The National Education Action Plan 2013-2015 mentions in its introduction that “there is emphasis on inclusive education, so needs of students at risk of being excluded, such as children with disabilities, are met”. The Education Strategic Framework 2016-2030, in the section on "further analysis of the specific costs of Equity” lists “inclusive education and the costs of providing education for children with different types of disabilities” (p. 33). However, the National Education Action Plan 2016-2030 establishes as one of its two priorities “Inclusive Access and Completion” by providing most Y1-9 students with “equitable access to fee-free schooling and complete basic education”. Similarly, the National Development Strategy 2017-2035 sets among its objectives to “ improve provision of basic needs” and “establish a policy on inclusive education for all with greater emphasis on free education and ensure its effectiveness in terms of physical and teacher’s quality as role model” (p.31).
Special education needs
According to the 2015 Education White Paper, special needs refer to “all forms of disabilities and/or circumstances which prevent learners benefiting adequately from the education normally provided for those of their age group. It also includes all learners for whom education which is normally provided in the classroom is not challenging enough or too challenging”.
According to the Review of Education Act 2014, a “school for specific purposes” means a school providing education only for students with a particular disability or disabilities.” (p.10). Moreover, despite the “prohibition on discrimination in school education” (art.63), it does not prevent “the establishment and operation of single gender schools or schools for specific purposes intended to benefit children with a particular disability or disabilities and is to be interpreted flexibly and fairly in relation to such schools.”. The same concerns tertiary education “Prohibition on discrimination in tertiary education” (art.100).
Education for children and adults with disabilities is mainly ensured by NGOs, religious and international organizations in the form of special provision. They are six operating throughout the country: three located in Honiara, Guadalcanal province, and three in Makira and Isabel provinces. Through the Special Development Centre (SDC), the Red Cross has been providing primary education to children with disabilities since 1994, including basic health care and rehabilitation services.
Established in 2014, the National Learning Support Resource Centres (NLSRC) support regular schools to provide learners with disabilities with inclusive education. Consisting of representatives from, among others, the MEHRD, the Ministry of Health, the People with Disabilities Solomon Islands, Education Authorities, NLSRC committee includes members of both special and regular primary and secondary schools. NLSRC assist learners, their families and schools with training and capacity building.
Special education provision is still in place. Gizo Disability Centre for the Deaf, West-Hearing Impairment School and Isabel Special School are registered as special schools, while the San Isidro Care Centre and Bethesda Vocational Training Centre in Honiara, and Styvenburg Vocational Training Centre in Makira province are considered vocational education institutions. The latter two also provide boarding facilities. Funded by the MHMS, Bethesda Vocational Training Centre covers fees and transportation services for students residing outside the capital city.
Yet, as reported in the UNICEF barrier to Education Study, education for children with disabilities is limited. Most children with disabilities residing in rural areas are out of school because of limited accessibility.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Due to a widespread rural population, a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) model has been adopted to identify the needs of children with disabilities. As mentioned in the National Disability Policy 2005-2010, health and education services are planned to collaborate in early needs identification. However, the main responsibility is carried by classroom teachers, as acknowledged in the 2015 Education White Paper.
The 1978 Constitution of Solomon Islands, known as the Solomon Islands Independence Order, does not explicitly enshrine the right to education. It prohibits any forms of discrimination in term of “different treatment to different persons” (art.15.2) on the grounds of “race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions” (art.15.4). Came into force on the country’s independence, the 1978 Education Act, as amended in 1996, provides a legal framework for the education system in the country. The 2015 Education White Paper proposes its review based on the principles of “socially, culturally, emotionally, spiritually” equality in order to promote and protect, among others, the rights of learners with special needs. The Education Act review is also expected to lay legal foundations to an inclusive Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which is currently only regulated under the 2008 National Early Childhood Policy, to recognize post-secondary education and training as tertiary education and to provide instruments for equitable access.
The country is committed to ensuring equality in education, as reiterated in the 2015 Education White Paper, which reaffirms that all learners have the right of access to and of participation in education “according to their potential and their ability” at all levels and including disadvantaged groups, such as remote schoolchildren, learners living in poverty and in emergency situations.
The concepts of inclusiveness and equity permeate all education policy documents. The 2008 National Early Childhood Education Policy Statement intends to promote it through the development of adequate facilities and modules in the ECE-teacher training, with emphasis on girls and on children with disabilities, while the 2010 Policy for Tertiary Education pays particular attention to gender and remoteness. A targeted policy on inclusive education is expected to be developed by a special taskforce set up by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD).
