There is no evidence of an inclusive education law in Suriname and therefore no official definition adopted in the country. UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (MOESC) in implementing several education programs that have an inclusive education component such as the Lifelong learning Programme and the “I believe in you” in-service teacher-training program. Suriname has tried to increase access to education and other services to the most vulnerable segments of the population, however there is no evidence of a law or policy framework on inclusive education. In addition, there is no clear attempt to include children with disabilities into regular schools.
Special Education Needs
The National Report on the Development of Special Education (2008) contains provisions for the development of special education in Suriname and the support for children and youngsters with special needs such as:
- Mental, physical, sight or multiple handicaps
- Learning behaviour or emotional problems
Children with epilepsy or have a specific affection like ADHD, Autism or Downs Syndrome.
The National Report on the Development of Special Education published on 2008 indicated that the government had the intention of developing a sustainable policy on inclusive and special education. At time the report was published the country had not yet ratified the CRPD and students where strictly separated in special schools, regular schools and private schools. In private and regular schools parents would pay extra money for special care.
A Health Care Network for Special Education was in place to support students requiring a special education. It underwent a reform to increase its quality and effectiveness. Starting points for the formulation of a vision policy for Special Education included an official instruction from the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Developing Inclusive and Special Education, acknowledgment by the Surinamese society of the target groups of special education and enquiry in the current situation from the target groups, education institutions and network.
According to the National Report on the Development of Special Education, in the last counting before the report was published, 831 boys and 343 girls attended primary and secondary school for special education. Special schools are not equally divided into the constituencies in Suriname. Paramaribo has 18 special schools, while Nickerie, Wanica and Para had 2 each. In the constituencies of Coronie, Saramaca, Commewinje, Brokopondo and Sipaliwini there are no special schools.
The Consideration report of submitted by Suriname under article 44 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (2014), underlined that most service providers, including teachers, are not adequately trained in providing care to children with disabilities. There are “a few special schools or other provisions for children with disabilities, and in general, even a lesser number adhering to young adolescents and none for children with a disability living in the interior”. The schools that do exist are often not officially recognised as such by the Ministry of Education.
Data from UNICEF shows that few services exist for early stimulation for the age of birth to age 3. Many of them are privately operated with very little provisions offered to indigenous children, children living in deep rural and riverine areas and children with disabilities. In addition, the country has very limited capacity for early detection of disabilities which has long lasting consequences for the children and their families.
The Constitution of Suriname of 1987 amended in 1992, enshrines the right to free education on all levels. Article 39 determines that the state shall recognise and guarantee the right of all citizens to education and shall offer them equal opportunity for schooling. In the execution of its education policy the State shall be under the obligation:
- To assure obligatory and free general primary education;
- To assure durable education and to end illiteracy;
- To enable all citizens to attain the highest levels of education, scientific research and artistic creation, in accordance with their capacities;
- To provide, in phases, free education on all levels;
- To tune education to the productive and social needs of the society
Article 8 determines that no one shall be discriminated against on the grounds of birth, sex, race, language, religious origin, education, political beliefs, economic position or any other status.
Access to education has been guaranteed by ensuring that primary education and secondary education at lower level is free of charge. Compulsory education is currently set by law or the ages of 6 to 12 years.
The Education for All 2015 National Review, identified as prospects for post-2015 guaranteeing equity in education, increasing completion of primary education, ensuring access to basic education for all and improving data availability and quality for evidence based policies. Implementation of all EFA goals within Special Education took place from the Pedological Institute (PI). A pilot project for students with Educational Difficulties was designed to offer inclusive education in small groups with an adapted curriculum.
As reported on the National Report of Suriname to the Human Rights Council on 2016, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (MOESC) has undertaken several actions to improve the quality of education such as:
- Reforming teacher-training colleagues in order to meet the needs of the future student
- Strengthening the capacity of inspectors to monitor the quality of education and guidance for teachers
- Drafting programs to implement ICT in education.
The Multiannual Development Plan for 2012–2016 states that specific government policies will increase social security for the most vulnerable segments of the population. The policies focus on groups with reduced access to basic commodities such as safe water and electricity—particularly inhabitants of the interior, including Maroons and Amerindians— or limited access to health care and social services—which includes the inhabitants of the interior, the poor, elderly, pregnant women, children, and people with a disability. Between 2010 and 2013, the State alleviated some of the needs of the most deprived.
