The Ministry of Education of Ecuador defines inclusive education as a process that addresses and responds to the diversity of needs of all students by increasing participation in learning and reducing exclusion from the education system. This involves changing and modifying content, approaches, frameworks and strategies based on a common vision and the conviction that the education system has a responsibility to educate all children and adolescents. Through inclusive education, students and teachers can become comfortable with diversity and see it as an opportunity to enrich the school environment.
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education (2011) aims to ensure equal opportunities for communities, peoples, nationalities and groups with special educational needs (SEN), and to develop an ethic of inclusion with affirmative measures and an inclusive school culture that eradicates all forms of discrimination.
Special educational needs (SEN)
The Introduction to curricular adaptations for students with special educational needs, prepared by the Ministry of Education, defines SEN students as students who find it more difficult than others to achieve specific objectives in the learning process and require assistance from human, technical, material or technological resources.
SEN can be due to physical, psychological or socio-familial causes, or maladjustment, for example, cultural or linguistic. They can be temporary or permanent.
The Regulations for standardizing differentiated management and care processes in specialized educational institutions (2018) define specialized education as education that guarantees the right of students with disabilities to education, whether these disabilities are moderate or severe, in line with the principles of inclusive education and the national curriculum issued by the central authority.
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education (2011) states that all mainstream education institutions must adopt the necessary measures to cater to SEN students with or without a disability. More specifically, flexible proposals are needed that enable the inclusion and attendance of people who require special care, such as people with disabilities, adolescents and pregnant young women.
Article 28 of the Organic Law on Disabilities (2012) states that, to create inclusive education, the national education authority shall implement the relevant measures to promote the inclusion of SEN students who require technical/technological and personal support, such as specialized, temporary or permanent staff and/or curricular adaptations and physical, communication and learning-space accessibility adaptations, in school establishments. The Organic Law on Disabilities (2012) states that special needs educational institutions can only be established once a comprehensive assessment has found that the mainstream school system does not accommodate SEN students. The assessment must be requested or approved by parents or legal representatives, and carried out by the multidisciplinary team specializing in disabilities.
According to the Ministry of Education, 78 per cent of the total population (80,368 people) with disability-related SEN of school age (3–17 years) attend school. The goal for 2017 was to ensure access to education for all children and young people. This triggered the creation of 140 District Inclusion Support Units (UDAI). Here, professionals assess disability in children and young people and direct them towards either specialized education or ordinary inclusive education.
Fifty-two per cent of schools in Ecuador have just one or two teachers. Of the 3,353,826 students in the public system, 5 per cent attend such schools. Intercultural bilingual education is provided in intercultural bilingual community education centres. Only 3.51 per cent of students attend intercultural bilingual schools, most of which are public schools. The creation of the Secretariat for Bilingual Intercultural Education has improved the quality of these centres and made them more accessible.
Article 26 of the Constitution of Ecuador (2008) identifies education as a public policy and state investment priority that ensures social equality and inclusion, and a prerequisite for the indigenous philosophy of life, “Sumak Kawsay” [Good Living].
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education (2011) states that universality, special care, education for change, gender equality, equality and inclusion, multilingualism, and interculturality should be the main principles and purposes that guide Ecuadorian education under the philosophy of Good Living. A reform of the Organic Law on Intercultural Education was proposed in 2019. One of the reform’s objectives is to strengthen inclusion of people with disabilities and intercultural bilingual education.
The National Plan for Good Living 2013–2017 defined the following education goals:
- Widen access to the education system for populations historically excluded on the basis of region, ethnicity, gender, income and age; persons deprived of liberty, and migrants.
- Create mechanisms to dismantle, and avoid the reproduction of, exclusionary discriminatory (racist, classist, sexist and xenophobic) practices within and outside the education system.
- Improve retention in the education system, to integrate young people who do not currently complete education.
- Reduce ethnic, urban-rural and gender gaps arising from discrimination, exclusion and racism.
- Strengthen the role of teachers and other education professionals as key actors in education.
- Promote intercultural dialogue as the lynchpin of the pedagogical model and the education system.
The Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2017–2021 “Toda una Vida” [National Development Plan 2017–2021 A Lifetime] focused on issues such as equity and social justice. The plan seeks to facilitate access for people with disabilities to inclusive education, information, public spaces, decent work, health – including sexual and reproductive health – and protection from all forms of violence, including gender-based violence. It also promotes the Intercultural Bilingual Education System Model (MOSEIB), guaranteeing the rights of Ecuador’s communities, peoples and nationalities.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) collaborated with the Ministry of Education to create a Toolkit for Creating Inclusive Learning-Friendly Environments to secure inclusion for all children in the education system. This toolkit is aimed at district and circuit administrators, and is designed to ensure compliance with the national educational inclusion policies set out in the Constitution, the Organic Law on Intercultural Education and its Regulations, the Childhood and Adolescence Code, Ministerial Resolution No. 0295-13 and the new management model.
The Constitution of Ecuador (2008) has demonstrated its commitment to providing specialized education for people with learning disabilities and developing their skills, through the creation of educational centres and specialized teaching programmes.
The Organic Law on Disabilities (2012) states that the state shall guarantee the right to education (Article 27) and inclusive education (Article 28) for people with disabilities. The state shall also ensure that people with disabilities can access, attend and complete their studies within the national education system and the higher education system. People with disabilities can only be enrolled in special education after a multidisciplinary team has carried out a comprehensive assessment and found that they cannot be accommodated in mainstream educational institutions.
