3. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes
6. Teachers and Support Personnel
Complying with the United States Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) does not define inclusive education. However, the 2009–16 National Disability Policy mentions that ‘state intervention on disability is confined to the Special Education Program and funded through the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act which provides for early intervention, assessment and education from 0 to 21 years of age and promotes free and “inclusive” education from elementary to secondary school’. This was recently articulated through the FSM Public Law 14-08 for Free Appropriate Public Education for eligible children with disabilities aged 0 to 21. The National Special Education Policy emphasizes inclusiveness and mainstreaming, which are at the heart of the National Policy on Disability.
As in the United States, inclusive and special education support and services are designed to meet the needs of all students. In this respect, the Child Assistance Team Community Referral Form states that ‘The Department of Education is committed to providing a high-quality education programs for ALL students.’ At the state level, Yap State defines inclusive education as ‘the intent of public education to provide education programs for ALL children.’
Special education needs
The Educational System chapter of the 2014 FSM Code defines children with disabilities in compliance with the IDEA. Such legislation provides for eligible students to receive education responding to their needs. In the FSM, those eligible include individuals from birth through age 21 who are evaluated as having mental retardation, hearing impairments including deafness, speech or language impairments, visual impairments including blindness, serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, specific learning disabilities, deaf-blindness or multiple impairments and who, because of those impairments, need special education and related services. ‘Special education’ refers to instruction or other services necessary to assist children with disabilities. Special education is instruction specially designed, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in classrooms, in the home, in hospitals and institutions or in other settings and physical education.
At the national level, the 1993 FSM Special Education Act states that ‘disabled children shall receive necessary supplementary services in regular classrooms offered by the FSM and each State Department of Education both in rendering services directly to children with disabilities, and in providing consulting services to regular classroom teachers.’ In 2009, the FSM adopted a National Policy on Disability to increase awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities. Similarly, under FSM law, ‘children with disabilities have the right to special care, education and training up to the age of 21 years. […] Programmes include special preschool and school classes; transition programmes between the home, school and work; training for parents and other care-givers; and related services such as speech or physical therapy and vocational guidance’. The country's special education programme, entirely funded by grants from the United States under the IDEA and supported by FSM public law, is directed at supporting students with disabilities.
At the state level, some states, such as Yap, clearly refer to inclusive education within all education programmes for children with disabilities (since 1998).
The FSM has not ratified the 1960 UN Convention Against Discrimination in Education. It ratified the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016 and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993.
Article XIII, Section 1 of the Constitution of 1975, as last revised in 2005, enshrines the right of the people to education, and Article IV, Section 4 specifies that ‘Equal protection of the laws may not be denied or impaired on account of sex, race, ancestry, national origin, language, or social status.’ In addition, based on FSM Public Law 14-8, the FSM is required to provide ‘free appropriate public education’ to all children from birth to age 21.
At the national level, the 1993 Special Education Act describes the procedures to ensure education for children with disabilities. It states that ‘the Secretary shall establish, in cooperation and consultation with the State Directors of Education and Health Services of each State, a procedure to ensure the ongoing identification, diagnosis, certification, and education of children with disabilities. These procedures will be consistent with the policies and requirements of the FSM Special Education Act of 1993 […] and will be designed to provide access to a reasonable, appropriate, and economical elementary and secondary education for children with disabilities, through graduation from grade 12 or age 21.’ In this regard, the 2014 FSM Code affirms that ‘education shall be provided and shall be compulsory for all children, including children with disabilities, from first grade through graduation from the eighth grade, or until the age of 14 years.’ In addition, public law 8-21 mandates the provision of education and related services for children with disabilities.
As a ‘freely associated state of the USA’, the FSM ensures compliance with IDEA requirements and the FSM Department of Education’s strategic goals and mandates. It receives funding under the 2004 IDEA to provide special education. Finally, the Education for All 2015 National Plan stated that the Education Department should include in its plan the facilities and equipment appropriate for servicing and supporting special education.
