The General Education Act (2008) lays the foundations for inclusive education in Uruguay. Article 8 on diversity and educational inclusion notes that the State "shall ensure the rights of minority groups or groups in especially vulnerable situations, with the aim of ensuring equal opportunities in the full exercise of the right to education and their effective social inclusion. For the effective fulfilment of the right to education, educational proposals shall respect the different capacities and individual characteristics of the learners, so as to achieve the full development of their capabilities".
In addition, article 24 states that a comprehensive education will be promoted that fosters the social inclusion of the learner, starting with early education.
Special Educational Needs (SEN)
There is no definition of SEN in the General Education Act (2008), nor in the Comprehensive Protection of People with Disabilities Act (2010).
According to the Early and Primary Education Council (CEIP) special education is a network of schools, classrooms, support units, projects, equipment, devices, strategies, resources and methods of early and primary education to promote the learning of children and adolescents with disabilities, learning difficulties and giftedness, developed from a rights-based perspective, within the framework of inclusive education and a school for all.
In Uruguay there are special schools and classrooms reserved for people with disabilities, learning difficulties and giftedness. Special schools are located throughout Montevideo and the different departments and, in many cases, specialize in one type of disability. For example, in Artigas, there is a class for people who are deaf and speech impaired. Moreover, several schools have support units and teachers.
According to the Report on the State of Education in Uruguay 2017-2018, special education methods include "classrooms in mainstream schools with inclusion in mainstream education groups, support teachers in mainstream schools, shared schooling in mainstream and special schools and support in special schools." In 2017, there were 80 public special schools with an enrolment of 6,043 students, and 69 private schools with an enrolment of 2,430 students. However, "there is no systematized information on students with SEN attending mainstream schools, high schools or technical schools".
According to the CEIP, some of the goals of special education include:
Addressing and monitoring the educational situation of students with disabilities in relation to fulfilment of the right to an inclusive and quality education in both public and private settings.
Identifying and categorizing geographical and situational barriers in order to define intervention strategies that link technical capacities and existing resources, allowing educational accessibility.
Deepening the integration of ICT as a means, resource and tool for the teaching, learning, autonomy and inclusion of students with disabilities.
Promoting the professionalization of teachers through a reflection and analysis of different educational situations, ongoing training and research and action.
According to the Review of School Resources in Uruguay published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), services provided in special schools only exist at the primary education level. There may therefore be "a large number of disabled and special needs students who do not attend any education centre, either special or mainstream, and who receive little or no education in their own homes". Likewise, according to the OECD, the system has little capacity to provide inclusive or integrated education.
However, in recent years, progress has been made in creating integrated and inclusive centres. The first experience of an Integrated Centre created between a Special Education School and an Artistic Education School took place in the department of Treinta y Tres. This is an institutional proposal that brings the two schools together in the same space working under principles of inclusion and the recognition of differences. In the same vein, the CEIP created the Mandela Network of Schools and Pre-schools.
The General Education Act (2008) states that education is a fundamental human right and is of universal public interest. Through this Act, diversity and educational inclusion have become pillars of the Uruguayan education system. The rights of minority groups or groups in particularly vulnerable situations will be ensured, with the aim of guaranteeing equal opportunities in the full exercise of the right to education and their effective social inclusion. The State will also provide the necessary specific support to people and sectors in particularly vulnerable situations and will act in such a way as to include people and sectors that are discriminated against culturally, economically or socially, so that they may achieve real equality of opportunities for access to, permanence of and achievement in learning.
In formal education, special consideration will be given to education in rural areas, the education of young people and adults and the education of people with disabilities, promoting their inclusion in formal education settings, according to their individual capabilities, providing them with the necessary support.
The Educational Policy Guidelines of the Early and Primary Education Council 2016-2020 establish inclusion as a guiding principle of the Uruguayan education system. The transformation of special schools into resource centres for educational inclusion and the strengthening and expansion of support teachers are promoted. Special schools are maintained as resource centres and as schools for students with severe disabilities, and support mechanisms or internships are provided for students who require them.
The Report on the State of Education in Uruguay 2017-2018 prepared by the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEEd) states that Uruguay has a regulatory framework for educational inclusion that seeks to ensure that all people can benefit from the right to education. Concerning disability specifically, the education policy, like the regulatory framework, has evolved towards the inclusion of children and adolescents in mainstream education centres.
The General Education Act (2008) establishes that learners in any education centre will have the right to receive specific and necessary educational support in case of disability or illness that affects their learning process.
