According to Ministerial Resolution No. 069 of 2013 approving the process of transformation of alternative and special education, inclusive education views diversity as rich and powerful. It requires changes in institutional and educational management to ensure the relevance and timeliness of educational processes, not only for students with disabilities but for all students. In this way, it requires a comprehensive structural transformation in educational institutions and their ethical and political context.
The General Law for Persons with Disabilities (2012) defines inclusive education as education that responds to diversity through physical and curricular adaptations and support personnel, seeking greater participation in learning, cultures and communities to reduce exclusion from education.
Special educational needs (SEN)
According to the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law of 2010, in Bolivia there are public education institutions, private education institutions and education agreements. The plurinational education system is made up of:
- the mainstream education system
- the alternative and special education system
- the vocational higher education system.
The alternative and special education system seeks to democratize access to and retention in culturally appropriate and socially relevant education for people over 15 years of age who need to start or continue their studies. It also seeks to develop comprehensive training and critical awareness of social and indigenous movements and citizens’ organizations and to ensure that people with disabilities have access to a timely, relevant and comprehensive education, with equal opportunities and equal conditions, through the development of inclusive education policies, plans, programmes and projects.
According to data published by the Director of Special Education in January 2020, there are 178 public and 35 private special education centres in Bolivia. Tax-dependent special education centres serve children, adolescents and adults with disabilities or learning difficulties, and gifted individuals. The Ministry of Education approved Ministerial Resolution No. 001 of 2020, which standardizes the alternative and special education system. The Resolution seeks to standardize private special education centres in order to include them in the education system and ensure that they provide services within the framework of the regulations in force. Article 10 of the resolution establishes that once a student with a disability is enrolled in an inclusive education unit, in compliance with simultaneous enrolment they will also be enrolled in a special education centre where they will be assigned a technical/pedagogical support teacher.
Since the enactment of the General Law for Persons with Disabilities (2012), the Ministry of Education has committed to gradually and progressively implement comprehensive multisectoral centres, which seek to ensure access to and retention in comprehensive education for people with disabilities with the support of health services.
The Bolivian Constitution (2009) establishes that education shall be intracultural, intercultural and plurilingual throughout the education system. It must incorporate the values of gender equity, undifferentiated roles, non-violence and the full exercise of human rights.
Article 1 of the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law establishes that everyone has the right to receive universal, productive, free, comprehensive and intercultural education at all levels, without discrimination. Education underpins the values of equality, inclusion, and social and gender equity. According to Article 7, education is inclusive and takes into account the diversity of the population groups and people living in the country, offering an education that is timely and relevant to the needs, expectations and interests of all Bolivia’s inhabitants.
Ministerial Resolution No. 0001 of 2020 establishes a series of general rules for the management of education and schooling in the mainstream education system to guarantee a high-quality education within the framework of the Education Law. The Ministry of Education approved two additional ministerial resolutions, the first establishing general rules for the management of education in the alternative and special education system, and the second establishing general rules for the management of institutions in the higher vocational education system.
The Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020 promotes inclusive, participatory, intra- and intercultural, and multilingual education. It focuses on the needs and expectations of populations and people in vulnerable conditions and historically excluded due to a disability or social disadvantage. The Sectoral Plan is framed within the context of the Economic and Social Development Plan, known as the Patriotic Agenda 2025, which guides the country’s development for 2016–2025 under a productive social community education model. It promotes universal access to education at the primary and secondary level, and increased access to higher technical and university training and alternative and special education. Some of the expected results for 2020 include increased education support for students with disabilities, gifted individuals and those with learning difficulties, infrastructure improvements in education units and the creation of new language and culture institutes to ensure that indigenous peoples and nations are integrated into the plurinational education system.
According to the Constitution, people with disabilities have the right to free and comprehensive education and health care. Article 85 establishes that the state shall promote and guarantee the continuing education of children and adolescents with disabilities or gifted students, under the same structure, principles and values of the education system, and shall establish special curricular organization and development.
According to the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law, the objectives of alternative and special education are:
- to ensure that people with disabilities have timely, relevant and comprehensive education, with equal opportunities and conditions, through the development of inclusive education policies, plans, programmes and projects;
- to develop education policies, plans, programmes and projects for gifted people and people with learning difficulties;
- to promote an inclusive education and culture for people with disabilities and learning difficulties and gifted individuals in the plurinational education system.
The state shall develop education policies that promote access to and continuance of people with disability-related education needs in the education system. These students attend comprehensive multisectoral centres with assessment, detection, counselling and direct care programmes throughout their lives, starting in early childhood (Article 27).
Supreme Decree No. 1893 of 2012 regulates the General Law for Persons with Disabilities. In the area of education, it establishes that the Ministry of Education will implement comprehensive multisectoral centres to provide comprehensive education with the support of health, social and psychological services, ensuring that people with disabilities can access and remain in the plurinational education system. Similarly, the Ministry will offer vocational qualifications free of charge to students with disabilities; implement specific strategies for the application of evaluation instruments appropriate to the degree and type of disability of students studying in technical institutions, higher education centres, private universities, special regime universities and indigenous universities; and ensure that there are teachers trained in inclusion.