At the state level, the 2001 Pohnpei Disabilities Act aims to provide free access and special services to persons with disabilities. The Yap Executive Order 02-98 aims to ensure that all children with disabilities can access free and appropriate public education. It asserts that ‘the State Department of Education has established as a priority the implementation of inclusive education programs that promote the inclusion of children with disabilities within all education programs. It is the intent of public education to provide education programs for ALL children.’ Both laws are consistent with national laws and the IDEA.
The 2009–16 National Policy on Disability was adopted as the result of a wide stakeholder consultation throughout the states of the FSM in March 2006, coordinated and managed through the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs. Among its strategic priority areas for action are early detection, early intervention and education. The policy highlights five objectives, including increasing awareness of existing programs for early intervention, detecting and education for children with disabilities, and strengthening the transitioning of students and, where applicable, adults with disabilities between home, early childhood education, school, college and work.
The FSM ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2004 but has yet to adopt its own national social laws and policies to promote gender equality in education. The country has a National Strategic Plan on Gender Development and Human Rights in place and a National Gender Policy.
The 2004–23 FSM Strategic Development Plan has a gender component that aims in Strategic Goal 9 to address the special economic, political and social needs of disabled persons and persons with special needs. The 2004–10 National Youth Policy placed ‘special focus on gender-inclusiveness in its approach to the development and implementation of youth programs.’ Through the 2012–22 initiative Pacific Women, the Australian Government supports women’s and girl’s empowerment in the FSM.
According to the National Policy on Disability, ‘women and girls with disabilities are often exposed to poverty more than boys and men with disabilities and face discrimination within the family. Women and girls need to have equal access to health care, education, vocational training, employment and income generation opportunities, and to be included in social and community activities.’ According to a 2017 gender report, ‘the 2008 FSM Statistical Yearbook ... highlights stereotyped fields of study at the tertiary level.’
People living in rural or remote areas
The FSM has not been a focus for major distance education initiatives. However, the Technology Plan for Grades K–12 offers avenues for formal distance learning, mainly for teacher training.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The Constitution of 1975, as last revised in 2005, defines the purpose of education as ‘to preserve the heritage of the past‘ and ‘to respect the diversity of cultures’. English is the official language of the FSM, but less than 1% of FSM citizens speak it as their first language. The FSM Language Policy aims to provide policy guidance and direction needed to promote the development and expansion of local languages and cultures and to improve the acquisition of English and other international languages. The policy is designed to provide a framework at the national level and support the states with linguistics issues and in developing curriculum and instructional materials. Among other things, at the national level, the policy aims to “[d]evelop standards and assessment for first language acquisition and acquisition of English and other international languages which are second or foreign languages in the FSM’. In addition, the policy mentions that ‘if the local language is not the primary state language, the primary State language should be taught in the school as a second language. Transition into English should be based on cognitive skills developed in students' primary and/or State language.’ Finally, the policy states that ‘special attention needs to be given to ensure that appropriate instruction and materials are available in the first language for disabled children and other groups needing specialized assistance.’
The 2014 FSM Code states that ‘educational programs for talented and gifted children shall be designed and implemented, as appropriate, to assist these children to take advantage of especially demanding and challenging educational programs and opportunities in Micronesia and abroad. In designing educational programs for the talented and gifted, the Secretary and the State Directors will seek to maintain a balance between Micronesian culture and tradition, and international or non-Micronesian learning and technologies, so that the benefits of exceptional opportunities do not come at the expense of cultural alienation’.
The FSM education system is based on a United States model. The FSM National Department of Education (NDOE) sets standards, while the State Departments of Education (SDOE) are responsible for curriculum and instruction.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that Congress has the responsibility ‘to promote education […] by setting minimum standards, coordinating state activities relating to foreign assistance, providing training and assistance to the states and providing support for post-secondary educational programs and projects.’ The FSM also has a strategic plan to provide overall guidance for improving education in the country, but the states have the primary responsibility for instruction, with the national government providing support and assistance. The NDOE works in collaboration with the SDOE and the College of Micronesia-FSM in planning, development and promotion of national education goals. The Division of Special Services complies with the US IDEA and the Department of Education goals and mandates and focuses on improving the performance of students with disabilities on statewide assessments and increasing the number of students with disabilities graduating with a diploma, among other performance measures. It is also responsible for coordinating, monitoring and providing technical support to the states on special education programmes.
