There is no definition of inclusive education in the 2005 Education Act.
Special education needs
As stated in the Education Act, special education programmes are provided to ‘students of compulsory school age who by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioural, physical or multiple exceptionalities are in need of special education’.
Although special education needs are referred to in the Education Act and several policies, there is no explicit definition of them.
According to the 2005 Education Act, the Ministry of Education is responsible for assisting in the establishment and maintenance of education institutions and other facilities for tertiary, adult and continuing education and special education. It is also responsible for the referral of children who have been identified by the chief education officer as having learning difficulties to appropriate medical, education and social services or to other agencies for remedial treatment or assistance.
A student with special education needs or learning difficulties will be referred to the chief education officer upon written consent from the parent. The chief education officer together with a team of professionals will conduct a multidisciplinary assessment to determine an appropriate special education programme to meet the needs of the student. A special education programme may also take the form of an individualized education plan.
The 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy defines a special education unit as an education facility that caters for the needs of children with a variety of challenges. There is one such unit in Saint Kitts and one in Nevis. One of the units began operating in 1982 in a classroom at a primary school and catered solely for the needs of children who were mentally challenged. Currently, it caters for the needs of children with a variety of challenges. Special education units seek to equip students with skills that will enable them to lead an independent life as much as possible.
As reported by the 2017–21 education sector plan, for learners with a range of special education needs, education and training are provided at the Cotton Thomas Comprehensive School in Saint Kitts or the Cicele Brown Integrated School (CBIS) in Nevis. Approximately 107 students aged 5 to 19 are enrolled at the Cotton Thomas school and 19 students aged 5 to 15 are enrolled at Cicele Brown, all with a range of cognitive, learning, behavioural and physical disabilities. However, according to the plan, there is no available data on the number of students who may need special education services but are not receiving them and ‘anecdotal evidence suggests that, owning to societal stigma, some parents/guardians are unwilling to have their dependant(s) assessed for special educational needs or enrolled in CTCS/CBIS [Cotton Thomas/Cicele Brown] despite official recommendations from the MoE [Ministry of Education].’
The education sector plan recognizes that ‘owing to resource constraints for promoting inclusion in general education, CTCS and CBIS also serve students who are cognitively capable of attending mainstream schools, but owing to certain disabilities (e.g. vision impairments) are attending special education institutions’.
One of the immediate outcomes outlined in the education sector plan is for ‘students from ECD [early childhood development] to post-secondary with special educational needs to be able to access quality care and instruction in the least restrictive school environment for the identified need’. Where feasible, the Ministry of Education will provide inclusive learning environments for students with special education needs and disabilities. The target is for at least four mainstream schools (two primary and two secondary) to provide appropriate accommodation for students with special needs.
The 2005 Education Act regulates the provision of education services in Saint Kitts.
In 2006, Saint Kitts developed an action plan for localizing and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The plan sought to achieve universal primary and secondary education and eliminate gender disparity at both levels, create policies to fight male underachievement in high school, increase quality of education by providing in-service and pre-service teacher training and building and renovating schools, and sharpen the content and focus of the curriculum, particularly at the primary level.
The Ministry of Education considers that education is the key to the future. It aims to provide for all citizens and residents, in collaboration with other stakeholders, a comprehensive course of quality lifelong education, which will enable them to develop and achieve their full potential, allowing them to make a meaningful contribution to national development. To continue raising the nation’s education standard, the ministry’s objective is for ‘a minimum of 20% of the population to have tertiary education and to provide alternatives for students who are exiting school at the fourth form level or before.’ Alternatives include:
- Enrolling in Project Strong, which delivers a skills-based curriculum
- Enrolling in a programme at an advanced vocational centre or the National Skills Training Programme.
The 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy provided guidance for education developments and policies for a 10-year period after a process of consultation with local stakeholders and regional and international agencies. The 2017–21 education sector plan, which focuses on Education for All, provides the roadmap for the Ministry of Education to improve the provision and administration of education over the medium term. It demonstrates the country’s regional and global commitments on education acquired through the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ 2012–21 education sector strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG 4).
The plan establishes a series of key policy goals for 2017–21. These include:
- Improving equitable access to and participation in education at all levels
- Strengthening the quality and relevance of education at all levels to improve learning outcomes
- Enhancing governance, planning and management to improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout the sector.
A number of cross-cutting themes are central to achieving the three policy goals, including increased focus on equity in education and in technical and vocational education and training as a driving and valued force in education sector development, and the integration of ICT as a value-added pedagogical and management tool. The education sector plan seeks to redefine targeting mechanisms for social assistance programmes and implement appropriate services for vulnerable populations that are not being adequately served, to redress inequalities by providing opportunities for quality learning outcomes to all students, to reduce gender disparities at the secondary level and beyond and to ensure that students with special education needs can access quality teaching and learning in the least restrictive school environment.
