in 2014, the concept on inclusive education aimed to create an inclusive education system from preschool to general education to realize the rights of quality education ‘in conditions of minimal restrictions’ for those children and youth. More recently, the National Strategy of Education Development up to 2020 aimed to create an appropriate system for early detention and correction; however, it continued to support special education provision, in part by enhancing interministerial cooperation for the education, rehabilitation and socialization of children with special needs.
The 1994 Constitution of Tajikistan contains a gender equality provision (Art. 17). The 2005 Act on the State Guarantees of Equal Rights for Men and Women and Equal Opportunities regulates the constitutional guarantees of equal rights and the prevention of discrimination on grounds of gender. The latter is defined as ‘any difference, exclusion or restriction on the basis of sex, which is aimed at weakening or negates the recognition of the equal rights of men and women in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field’ (Art. 1).
As a matter of policy, the 2011–20 National Strategy to Promote the Role of Women intends to develop mechanisms for ensuring continuing education of girls who could not complete secondary education by giving them the opportunity to attend vocational education and training. Likewise, the National Development Strategy up to 2030 aims to improve access to education for girls and women and to develop mechanisms for carrying out gender assessment of teaching and learning materials. Within this framework, specific access quotas were introduced in 2015 to attract more girls residing in remote mountain areas to higher vocational education.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
As established by the 1994 Constitution, Tajik is the official state language, while Russian is used for international communication. All national groups residing in the country are recognized as having the right to use their mother tongue (Art. 2). The Law on Education establishes that the main medium of instruction in educational institutions is the official state language. However, it allows citizens to choose their language of instruction, alongside the study of the state language. In areas with a high concentration of ethnic groups, the law authorizes schools to use the native languages of those groups if the education system can answer to this need. In general educational institutions, the medium of instruction is decided based on a required minimum number of students, classes and groups.
The National Strategy of Education Development up to 2020 included plans for the development of new training materials, including textbooks in minority languages, to train teachers working in schools with learners from different ethnic groups and to involve local communities in the process of implementing inclusive education.
Coordination across government levels
The education system is partially decentralized. Local authorities are responsible for developing regional education programmes and allocating the local budget for education, including funding schools. While the MoES plays a coordinating and steering role towards the various government levels, in the area of special needs education the involvement of multiple policy areas limits intervention.
Coordination across sectors
The MoES is responsible for formulating, implementing and monitoring the national policies and standards in education, alongside responsibility for curricula development and the accreditation of educational institutions. The MoES coordinates the activities of all departments working in the area of education, including for policies on children with disabilities. Due to their intersectoral nature, many schools for children with special needs are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection or the Ministry of Health, in particular boarding schools. A focal point was appointed under the Department for Boarding Schools and Special Education within the MoES.
Concerning gender, a legal unit and an expert council on gender were set up in the Committee on Women and the Family in 2015 to carry out a gender analysis of draft laws before they are submitted to the government.
As stated in the 2010 Law on Social Protection, authorities are mandated to regulate the construction of barrier-free social infrastructure, including educational institutions and facilities and transportation services (Art. 25). To improve physical accessibility of buildings, new regulations on the accessibility of buildings and adaptation for groups with limited mobility were adopted in 2014 at the local level. In 2017, the City Planning Code was amended accordingly. In addition, the Code mandates a government committee to review all projects to ensure accessibility (Art. 64). However, most existing infrastructure is not yet accessible.
Curricula and textbooks in boarding schools are the same as those used in regular education; however, according to the Explanation of the Curricula for Special Boarding General Education Schools for Children with Disabilities in Tajikistan, education plans in boarding schools are expected to take into consideration the special characters and conditions of residential schools.
The development of curricula and the design of assessment have become increasingly centralized. With support from UNICEF and the Aga Khan Foundation, the MoES in 2013 adopted a new early childhood education curriculum which promotes inclusive education and includes modules for teacher training on inclusive approaches. Within the National Strategy for Education Development up to 2020, in partnership with the World Bank and UNICEF, the MoES also plans to revise the general secondary school curriculum according to a competency-based framework.
In order to eliminate gender stereotypes, the MoES, with support from UNICEF and civil society organizations, conducted a gender analysis of textbooks and provided recommendations for the formulation of gender-sensitive learning materials.
Tajik National University and Tajik State Pedagogical University provide training for teachers, psychologists and other professionals working with persons with disabilities. At Tajik State Pedagogical University, a Centre on Inclusive Education offers pre-service teacher education on inclusive education. With support from Open Society Foundations, a Resource Centre Chair of Inclusive Education was set up by MoES.
At the policy level, both the National Development Strategy up to 2030 and the National Strategy of Education Development up to 2020 emphasize the need to strengthen the knowledge and skills for inclusive education of pedagogical personnel and medical and social employees and to introduce social and pedagogical training and education technologies in the field.
In general, there is a shortage of qualified teachers and professionals working in the education sector. The gap is larger in rural and remote areas. To attract more graduates to the teaching profession, a 2014 government decision established new benefits for young teachers, including land and credit extension.
The Statistics Agency provides annual data on the education sector based on figures collected by the Ministry of Education on preschool, general, basic and special education institutions. The Statistics Agency collects data on secondary and tertiary vocational education and post-secondary education activities.
With support from the Asian Development Bank, the MoES launched the current education management information system (EMIS) in 2007 to create a unified data platform in the education sector and to provide an evidence-based tool for supporting the formulation and implementation of education policies and decision making.
The MoES’s data coverage is limited to administrative data on students’ age, gender and enrolment numbers, as well as some health data, including on special needs. However, the information is not disaggregated by disability or nationality. Service delivery indicators are also reported, such as the availability of textbooks and sanitation. EMIS is not integrated with other databases.