In 2012, Suriname received a US$13.7 million loan from the IDB to modernise the education system and help schoolchildren improve learning outcomes. The first phase of the plan focused on developing the curriculum framework for the entire basic system and increasing learning outcomes in pre-primary and primary. The Second Basic Education Improvement Programme (2017) focused on improving access to schools and teachers in the interior and building capacity within the MOESC.
UNICEF has been supporting Suriname and Guyana to target the most vulnerable and hard-to reach children. A decentralised approach was implemented in regions bordering Brazil. Results indicated an increase in youth-friendly access to health; higher connectivity using smart classrooms to improve access to secondary education. One of the expected outcomes of UNICEF’s program in Suriname and Guyana is that by 2021, all children and adolescents, especially the most disadvantaged among them, have improved their education and developmental outcomes and accessed equitable and inclusive learning environments across the life cycle, including in emergencies.
A National Report on the Development of Special Education was published in 2008. The Report acknowledged that while a clear policy for special and inclusive education had not yet been developed, the Ministry of Education intended to develop a sustainable policy on this aspect based on the vision for inclusive education of the Salamanca Convention. This implies the promotion of the integration and participation and fight against exclusion of students in need of special education.
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2006) showed that 23.7% of children aged 2-9 had at least one reported disability, with little differentiation between urban, rural coastal and rural interior areas. A new MICS survey was conducted in 2018 and is now in the stage of data process and analysis. According to the situation analysis of children in Suriname (2010), children with physical or mental disabilities are facing numerous challenges: inadequate care in the child care institution, lack of or limited opportunities for adequate education, lack of opportunities for recreation and social development with other children, stigmatisation within society and their family, risk of violence or abuse by service providers and family members.
On 25 September 2015, the National Assembly approved the accession of Suriname to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The country ratified the CRPD on 29 March 2017. In anticipation of this, the State has executed the Policy for People with Disability 2005 – 2010. The minimum standards for services, provisions and institutions for people with disability were drafted and adopted through the Act Alternative Care (2014), which applies to registered alternative care institutions.
As reported on the National Report of Suriname to the Human Rights Council on 2016, the MOESC is working with the private sector to reform the vocational training, especially for the children with disabilities. More schools for Special Education are in planning and existing schools will be made more accessible for those with a disability. The Foundation Training Projects for Juveniles with Disability in Suriname has the objective of teaching skills to children and juveniles with a learning disability between 14 and 20 years of age, so that they can actively contribute to the labor market in Suriname. The foundation provides vocational training in machine woodworking, textile handicrafts, construction and woodworking, metal working and horticulture;
UNICEF supported the Ministry of Social Affairs to carry out a study on the status of children with disabilities, with a focus on access to services, existing policies and laws and children’s most pressing needs.
Suriname developed an Integral Gender Action Plan in 2006 and a Gender Work Plan in 2013.
A National Review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action +20 prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2014, indicated that gender parity in primary education is almost achieved however from the secondary level onwards, the gender parity ratio favours women. Despite increased enrolment of women in all education levels, there are persistent disparities in access of women to education and health which are greatly influenced by socio economic condition, educational level, ethnicity and place of residence.
The National Report of Suriname to the Human Rights Council on 2016, stated that the Ministry of Home Affairs financially supports NGOs’ projects to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. In 2015, male students from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) received training in the prevention of and taking responsibility in cases of teen pregnancy and gender equality. The MOESC has promoted a number of policies and actions aimed at eliminating factors which tend to perpetuate gender inequalities. The Basic Education Improvement Project (BEIP) management, has been instructed to include gender equality in the implementation of BEIP II 2012-2016. Religious leaders and teachers from secondary schools received training in gender and gender related issues, such as domestic violence, from the Bureau for Gender Affairs.
UNICEF supported the MOESC in assessing girls-boy’s inclusion and completion of school using out of school children national surveys. As part of its support for school’s retention UNICEF partnered with ministries of education and health to support policies and programmes aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy, reintegrating adolescent mothers in school, and overall strengthening of healthy behaviours and services, all tailored to adolescents.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous people
Suriname has a multi-ethnic population. Dutch is the lingua franca, however more than 30 languages are spoken across the country. Suriname has developed a second National Action Plan for Children (NAPC) for the period 2009-2014. One of the priorities of the NAPC is improving the quality of education for children from underprivileged and minority groups, indigenous children and children in the interior.