Ministerial Resolution No. 069 of 2013 sought the transformation of alternative and special education. Structural transformations are promoted in the curriculum, institutional management and teacher training.
Ministerial Resolution No. 0001 of 2020 on the mainstream education system provides a set of general rules governing the education of children with disabilities or learning difficulties and gifted children in the mainstream education system (Articles 9–12). It also states that students with intellectual or multiple disabilities must be enrolled in both an education unit and a special education centre.
A second Ministerial Resolution established general rules for the alternative and special education system. Free alternative and special education services are promoted to strengthen access, retention and completion in education among the population in situations of exclusion. Education for people with disabilities will emphasise:
- direct education: education services offering specific curricula;
- indirect education: a set of planned and systematized support programmes and services for inclusive education processes that take place in other systems and areas of the plurinational education system;
- the Educación Sociocomunitaria en Casa para Personas con Discapacidad [Social Community Education at Home for People with Disabilities] programme: this programme creates conditions for people with severe disabilities who cannot attend education institutions to receive an education at home.
Plans and strategies
The Bolivian Education Strategy 2004–2015 created in 2003 proposed guidance and development of processes to include students with SEN in the formal and alternative areas through teacher training, the development of an appropriate curriculum for these students and by encouraging the use of new technologies in special education.
The Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020 sought to drive the transformation process with an inclusive education approach promoting access and retention of students with disabilities.
According to the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law, one of the aims of education is to comprehensively and equitably educate people in accordance with their particular characteristics, needs and expectations. It promotes a society free from patriarchy, based on gender equality, undifferentiated gender roles and non-violence.
Article 19 of the Comprehensive Act to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence (Act No. 348 of 2013) provides for measures in the field of education. This Act tasks the Ministry of Education with incorporating comprehensive prevention and intervention strategies and programmes concerning violence against women into public education policies. Psychological care centres will be set up in education units in partnership with public or private universities to provide care for students living in situations of violence.
Supreme Decree No. 24864 of 1997 established equal rights and opportunities for men and women in education. It sought to ensure women’s participation in education, and the generation and transmission of knowledge. Decree No. 1302 of 2012 establishes mechanisms to eradicate violence, mistreatment and abuse that threatens the physical, psychological and/or sexual integrity of children and adolescents in educational settings.
The National Plan for Equal Opportunities (2008) includes policies aimed at eradicating female illiteracy, increasing opportunities for girls and adolescent and young women to access and remain in the formal education system, incorporating the gender perspective in the education revolution, and creating opportunities for education, training and professionalization for women in all areas.
Gender equity is one of the guiding principles of the Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020. Challenges in 2020 included closing gender, generational, territorial and cultural gaps.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, between 2006 and 2017 more than 1 million people were taught to read and write, 74 per cent of whom were women. Literacy in Bolivia contributes to gender equality and the eradication of severe poverty.
Indigenous peoples and ethnic and linguistic groups
According to data from the 2012 census published by the National Institute of Statistics, there are more than 36 indigenous ethnic groups in Bolivia and about 41 per cent of the population identify as indigenous. The Constitution and the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law (2010) establish that education must be intracultural, intercultural and plurilingual throughout the education system. However, Act No. 450 on the Protection of Native Indigenous Nations and Peoples in a Highly Vulnerable Situation does not have a strong educational component.
In accordance with Chapter III of the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law, in populations or communities that are monolingual, or those in which the native language is the main language, the native language shall be considered the first language and Spanish the second language. Meanwhile, in monolingual and predominantly Spanish-speaking populations or communities, Spanish shall be considered the first language and the native language the second language.
The plurinational state promotes intercultural bilingual education. There are indigenous universities and public academic and scientific institutions that develop, in the academic, scientific, community and productive spheres, processes to recover, strengthen, create and recreate the knowledge, wisdom and languages of indigenous and aboriginal farming nations and peoples. They are authorized to issue academic diplomas. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education awards vocational qualifications.
One of the strategies of the Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020 is to develop intercultural and intracultural education through the production and systematization of knowledge on the languages and cultures of indigenous and aboriginal farming nations and peoples. Despite the promotion of intercultural bilingual education in laws and plans, being an indigenous woman in Bolivia carries a greater risk of exclusion. According to the World Bank, “an Indigenous rural woman is five times less likely than a non-Indigenous urban man to complete secondary school”.
People in rural and remote areas
According to the Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law, one of the objectives of education is to eradicate urban-rural disparities. Border schools are a priority for the state and will receive special attention in terms of personnel, infrastructure and equipment. Despite the progress made towards universal access to primary education, children and adolescents in remote indigenous communities face significant barriers to access secondary education. These barriers include the high cost of transport and learning materials and the poor quality of rural schools.