More recently, the Education Strategic Framework (ESF) 2016-2030, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims, among others, to increase education access for excluded groups, in particular girls, children with disabilities, pupils and students belonging to language minorities or from poor households.
Signatory of the UNESCAP Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region in 1994, the country signed, but not yet ratified, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. In 2006, an Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation Bill, focusing on disability issues, was drafted but has not been enacted.
Following the endorsement of the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action (BMF) in 2003, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) adopted the National Policy on Disability 2005-2010, which was intended to remove social barriers and develop a system for the full participation of people with disability. Concerning education, it aimed to strengthen inter-sectoral collaboration for the provision of both special and inclusive regular education. Among its actions, it planned to develop special education modules for in-service teacher training, to decentralize special education services and to review the existing curriculum in order to include disability issues. The National Disability Inclusive Development Policy 2013-2018 was formulated but was not endorsed by the Cabinet. In general, social legislative protection for the target group remains underdeveloped. Within the education legal framework, the 1978 Education Act does not capture the rights of persons with disabilities but its review is expected to regulate their access to education.
In the education sector, an inclusive approach in the education provision for persons with disabilities prevails.
Considering the latter among the groups of learners excluded from regular education, the National Education Action Plan 2013-2015 (NEAP) emphasizes the need to enhance school infrastructure and to create an inclusive learning environment for all.
The National Development Plan 2011-2020, Objective 2 “Taking Better Care of All the People of the Solomon Islands to Support to the Vulnerable” mentions the intent to “Create a society that will accept the equal rights of all people with disability and assist and involve them physically, socially, spiritually and culturally and ensures the
achievement of their goals and visions”. Among the strategies to achieve such objective, people with disabilities are expected to be consulted “to ensure that education and training policies give opportunities to boys and girls with disabilities, improve their access to education, develop early intervention measures for children from 0-4 years old, and provide special education modules in all teacher training courses.” (p. 9).
Aligned with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), ratified in 2002, the Gender Equality and Women’s Development (GEWD) Policy 2016 – 2020 is intended to provide an overarching framework for ensuring gender equality. Among its priority outcomes, it aims to increase girls and women’s access to education and create a supportive learning environment though a fee free policy and a gender-sensitive education curriculum. Preventing and responding to violence is also at the core of the gender-sensitive measures in the ESF 2016-2030. It is moreover the aim of the National Policy on Eliminating Violence Against Women.
Expulsion ban from school because of pregnancy is not yet legislated. In addition, the minimum marriage age is 15 years old for both boys and girls and child marriage is not legally prohibited. The review of the Education Act 2014, however, tries to address the issue of re-entry of pregnant girls into schools where it says in its Article 63 “Prohibition on discrimination in school education: A child must not be refused admission to any school or treated less favourably at school on account of his or her gender, religion, nationality, race, language, disability or pregnancy.” Similarly, art. 100 highlights that “a person must not be refused admission to any tertiary education institution or treated less favourably at a tertiary education institution on account of his or her gender, religion, nationality, race, language, disability or pregnancy.” Moreover, the National Development Strategy 2017-2035 intends to “improve gender equality and support the disadvantaged and the vulnerable” (objective 7).
Ethnic and linguistic groups
As reported by the UNICEF Barriers to Education Study, most children do not speak English as their first language.
Acknowledging that this can be a cause of dropout and affect effective learning, Guidelines for the implementation of a pilot project for vernacular languages and English in education were developed in 2010. In eight schools, the study of vernacular languages, Sa’s and Arosi, was introduced alongside English form early childhood up to senior secondary education with support of UNICEF. Schools were selected based on accessibility of in-service teacher training and on the community’s willingness to support the project. The project has been implemented starting from 2014 with the technical assistance of SIL International.
The ESP 2016-2030 has planned to address the exclusion of certain linguistic groups by providing re-entry and second change opportunities, and by mainstreaming the study of community languages. Within the framework, the National Education Action Plan 2016-2020 reiterates the commitment to extend the use of vernacular languages in primary education by 2018.
