According to Department Order No. 03 of 2008 to amend the national guidelines for inclusive education, established by Department Order No. 24-2003, inclusive education means “achieving full participation and learning for all children, whatever their social, cultural and individual status, through education that responds to all students’ diverse educational needs”. This constitutes “a new vision of general education that aims to achieve quality education for all, with a special emphasis on those who are at risk of exclusion or marginalization”.
Special educational needs (SEN)
This same Department Order states that special educational needs (SEN), also known as specific needs, refer to “the support and resources to be provided to certain children and young people who, for various reasons, which may be personal, social, economic, cultural, academic, among others, face barriers to their learning process and participation in school.”
Department Order No. 03 of 2008 states that students with specific SEN must be enrolled in mainstream schools from early childhood, regardless of whether they have a disability. These students should also receive the necessary support to ensure quality education with equity. Only students with specific SEN related to severe and multiple disabilities will be placed in special education centres. Inclusive education promotes innovation and change and attends to the diversity of student bodies through a school organization that ensures collaboration and cooperation among all members of the educational institution, includes integrated community services and factors in the various actors who are part of the educational process (Article 4). Classroom practice in an inclusive school shall use diverse strategies and methodologies that allow all students to participate and learn, and that respond to diverse needs, interests and learning styles (Article 5).
Each school’s educational programme shall be informed by an awareness of diversity, from an inclusive approach. Article 6 states that schools shall promote flexible procedures and support that facilitate student learning.
Department Order No. 04-2018 authorized changes in how special education centres are organized. This Department Order states that early and basic education is compulsory for children and young people with specific SEN in mainstream schools, regardless of disability. Only children and young people who require significant curricular adjustments due to severe disability will be enrolled in special education centres. Special education centres organize students’ basic education in two four-year cycles. The age limit for students in a special education centre is 20 years.
The General Act on Disability in the Dominican Republic (2013) similarly decrees that special education centres will receive students’ whose disabilities prevent them from attending mainstream schools. These centres aim to empower people with disabilities to “the highest possible level of learners”. The students will also receive technical and financial support (Article 76). Special education centres are equipped with support classrooms for teaching.
In accordance with Department Order No. 04-2018, special education centres will periodically evaluate their students to assess the possibility of transfers to mainstream schools. Students who attend mainstream schools will receive psychoeducational support from the staff of the special education centres and the resource centres for attention to diversity. The resource centres for attention to diversity offer psychoeducational monitoring and support as an innovative strategy for schools. The centres are equipped with teams of professionals from different disciplines and seek to promote inclusive education throughout the country in each of the 18 educational regions.
There are also specific classrooms for educational inclusion or resource classrooms for those with disabilities aged between 3 and 15 years who are not in school. There are two types of classrooms: the first type is for deaf students and the second type is for students with intellectual disabilities, autism and multiple disabilities.
According to November 2019 statistics published by the Directorate of Special Education, there are 36 special education centres, 22 schools for deaf students, 35 classrooms for students with multiple disabilities and 16 classrooms for deaf students in the country. Additionally, the Olga Estrella National Educational Resources Centre for People with Disabilities serves 300 students with impaired vision and 130 blind students, with the support of 42 itinerant teachers.
Article 63 of the Constitution of the Dominican Republic (2015) grants equal rights to comprehensive, permanent, quality education, with equal conditions and opportunities and no limitations other than people’s aptitudes, vocations and aspirations. The State guarantees free public education which is compulsory at the preschool, primary and secondary levels.
The General Education Act of 1997 regulates the Dominican education system. This Act establishes the State’s obligation to ensure the principle of equality of educational opportunities for all persons, to promote policies and to provide the necessary means for developing educational life. The Act also promotes equality of opportunity in learning and equity in the delivery of educational services.
Department Order No. 24-2003 established the national guidelines for inclusive education. This was replaced by Department Order No. 03-2008, which supports mainstream schools in responding to student diversity by adapting their educational offer and transforming education systems through inclusive education.
The Ten-Year Education Plan 2008–2018 included the promotion of educational equity with support for vulnerable students as one of its priorities. Another of the plan’s educational objectives was to provide one year of primary education and eight years of inclusive and quality basic education to five-year-olds.
The Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020 proposed a series of policies to improve the quality of education. These include policies related to teacher training, the implementation of competency-based curriculum, the creation of sustainable schools and institutional strengthening. The Ministry of Education’s strategic objectives during this period were guaranteeing the educational inclusion of vulnerable populations, improving the quality and coverage of the educational offer and ensuring retention in and completion of schooling. The objective was to increase coverage and implement new educational offers for vocational training that respond to the particular needs of people with disabilities, migrants, adolescent mothers and single mothers, among other groups.