According to the Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020, gaps in school attendance are most noticeable in secondary school for young people living in rural areas. According to the 2012 census, the school attendance rate for young people aged 12–19 years was 83.8 per cent in urban areas and 75.1 per cent in rural areas. Rural areas also have higher dropout rates than urban areas. One initiative that seeks to reduce these gaps between rural and urban areas is the installation of community education telecentres (TECs) in rural and peri-urban communities.
Article 82 of the Constitution establishes that the State shall give priority support to students with fewer economic resources and those in remote areas so that they can access the various levels of the education system, in the form of economic resources, food, clothing, transport and school materials.
Persons deprived of their liberty
According to the Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020, as part of public policies to assist socially disadvantaged populations, the Ministry of Education has been implementing, via the Intercultural, Intracultural and Plurilingual Policies Unit, an Integral Education Support Centers (CAIP) programme for children in prison. This programme provides education for girls and boys with equal opportunities and equal conditions, reduces schooling delays and dropout rates and prevents or reduces the risk of antisocial behaviour relapses.
In February 2020, the Ministry of Education initiated education management in prisons for the first time.
The Ministry of Education has four Vice-Ministries and nine Departmental Directorates. Each Departmental Directorate has a Sub-Directorate of Alternative and Special Education, a Sub-Directorate of Vocational Training, a Sub-Directorate of Mainstream Education and a Sub-Directorate of Transparency.
In accordance with Ministerial Resolution No. 001 of 2020, the Departmental Directorates of Education and the Sub-Directorates of Alternative and Special Education are in charge of the provision of services for people with disabilities. It establishes that once a year, the institutions that serve or could serve students in the field of special education will be mapped out via direct coordination between the Sub-Directorate of Mainstream Education, the Sub-Directorate of Alternative and Special Education and the District Education Directorates, with the participation of education units and special education centres.
The Intercultural, Intracultural and Plurilingual Policies Unit is in charge of intercultural bilingual education and promotion of regional curricula.
Infrastructure and services
The General Law for Persons with Disabilities promoted the elimination of architectural barriers in educational institutions in the plurinational education system.
The Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law created a new basic curriculum for the plurinational education system. Ministerial Resolution No. 069 of 2013 approved the curricular documents that form the foundation of the alternative and special education transformation process (Article 4). Among the initiatives promoted are curricular and methodological guidelines for inclusive education in the field of special education.
Ministerial Resolution No. 001 of 2020 on alternative and special education proposes the development of specific curricula, programmes and services for students with disabilities or learning difficulties and gifted students so that they can achieve their full potential.
The Comprehensive Act to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence (Act No. 348 of 2013) states that a gender perspective must be incorporated in the education curriculum at all levels, including teacher training institutes. Decree No. 1302 of 2012 establishes the development of curricular guidelines with content on the prevention of mistreatment, violence and abuse for the plurinational education system.
Learning materials and ICTs
The General Law for Persons with Disabilities establishes that the Ministry of Education will promote and guide the production and application of education and communication materials in the plurinational education system with an inclusive approach, aimed at students with disabilities.
The Comprehensive Act to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence (Act No. 348 of 2013) prohibits textbooks and educational materials with sexist content or violent and discriminatory messages against women and promotes the development and dissemination of educational materials with a gender equality perspective.
The Avelino Siñani–Elizardo Pérez Education Law establishes that teacher training is intracultural, intercultural and plurilingual. Ongoing training is a right and a duty for every teacher.
Article 11 of the General Law for Persons with Disabilities establishes that the Ministry of Education will ensure that teachers are trained with a focus on inclusive education, giving priority to alternative language, Bolivian Sign Language, the Braille system and curricular adaptations to accommodate students with disabilities. The state also ensures that there are multidisciplinary teams for the support and inclusion of people with disabilities in the plurinational education system.
Ministerial Resolution No. 069 of 2013 promoted teacher training in alternative and special education through complementary, initial and ongoing training.
The Sectoral Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education for Living Well 2016–2020 emphasized the importance of teacher training in the plurinational education system. It refers to the Programa de Especialización y Actualización de Maestros de Secundaria [Programme for the Specialization and Updating of Secondary School Teachers – PEAMS], and the Programa de Profesionalización de Maestros Interinos [Supply Teacher Training Programme – PPMI], the second phase of which was aimed at both mainstream education supply teachers working in education units in hard-to-reach native indigenous farming territories, and alternative and special education teachers.
Bolivia regularly publishes management reports. The minutes of the final accountability hearing (2018) are available on the Ministry of Education website.
The Sistema de Estadísticas e Indicadores Educativos [Education Statistics and Indicators System] regularly publishes statistical information and sectoral indicators based on databases created by the Ministry of Education, which also manages the Unified Students Registry (RUDE) and the Education Units Registry (RUE); the plurinational education system’s Personnel Management Unit (UGEP/SEP); and information generated by the National Statistical Institute (INE) and the Ministry of Economy and Public Finance. There are no indicators on inclusive education.