Poverty and People living in rural or remote areas
Following the 2009 Fee Free Basic Education Policy, the 2012 School Grant Policy was formulated to support equitable access to education for all learners, in particular by eliminating school fees for basic, primary and junior secondary education and by subsiding ECE centres, senior secondary schools, Rural Training Centres (RTC’s) and Special Education centres. It further aims to harmonize the grants scheme and adds a remote area component to support disadvantaged schools based on their location.
Coordination across sectors
Historically, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) has been responsible for community-based rehabilitation to children with disabilities, including the provision of basic education. In addition, People with Disability Solomon Islands (PWDSI) established supportive services to education institutions in seven out of nine provinces with support of local NGOs.
With the purpose to introduce an inclusive education model, the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) established an inclusive education working committee. As established by the 2015 Education White Paper, the Education Authority and Advisory Board holds the statutory responsibility and has the coordination role for the education provision of learners with special needs, while the National Curriculum Advisory Board ensures that learners with disabilities are placed into regular schools, having access to ta flexible and adaptable curriculum.
Coordination across government level
The education system is managed by the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) at the national level, by the Education Authorities (EA) at the subnational level, and by the schools at the local level. Approved by the MEHRD, the 31 EAs, at least one in each province, administer their own schools based on the grants allocated by the central government. The MEHRD manages some schools in Honiara, the capital city.
To meet the communities’ needs, the school management has been strengthened within the ESP 2007-2015. New standards were set by the Whole School Development Plans and school leadership was reinforced through the School Barding training. School accountability was enhanced through the Development Partner support. The ESF 2016-2030 has planned to systematised these initiatives through a comprehensive School Management Strengthening Programme.
In 2012, Policy Statement and Guidelines for School Infrastructure was adopted. In line with the standards of the UNICEF Child Friendly Schools and Architects in Emergency, the policy document aims to raise the quality and safety standards through appropriate education infrastructure. Informed by the principle of equitable access for all learners, boys and girls, and including those with special needs, the Policy recognize their right to “well-constructed, safe, hygienic and well-maintained educational facilities”.
The 2011 Policy Statement and Guidelines for the Development and Implementation of the National Curriculum regulates the formulation and implementation of the national curriculum in all schools of the countries up to Grade 12. Endorsing a leaner-centred approach, the Policy aims to develop a curriculum that takes into consideration the identity “in terms of culture, language, values, beliefs, talents” and learning needs of all learners, “regardless of gender, age, geographical location, ethnicity, language and physical disability”.
ICTs and Learning materials
Elaborated with support of UNESCO, the ICT in Education Master Plan 2019-2023 aims to establish new and improve existing facilities to ensure they are “child, disability and gender sensitive” and able to provide a “safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all”. Open Educational Resources (OER) are identified as inclusive means, able to provide supportive equipment, for example, through the use of assistive technologies, to learners with special needs and/or disabilities.
The NEAP 2013-2015 mandates the MEHRD to work collaboratively with the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) through the School of Education and Humanities (SOEH) on the training of teachers for inclusive education.
The Education Strategic Framework (ESF) 2016-2030 intends to extend teacher training on inclusive education. In line with the 2015 ICT National Policy, the ICT in Education Mater Plan emphasizes the importance of ICT facilities for educators, who can access multiple resources to address the diverse needs of students.
The Solomon Islands National University (SINU) provides a degree programme in community-based rehabilitation and certificate, diploma, degree and post- graduate programmes on Special Education and Inclusive Practices. To make courses more accessible, the education provision is also organized through distance and flexible learning mode. Teacher education on disability are also provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Red Cross SDC and Bethesda Disability Training and Support Services, including on inclusive education and training in sign language.
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development provides annual reports and performance assessment reports.
EMIS is the reference for collection, processing and dissemination of education data on a regular basis. A series of National Education Plans set its foundations between 2004 and 2015. In particular, the Planning, Coordination and Research Unit (PCRU) of MEHRD holds the responsibility for the management of EMIS, as outlined by the NEAP 2013-2015. The 2012 Updated Policy Statement and Guidelines for Grants to Schools sets foundations for grant allocation based on the data reported by schools.
The ESF 2016-2030 has identified the need to strengthen the Solomon Islands EMIS (SIEMIS), which has been implemented since 2004. Among its goals, the ICT in Education Master Plan 2019-2023 has intended to enhance the system by enabling the decentralization of data collection.
Concerning disability data, the existing community-based rehabilitation model also includes sharing data with the inclusive education working committee, such as the number of children with disabilities, the type of disability, school attendance.