Act 18.651 on the Comprehensive Protection of People with Disabilities adopted in 2010 determines that programmes will be developed for the provision of education in diversity for people with disabilities, with a view to their integration and inclusion. Equal opportunities will be provided from early education through integration in mainstream classrooms based on the recognition of diversity as an educational factor, with the aim of achieving education for all, enabling and deepening the process of full inclusion in the community. In order to guarantee this inclusion, curricular flexibility, evaluation mechanisms and physical and communicational accessibility will be ensured (article 40).
According to the Report on the State of Education in Uruguay 2017-2018, an action protocol for the inclusion of people with disabilities in public and private education centres was developed in 2017.
The Educational Inclusion of People with Disabilities project seeks to advance the inclusion of all vulnerable populations, cultural transformation, and to work with communities and innovation in the education system. The project, which is run by the National Public Education Administration (ANEP), has developed various areas of work in the educational and social inclusion of children and adolescents with disabilities attending State schools. The project is being implemented together with the European Union's EUROsociAL programme and foresees the implementation of a new inclusive education model in education centres at all levels, the creation of spaces for equity, the installation of systems for monitoring inclusive education policies and the establishment of initial teacher training modules and training modules for in-service teachers on inclusive education, with particular emphasis on people with disabilities.
There are initiatives such as the Mandela Network of Schools and Pre-schools, which seeks to promote the development of schools and pre-schools implementing inclusive education projects in the country. The Network seeks to promote empowerment and collaboration processes between key stakeholders for inclusive education: students, teachers, families, school staff and the community.
The First National Plan for Equal Opportunities and Rights (PIODNA) 2007-2011 promoted "gender mainstreaming in education policies, particularly in the design and implementation of the Education Reform". The PIODNA sought to incorporate a gender perspective into the General Education Act and to ensure that the education system implemented programmes that promote changes in gender relations.
Sex education was incorporated into the formal education system in 2006 and, since then, the CEIP has promoted and supported its implementation process in all schools. Since 2008, the sex education programme has been implemented in all educational subsystems.
The Guide to Sex Education in Early and Primary Education provides theoretical and methodological guidance to teachers on how to address the Early and Primary Education Programme’s sex education content through specific proposals appropriate to the stage the children are going through. The guide addresses issues such as gender stereotypes and roles, sexual identity and sexual diversity.
Under the leadership of the National Gender Council of Uruguay, the National Strategy for Gender Equality to 2030, published in early 2020, sought to become the road map guiding the State on gender equality in the medium term. It proposes a gender policy as State policy. The gender equality dimension prioritizes the right to a life free from violence for women and girls and access to education and culture free from gender stereotypes. The strategy recognizes ethnic and racial factors and place of residence as specific components of the unequal status between women and men that affect access, retention and completion of education.
Ethnic and Linguistic Groups and Indigenous Peoples
According to the General Education Act (2008), the purpose of language education is "the development of people's communication skills, respect for linguistic varieties, and consideration of the different native languages existing in the country (Uruguayan Spanish, Uruguayan Portuguese, Uruguayan sign language) as well as multilingual education through the teaching of second and foreign languages."
Article 7 of Act 19.122 (2015) sought to establish standards to encourage the participation of the Afro-descendant population in the education and labour system. The Act stipulates that the student grant and support systems must incorporate quotas for people of African descent.
The Educational Guide on Education and Afro-descendants proposes a rights-based approach and inclusive education for the Afro-descendant population, which represents around 8 per cent of Uruguay’s population. The guide seeks to deconstruct ethnic, racial and gender roles and stereotypes and to end discrimination against children of African descent in education centres.
According to the Periodic Review submitted by Uruguay to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2015, the percentage of people attending education centres varies according to ethnic and racial descent, with Afro-descendant youth having lower attendance rates than non-Afro youth.
According to the General Education Act, formal education in rural areas shall aim to ensure, as a minimum, the compulsory education of individuals, taking into account the specific features of the environment in which it takes place (article 34).
The general lines of action of the Department of Education for the Rural Environment establish the institutional frameworks that make up the structure of rural education in Uruguay. The Didactic Educational Support Centres for Rural Schools (CAPDER) seek to promote educational projects in rural areas and to contribute to the professional strengthening of rural teachers. The CAPDERs began operating in 2001, and today there are 19 centres.