In 2008, a comprehensive ‘Implementation Plan for Education in the Interior’ was drafted for the period 2008-2015. The plan included among others the construction and restoration of schools and classrooms; improving the quality and relevance of education, by increasing the percentage of households who speak Dutch as a second language, and increasing the number of qualified teachers.
People living in rural and remote areas
Many schools in the interior both public and private are overcrowded and lack adequate infrastructure and access to basic services such as water and electricity. According to the IDB, in regions such as Brokopondo and Sipaliwini, many students have to walk long distances or use canoes to attend school; 29.4% of the schools are only reachable by boat. In addition, the student-teacher ratio in these regions is higher than in the rest of the country. The Second Basic Education Improvement Programme aimed at reducing dropout in remote areas, improving teacher capacity and improving school facilities.
The Ministry of Education and Community Development of Suriname is in charge of the design and implementation of the education policies.
In 2004, the government established a multidisciplinary team, the National Advisory Board for the Policy on Disabilities. The team consists of: psychologists, educationalists, school social workers, speech therapists, dyslexia experts and physical therapists. The National Bureau for Gender Policy is in charge of the implementation of gender equality in education and across other sectors of the societies.
Many international organisations are involved in the education sector. They include: the International Development Bank (IDB) the Flemish Association for Development Aid and Technical Assistance (VVOB), UNICEF and CARICOM
Infrastructure and services
A study into the staffing situation at institutions, focused on people with disability, was conducted by the Care for People with Disability, in cooperation with the Commission Policy for People with Disability. Existing schools are being made more accessible for children and youth with disabilities.
With the help from the Inter-American Development Bank, Suriname reformed its curriculum in 2012. The last curriculum reform had taken place in the 1970s. The previous curriculum was outdated and not relevant for today’s learning needs.
The Education for All 2015 National Review acknowledged that in the revised national curriculum minimal attention was being paid to special education needs and disparities in educational needs. Taking this into consideration, the MOESC was preparing a policy document for special education at all levels.
Learning materials and ICTs
As part of the Basic Education Improvement Programme supported by the IDB, a draft National Education Policy and strategy was completed and adopted by the MOESC. With support from this programme, 106.000 textbooks and learning materials were provided.
Embracing innovation and digital technology, UNICEF supported the use of 'smart' classrooms allowing children in the hinterland to connect with coastal areas and access remote education.
The “I believe in you” in-service teacher-training program was implemented by the MOESC with the support of UNICEF between 2009-2013. The program aimed to make a positive contribution to pupil-oriented and child-friendly education in Suriname. A comprehensive training programme for all primary school teachers was developed to ensure that all 10.000 teachers would understand how to implement this new approach in their classrooms. One of the sub-themes of the “I believe in you” program was inclusive education. UNICEF focused on all primary schools in the four interior districts (Brokopondo, Marowijne, Para and Sipaliwini) and gave technical and financial support to the MOESC to develop and implement four in-service teacher training-modules. Its overall goal was that “At least 80% of girls and boys in the interior have access to quality inclusive pre-primary and primary education”
The evaluation of the programme published in 2016 concluded that there was no significant improvements of educational indicators during and following the implementation of the “I believe in you” programme in the four interior districts. The lack of a functional administrative system including a log frame, baseline data necessary to establish net impact of the programme, well defined programme goals, and measurable indicators was one of the weaknesses of the programme. Besides, the programme activities were not directly related to indicators of “Quality inclusive” education, which was the primary goal of the programme. Furthermore, it remains unclear to what extent changes in knowledge and skills of teachers can be attributed to the “I believe in you” in-service teacher training programme.
A lesson plan was published in the period 2008–2011 for teachers in primary education, on how to deal with people with a disability, in particular children.
Remoteness impacts the supply of qualified teachers in the interior. As of 2010, approximately 30% of the teachers working in the interior were not qualified to teach in the coastal areas. Although coastal teachers receive monetary incentives to move to the interior to teach, fully qualified teachers believe these are not enough to compensate for the compromises they have to make to teach in rural areas; especially because housing is not adequate. In this sense, there is need to guarantee that teachers in the interior are provided with adequate housing close to the schools as an added incentive to work in the remote areas of the interior.
Suriname has no national education reporting mechanism and no indicators have been developed to monitor inclusive education in the country.