The National Pact for Educational Reform (2014–2030) brought together representatives of the Dominican education system, central government institutions, the Economic and Social Council, political parties and other actors in Dominican society to agree on a shared vision of Dominican education that is committed to gender equality and equity, diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources. Schools should be spaces that are easily accessible to all, regardless of physical or other limitations. The pact also includes a commitment to develop equity instruments for promoting entry into and retention in the education system, such as school transport, social protection strategies and comprehensive school health programmes and scholarships for low-income students. Measures ensuring the quality of education at all levels were also approved.
The Dominican Republic ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009.
The General Education Act of 1997 states that special education is an education subsystem, the purpose of which is to provide the required levels of specialization to children and young people with disabilities or exceptional characteristics. This Act offers students with disabilities an education focused on their comprehensive development, along with vocational training that allows them to enter the world of work. It also provides “gifted students with special opportunities to enhance their special abilities”. Special education ensures that people with disabilities or exceptional characteristics have their rights upheld.
Article 10 of the General Act on Disability in the Dominican Republic (2013) promotes general access to education at different levels and via different modalities: preschool, primary, secondary, higher, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning, without discrimination and under equal conditions.
Department Order No. 03-2008 amended the national guidelines for inclusive education, established by Department Order No. 24-2003. This Order states that inclusive education involves “transforming education systems and mainstream schools to make them more pluralistic and responsive to diversity by adapting the educational offer, curriculum and teaching, while providing all students with the necessary support”. Schools must welcome and value children and young people under 18 years of age in all their diversity, and must guarantee their access to and retention in the education system, without excluding anyone on the basis of their gender, social origin, culture, ethnicity or religion, or because of their personal condition (different learning styles, disability, etc.).
Department Order No. 04-2018 authorized changes in how special education centres are organized and amended Department Order No. 18-2001. Article 1 states that “special education centres will provide education for students with special educational needs related to severe and/or multiple intellectual, motor or sensory disabilities and developmental disorders that require significant adjustments in practically all areas of the curriculum”. A psychoeducational assessment will be carried out on children and young people with specific SEN related to severe and multiple disabilities, thus facilitating the development of a suitable response.
Flexible learning assessments are to be available for students with specific SEN who attend special education centres. Assessments should factor in students’ requirements. This includes adapted media and equipment, appropriate language, accessible spaces and time adjusted to their needs.
The Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020 highlighted actions developed to eliminate barriers that limit access, participation, learning and permanence of people with disabilities in education, such as the resource centres for attention to diversity, the specific classrooms for educational inclusion, the learning support spaces at the primary level and enrichment spaces at the secondary level and the resource centres for the visually impaired.
The Ministry of Education presented the National Plan for Inclusive Education in 2019, which focused on students with specific educational support needs. The plan proposes the opening of 10 new resource centres for attention to diversity at the district level and five at the regional level, the creation of new learning support spaces, expanded coverage of specific classrooms for inclusion and the development and implementation of training programmes for people with disabilities in the pre-university system.
The General Education Act of 1997 promotes equal rights for men and women.
In 2019, the Ministry of Education approved Department Order No. 33-2019, which establishes the design and implementation of the gender policy as a priority. This Order recognizes that “the inclusive, democratic, diverse and pluralistic nature of the education system is essential for building an equal society, free of prejudice and discrimination based on gender”, and that “changing collective thinking requires deconstructing the gender stereotypes that promote notions of masculinity and femininity which perpetuate inequalities between men and women, with schools affected by advances and setbacks”. The Order also prioritized the design and implementation of gender policy in the Ministry of Education at the various levels, systems and subsystems, as well as in plans, programmes, projects and pedagogical strategies.
The Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020 aimed to promote gender mainstreaming in the Early Childhood Care Policy and in early childhood services and strategies.
People in rural and remote areas
The Inclusive Schools Development Project was developed in 2004, financed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and focused on schools located in the border area. This project included components on infrastructure improvements, resourcing, teacher training and community support.
The National Pact for Educational Reform (2014–2030) established equity instruments to promote entry into and retention in the education system, such as the creation of a school transport system to facilitate access to schools for people coming from rural communities, including those with SEN.
To promote educational equity and support students from the most vulnerable sectors, the Ten-Year Education Plan 2008–2018 proposed a short-term socioeconomic diagnosis by school to identify students from the most vulnerable sectors and register them in a database. It also proposed applying the principle of positive discrimination to ensure that the most vulnerable students are the first to receive financial support.