Division 4 of the Education Act regulates special education in the country. Special education programmes are provided to ‘students of compulsory school age who by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioural, physical or multiple exceptionalities are in need of special education’. The chief education officer, in consultation with professional staff at the school, the Ministry of Education and the parents, will decide on a special education programme that is tailored to the education needs and rights of the student. The special education programme will be delivered to the student in the ‘least restrictive and most enabling environment to the extent that resources permit’.
According to the act, a special education programme may take the form of an individual education plan. Once it has been determined that the student will require an individual education plan, ‘the cost of developing, providing and maintaining that plan shall be apportioned between the student, if the student is above 18 years of age, or the parent of the student, where the student is below 18 years of age, as the case may be, and the Ministry of Education in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made under this act’ (Art. 82.4).
According to the 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy, inclusion ‘means that students with a wide range of difficulties may depend on the regular classroom teacher for their education’. Services for students with special needs may be provided in classrooms with students who have no learning difficulties, but children ‘at the lowest end of the continuum are educated at the Special Education Units on St. Kitts and Nevis.’
In order to improve equitable access to and participation in education at all levels, the 2017–21 education sector plan sets out to strengthen the regulatory framework for special education and equip schools with infrastructure and resources to better serve students with special needs. According to the education sector plan, ‘low academic performance in mainstream education hints that additional students may need special education or learning support services.’
The education sector plan recognizes that some issues need to be addressed to improve the quality of special education services. These include:
- Inadequate diagnostic testing and fragmented documentation of students’ history
- The need for additional therapeutic equipment
- Insufficient training for staff in mainstream and special needs schools
- Insufficient student support services for students with special education needs in mainstream schools
- Lack of support for gifted or talented special needs students.
As stated in the education sector plan’s fifth intermediate outcome, wherever feasible the Ministry of Education will provide inclusive learning environments for students with special education needs and disabilities. This will require strengthening the regulatory framework that guides access and participation of students with special education needs and developing a special education policy that ‘defines and operationalises terms including, but not limited to, “least restrictive environment and inclusion”’.
The Education Act established that the Ministry of Education should develop an understanding of the principle of gender equality and other forms of equality as defined in the Constitution.
The 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy promoted the development of an HIV/AIDS policy for education in collaboration with UNESCO to recognize HIV and AIDS as a socio-economic issue affecting all sectors, including education; to ensure that no student will be denied access to education on the basis of his or her actual or perceived HIV status; and to fight discrimination. In the medium term, the ministry intends to review, together with the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs, a written policy that will allow pregnant students to return to school after their pregnancy.
Saint Kitts and Nevis has not yet developed a gender policy.
The 2017–21 education sector plan acknowledges that differences in participation between males and females have been noted at the secondary level and beyond. The plan included measures to eliminate gender disparities in participation by 2020.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
According to the 2017–21 education sector plan, Saint Kitts should be ready to accommodate learners with potential language barriers, such as the growing number of migrants from the Dominican Republic. While most of the population are English speakers, 1.2% identified as Hispanic in the 2001 census. Meaningful participation is constrained for English-language learners. The plan recognizes the necessity of considering the needs of the growing numbers of persons emigrating from the Dominican Republic, for many of whom English is not a first language.
In 2006, the school meals programme was already envisaged. The programme provides hot lunches for students at the primary level to ensure the maintenance of adequate nutrition. The action plan for localizing and achieving the Millennium Development Goals established that by 2015 all schools should be provided with hot lunches, heavily subsidized by the government, to help those in need of assistance. In addition, a public assistance programme from the Ministry of Social Development provides school uniforms for students from low-income families.
The 2017–21 education sector plan refers to a number of measures to support the access and participation of children from low-income households. Social assistance programmes have been implemented to defray the costs of school meals, textbooks, examinations and uniforms. To improve targeting and reduce inefficiency in service delivery, more collaboration is needed between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development.
The Ministry of Education is the highest authority in education. The chief education officer is responsible for the general administration of the Education Act, for ensuring that schools and other education institutions are administered in a proper and efficient manner; for developing and directing training for all professional personnel; and for developing administrative principles and procedures to implement general policies and administer the school system.
The 2017–21 education sector plan seeks to enhance governance, planning and management in the education sector. Some of the strategies envisioned include strengthening policy action by aligning education legislation with policy mandates, developing capacity in policy development and raising awareness of Ministry of Education policies, modifying the ministry’s organizational structure to improve work processes, and implementing policies on equity and resource and data management.