Responsibility for education is shared between the national government of the FSM and the states of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. In Yap, inclusive education coordinators head the school districts named ‘Innovation Zones’. These coordinators aim to promote a cultural change in the operation and functions of the district officers towards more innovation and flexible delivery of education services. They provide mentoring to the school principals. Each state has a special education programme within its department of education. These special education programmes are established within the SDOE of each of the four states of Micronesia to help provide free appropriate public education to children identified with disabilities in the least restrictive environments.
The Department of Education has a child assistance team (CAT) in each school to help students who are experiencing learning difficulties. The CAT is responsible for gathering information concerning students who are experiencing learning difficulties and developing intervention plans to help assist students. The CAT can also refer a child to special education for further evaluation if needed.
Strategic Goal 9 of the 2004–23 Strategic Development Plan aims to ‘ensure building, roads, construction and transportation plans, decisions, policies and legislation are disabled friendly’.
ICT and learning materials
Resolution FR# 10-04 on ICT was adopted in April 2010 to appeal to the FSM Telecommunication Corporation Board of Directors ‘to provide a reduced rate for educational establishment so all students in the FSM can have access to internet services and equal opportunity to achieve the standards in ICT established by National Department of Education’. In 2010 the NDOE and the Association of Chief State School Officers published the Technology Plan for Grades K–12, which aims to provide a framework for use of technology to help transform the education system. The College of Micronesia-FSM offers distance education to overcome the distance between islands. That said, in the FSM, materials are limited and have a short lifespan because of difficult weather conditions (salt, humidity and a lack of climate-controlled areas to store equipment).
The governments have implemented distance learning programmes for pre-service teachers such as PRELSTAR: A Pacific Islands Distance Learning Programme and the Pacific Regional Technology in Education Consortium, which provides pre-service training for teachers and university faculty.
The education division at the College of Micronesia-FSM, the only institution of higher education in the country, offers courses and workshops in education foundations and methodology to teachers in initial and in-service training. It offers a course on ‘Teaching Students with Special Needs in the Regular Classroom Setting’ which focuses on assessing, diagnosing and developing accommodations for students with special needs in the areas of reading and math and developing an individualized education programme. The Center for Pacific Studies at San Diego State University also offers special education teacher training to students at the College of Micronesia-FSM through distance education. At the same time, all courses are revised to consider special education issues, like inclusion, and second-language teaching strategies.
One of the goals of the 2004–23 Strategic Development Plan is to develop ‘appropriate assessment and evaluation systems for all levels of education and ... use those systems as the basis for decision-making, resource allocation, and planning and development.’ In this regard, in Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap, a database of information on education has been created. In addition, the NDOE provides education statistics linked to inclusion, mainly on student enrolment (including enrolment rates for gender).
According to the Special Education Act, ‘the Secretary of Education shall submit to the President and the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia the special education annual program plan and the fund status and performance report at such time as they are submitted to the United States Office of Education as required by the United States PL No. 101-476, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.’ In addition, ‘on or before July 1 of each year, each State shall report to the Secretary of Education the extent to which it is providing the special education for children with disabilities necessary to implement this subchapter. The report shall detail the means which the State uses to provide for the free appropriate special education of children with disabilities.’
According to the 2009–16 National Policy on Disability, ‘the production of accurate information on the prevalence and types of disabilities in the wider community is essential for advising policy development and developing public awareness campaigns on disability.’ In this respect, the policy highlights a strategy to promote ‘the use of the internet to improve the sharing of information collected by different government agencies (e.g. Departments of Education and Health and Social Affairs) on disability.’