According to the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020, in the last three years, the Student Support Service Programme has delivered 750,000 school kits to an equal number of preschool and primary students. These kits included shoes, uniforms and backpacks with school supplies, and were provided to vulnerable students in all regions and districts of the education system.
The Ministry of Education has a National Office of Educational Planning and Development and a Supervision, Evaluation and Quality Control Office to which other directorates report. The Vice-Ministry of Technical and Pedagogical Services is in charge of the National Directorate of Curriculum, the National Directorates of Preschool, Primary, Secondary and Youth and Adult Education, and the Directorate of Special Education.
The General Act on Disability in the Dominican Republic (2013) created the Department of Educational Integration to provide training aimed at the comprehensive development of people with disabilities and their effective participation in society. Under articles 77–78, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education, in coordination with the National Council on Disability, are responsible for drawing up operational plans for special education and educating and training teachers, instructors and all teaching staff, and for including basic disability-related subjects in the curricula of universities and public and private educational institutions at all levels.
The Directorate of Special Education is responsible for developing a policy for inclusion of people with disabilities and SEN. The National Plan for Inclusive Education was developed in 2019.
The National Council on Disability is an autonomous State institution that advises on disability policy. The National Council on Disability aims to ensure that national education planning includes education for people with disabilities. Resolution No. 05 of 2018 modified the National Council on Disability’s organizational structure. This included creating a Department of Inclusive Public Policies, in addition to renaming the Education Division as the Inclusive Education Division.
The General Directorate of Curriculum and the Department of Education for the Advancement of Women ensures that the national curriculum incorporates a gender perspective into educational plans, programmes and policies, while the Directorate of Gender Equity and Development ensures the implementation of educational policies with a gender perspective in the pre-university education system. The Ministry of Women is the advisory body for the establishment of the Gender Policy.
One of the goals of the Strategic Plan for 2017–2020 was to build and modify school facilities to create safer, more inclusive, resilient and sustainable learning environments.
Through the Regulations Development Division and together with institutions responsible for public policies on universal accessibility, the Department of Universal Accessibility of the National Council on Disability is responsible for coordinating the formulation of policies to ensure the architectural, urban, transport and communications accessibility of all public spaces.
The Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020 proposed the development of a curriculum with a competency-based approach that guarantees quality learning and “involves internal and external stakeholders through effective, inclusive, equitable and transparent institutional pedagogical and administrative management, based on research for continuous improvement”.
Department Order No. 03 of 2008 states that the curriculum shall consider diversity as a key area in achieving educational quality and equity. This entails a “set of processes, actions and educational measures aimed at providing appropriate responses to the educational needs of children and young people with special educational needs”.
Department Order No. 04-2018 authorized changes in how special education centres are organized. This Order states that all students with specific SEN attending special education centres must have access to the current curriculum with the necessary curricular adaptations.
Resolution no. 33 of 2019 promoted the inclusion of a gender perspective in the national curriculum.
Learning materials and ICTs
Article 81 of the General Act on Disability in the Dominican Republic (2013) states that the National Council on Disability will ensure that the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology provide the necessary technology to primary, secondary and higher education institutions, which guarantee access to education and vocational training for students with disabilities, both in urban and rural areas.
In accordance with Department Order No. 04-2018 the Ministry of Education will be responsible for providing special education centres with various materials, resources and support documents.
One objective of the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020 was to strengthen training and development for teachers. The plan aims to provide 70 per cent of teachers in special education centres with training and refresher training to ensure greater inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream schools.
Department Order No. 03 of 2008 stipulates the implementation of teacher training programmes, in conjunction with the National Teacher Training Institute and the Salomé Ureña Higher Institute for Teacher Training, to provide teachers with the conceptual, procedural and attitudinal tools necessary to put inclusive education into practice. This Order also promotes the training and continuing reflection of teachers on attention to diversity practices in the classroom.
Through the “Inclusive Education, the Path to Transformative Learning in Educational Institutions” project, developed in partnership with Fundación InteRed, Fundación MAPFRE has trained 45 teachers in inclusive education.
Department Order No. 03 of 2008 amends the national guidelines for inclusive education and, in coordination with the Department of Educational Statistics, promotes the creation of a system for collecting data on the SEN population in order to better understand the population and provide the support needed.
Regarding students in vulnerable situations due to a disability, the Dominican Republic has three sources of official information on the population with disabilities: the 2010 National Population Census, the 2013 National Multipurpose Household Survey (ENHOGAR) and the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey (ENDESA). According to the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2017–2020, these three sources are not comparable as they used different criteria to assess disability, resulting in statistics that ranged from 7 per cent to 12.4 per cent of the population.
The Ministry of Education publishes its reports regularly.