The Education Act provides the legal framework for the management of the education sector. The act sanctioned the establishment of a series of entities that could aid in the management of the sector. However, according to the 2017–21 education sector plan, some of these bodies are not functioning effectively, such as the Education Advisory Board, or have not been established, such as the Council on Early Childhood Education, the Education Review Committee, the National Student Council and school boards.
The planning division is responsible for curriculum development and programme planning.
According to the Education Act, the ministry may establish a council on special education to advise the chief education officer on guidelines for the implementation of the provisions of the planning division (Art. 85). The act also called for a special education unit to be established to assist children with special needs.
The Office for Special Education in the Ministry of Education has recently been reinforced to carry out its responsibility to ensure that individuals with special education needs are served through the school system. It offers assessment, diagnosis and intervention services in speech and language therapy; education assessment and intervention; teaching for students with moderate to severe mental challenges; and work with visually impaired students. Limited service for clinical psychology is available. The Child Development Project of the Ministry of Social Services has prioritized the development of diagnostic kits to identify children with learning or behavioural difficulties at an early age.
Infrastructure and services
The action plan for localizing and achieving the Millennium Development Goals promoted the construction and remodelling of school facilities. It sought to establish school libraries to promote literacy and nurture a culture of reading among students in all schools by 2015.
The Government of Saint Kitts has introduced a number of assistance programmes to support families to ensure that children can complete their education, such as a school transport system, which provides a fleet of buses to take children to and from school at no cost to parents and guardians.
According to the 2017–21 education sector plan, efforts to increase access to and participation in early childhood education include expanding existing centres and establishing new ones, implementing the Reaching the Unreached programme for home-based nursery providers and ensuring that public centres are accessible for children with physical disabilities.
The 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy promoted the integration of ICT into the delivery of curricula at all levels. A special education curriculum for students with severe disabilities aged 5 to 16 was designed to provide targets for students’ attainment and develop the abilities of the student to track student progress ‘towards Primary Education level 1’. The curriculum is dependent ‘on the provision of trained teachers who are able to plan for, facilitate and monitor students requiring a more individualised approach, in which their needs, abilities and interests are carefully considered.’
To strengthen the quality and relevance of education in Saint Kitts, the 2017–21 education sector plan seeks to implement a revised curriculum and learning assessment system that allows students to develop a holistic set of competencies for the 21st century.
Students with special education needs who attend the Cotton Thomas Comprehensive School in Saint Kitts or the Cicele Brown Integrated School in Nevis have individualized education plans to meet their specific learning needs and are exposed to a special education curriculum.
Learning materials and ICT
The 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy encouraged strengthening the use of technology, computers and the internet to enable students to function in the world in which they live. ICT was to be used mainly as an enabler and not as a driver and was intended to provide support to existing manual systems to make them more efficient and effective. A technology planning team comprising multiple stakeholders was expected to develop a technology plan including professional development in technology use as an essential component, to ensure that the education goals concerning technology are in line with school and national goals for student learning, and to ensure that professional development supports those goals.
The Ministry of Education promoted the computerization of primary and secondary schools and set up a system to assist low-income families by providing textbooks at no cost and covering the cost of examination fees though the Student Education Learning Fund project.
The Ministry of Education regularly provides in-service training for teachers. According to the Ministry of Education, professional development enables teachers to offer students learning opportunities that will prepare them to meet high standards in given content areas, and it can bridge gaps for the disabled and contribute to measurable improvements in student achievement.Technology can be a useful tool in the classroom and may enhance the teaching environment.
In April 2019, the ministry organized an in-service training programme for primary and secondary school teachers to support new teachers during the first year in the profession. The training, which focused on inclusion and advancement, aimed at generating positive change in the classroom.
The Government of Saint Kitts established a Teacher Resource Centre as an extension of the Curriculum Development Unit to provide information and resources for teachers. It also facilitates assistance from the University of the West Indies, which provides teacher training at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
The 2009–19 white paper on education development and policy encouraged the revision of pre-service and in-service teacher education and recruitment. It established that by 2014, all practising teachers should have at least a certificate in teacher education. By 2015, at least 60% of the trained teachers in primary and secondary schools, as well as the Special Education Unit, were expected hold a specialist certificate in learning support.
According to the 2017–21 education sector plan, there is a need to increase the number of trained teachers and to improve gender balance in the teaching force. One of the strategies to strengthen the quality and relevance of education included developing a framework for mandatory pre-service teacher training, establishing a National Teaching Council and a Continuous Professional Development Framework and implementing professional standards and welfare initiatives for teachers. The plan recognizes that there are insufficient training opportunities for staff in mainstream and special needs schools
The 2017–21 education sector plan recognized that ‘there is an underdeveloped and underutilized Education Management and Education System (EMIS) to drive evidence-based decision making.’