People living in poverty
There are educational inclusion programmes to ensure that all children have access to and remain in the education system and achieve quality learning. The A.PR.EN.D.E.R. Schools Programme focuses on integrating and linking actions for the most vulnerable sectors.
The Report on the State of Education in Uruguay (2015-2016) shows that there is clear inequality in access to education depending on a household’s socio-economic situation. The OECD's Review of School Resources in Uruguay supports the report's findings and confirms that Uruguay continues to have significant inequalities in education based on students' socio-economic status. There are also significant differences in student achievement depending on the type of school, its location, and its educational resources.
Uruguay's education policy is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Much of the inclusive education policy is the responsibility of the Early and Primary Education Council (CEIP), the National Public Education Administration body in charge of providing early and primary education. The CEIP has various inspectorates, including the National Inspectorate for Special Education, which establishes the general guidelines for action for the country's special education schools and centres. It also coordinates various educational programmes such as the school food programme, the sex education programme, the inclusive education programme and the community teachers programme, among others.
The Commission for educational and socio-professional continuity for people with disabilities, created by Ministerial Decree 238 of 2013, seeks to promote the inclusion and educational continuity of people with disabilities.
The Honorary Commission against Racism, Xenophobia and All Other Forms of Discrimination (CHRXD) comprises representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Board of Directors of the National Public Education Administration, together with three representatives of NGOs appointed by the President of the Republic, and aims to provide comprehensive advice free of charge to people or groups that are victims of discrimination.
With regard to gender, the National Women's Institute (INMUJERES) and the National Gender Council are responsible for defining the strategic public policy lines on gender.
The Department of Education for the Rural Environment works together with 19 Didactic Educational Support Centres for Rural Schools (CAPDER) to guarantee quality rural education in Uruguay.
For the OECD, one of the main challenges facing education in Uruguay relates to the structure of its institutional governance and the distribution of responsibilities for developing and implementing education policy. Governance in the country is overly centralized. Central authorities manage the education budget, the hiring of teachers, and the allocation of infrastructure and equipment, which means local authorities have very little autonomy.
Infrastructure and Services
A July 2019 press release from the Presidency of the Republic highlighted that "Uruguay has 2,314 schools and some 400,000 students throughout the country, 21 per cent of whom attend full-time education centres. Of 123,324 students who entered basic secondary education, 60 per cent are from vulnerable backgrounds."
In terms of infrastructure, 12 schools have been built, 152 have been expanded and 2,249 primary education centres have been improved. Renovation work is carried out in special schools on a regular basis, such as special school no. 80 in San Carlos, Maldonado.
Act 18.651 on the Comprehensive Protection of People with Disabilities (2010) sought to ensure curricular flexibility, evaluation mechanisms and physical and communicational accessibility in order to guarantee the inclusion of people with disabilities.
ICT and learning materials
The CEIP sought to deepen the integration of ICT as a means, resource and tool for the teaching, learning, autonomy and inclusion of students with disabilities.
Through the National Plan for Equal Opportunities and Rights, the aim was to ensure that women have access to and make critical use of information and communication technologies. To this end, it sought to generate ICT continuing training bodies within both formal and non-formal education.
The University Institute of Education (IUDE) is tasked with training teachers, technical teachers, social educators and lecturers.
According to the CEIP, many programmes and policies in Uruguay are promoting inclusive education through educational improvement in teacher education and training bodies, and promoting spaces for family and community participation. It is, however, recognized that Uruguayan society faces the challenge of responding to its growing diversity fairly, ensuring the same rights and opportunities for all children.
According to the NGO Inclusive Education Network, 65 per cent of special education teaching staff had a specialization or training in 2012. A September 2019 Presidential statement indicated that Primaria and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso) are training 600 specialized support teachers to work with disability in mainstream settings.
With respect to gender, the National Plan for Equal Opportunities and Rights sought to determine actions with the Teacher Training Directorate to incorporate a gender perspective and non-discrimination, and the promotion of sexual and reproductive rights in teacher training.
Lastly, Act 19.122 (2015) considers it to be of public interest that educational and teacher training programmes incorporate the heritage of Afro-descendant communities into history, as well as their participation in and contributions to shaping the nation.
Uruguay publishes a Report on the State of Education in Uruguay every two years. The Report is published by the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEEd).
The Ministry of Education and Culture publishes the Statistical Yearbook of Education annually, as well as updated statistics on the landscape of youth and adult education, the landscape of public spending on education and the landscape of educational scholarships, among others.