Regarding education for people with disabilities, the Organic Law on Intercultural Education (2011) states that:
- The Ecuadorian state shall ensure that people with SEN are included and integrated in educational institutions by removing barriers to their learning.
- All pupils shall be assessed to determine their educational needs and the kind of education they require.
- Gifted children, adolescents, young people and adults shall have the right to special education that matches their abilities.
The Regulations for standardizing differentiated management and care processes in specialized educational institutions (2018) set out procedures for adequate and timely care for SEN students; establish administrative competencies at the management levels; and provide guidance on structure, managers, teachers, support staff and programmes for strengthening specialized educational institutions.
The 2017 Accountability Report suggests partnerships with foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through the allocation of economic resources as a strategy for expanding the educational offer to SEN students. For example, Fe y Alegría has been working towards the educational inclusion of people with disabilities via the Attention to Diversity proposal in schools in Quito, Santo Domingo, Manta and Guayaquil.
The Disability Equality Policies that form part of the National Agenda for Equality for Persons with Disabilities (2013–2017) include an education policy designed to ensure inclusive and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for people with disabilities. It aims to ensure the necessary adaptations and support at all levels of the education system so that people with disabilities can access, attend and complete education; obtain a qualification, and have access to lifelong learning opportunities, without discrimination and on equal terms, in order to promote their autonomy, personal development and access to employment.
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education states that education must guarantee equal conditions, opportunities and treatment for men and women, and generate mechanisms to dismantle, and avoid the reproduction of, exclusionary discriminatory (racist, classist, sexist and xenophobic) practices within and outside the education system. Executive Decree 460 proposed gender mainstreaming, combined with development and updating of curricula, textbooks and teaching guides that promote equality between men and women.
A Plan Nacional Integral para erradicar los Delitos Sexuales en el Sistema Educativo [National Plan to Eradicate Sexual Offenses in the Education System] was created in 2006 and updated in 2010. The Ministry of Education’s Ministerial Resolution No. 2017-00052-A created an action plan for the care of child and adolescent victims of sexual violence committed or detected in national education system institutions, and provides for processes for investigating and punishing such crimes.
Ecuador also has an institutional policy on gender equality (2016–2019).
The 2015 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) report expressed concerns regarding Afro-Ecuadorian and indigenous women’s limited access to education, and the low quality of education at all levels in rural areas, which limits rural women’s opportunities to progress to higher education and reduces indigenous women and girls’ opportunities to attend their own educational institutions.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and the indigenous population
The Constitution (2008) promotes plurinational and intercultural education. The Organic Law on Intercultural Education aimed to develop, strengthen and improve the intercultural bilingual education system, using quality criteria, from early to higher education, and respecting cultural diversity, to ensure that identities are valued and preserved via appropriate teaching and learning methodologies.
The National Plan for Good Living sought to promote intercultural bilingual education at all levels and in all modalities, and to encourage the use of indigenous languages in educational campaigns, content and programmes.
Intercultural bilingual education is implemented in Ecuador through MOSEIB. The Under-Secretariat of Intercultural Bilingual Education has been implementing this model in intercultural bilingual community education centres and intercultural bilingual community education units since 2014.
Strategies for implementation of MOSEIB:
- Design and implement the intercultural bilingual education system curriculum together with the national curriculum.
- Apply a learning methodology that is sensitive to each culture’s respective educational practices.
- Adapt educational activities to communities’ timetables and social calendars.
- Facilitate the study of other languages and cultures.
- In addition to Spanish, integrate the learning of a foreign language into the intercultural bilingual curriculum, including exploration of the values of their cultures for intercultural study.
- Train teachers and technical teams.
The Afro-descendant population is estimated to be between 7 and 10 per cent of the total population. Article 6 of the Act on the Collective Rights of Black or Afro-Ecuadorian Peoples (2006) guarantees Black and Afro-Ecuadorian peoples equal opportunity to access and participate in all Ecuadorian educational institutions. To this end, a national scholarship and incentives programme for the education of these peoples will be established, and primary and high-school education curricula and programmes will include Black and Afro-Ecuadorian peoples as a cross-cutting theme.
People living in rural areas
The educational offer in rural and historically neglected areas is complemented by Millennium Educational Units. Millennium Educational Units were set up to replace schools with only one or two teachers and provide high-quality education by improving schooling, access and coverage. Their Institutional Education Projects are developed in collaboration with the population, to ensure that the population’s cultural, social and economic characteristics are respected.
Millennium Educational Units incorporate the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and are designed to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. There are 98 Millennium Educational Units currently in operation and 38 are under construction.
Education in exceptional situations
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education states that the state will ensure access to, and attendance of, primary and high-school education for anyone unable to attend educational institutions due to deprivation of liberty, prolonged illness, need for protection or for any other reason.
 This law does not apply to higher education.
The national education system is part of the National Social Inclusion and Equality System, a coordinated set of systems, institutions, policies, standards, programmes and services that ensure that the rights recognized in the Constitution are exercised, ensured and enforced.
The Under-Secretariat of Specialized and Inclusive Education is responsible for specialized education institutions, inclusive schools, inclusion support units, teacher training and management of the Centro Nacional de Recursos Educativos para la Diversidad [National Centre for Educational Resources for Diversity], at the national level. The Local Directorate of Specialized and Inclusive Education is responsible at the local level. The National Directorate of Disabilities is part of the Ministry of Health and is responsible for qualifying or requalifying people with disabilities.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and the indigenous population
The National Directorate of Intercultural Bilingual Education is responsible for the bilingual education policy, and for implementing MOSEIB in the intercultural bilingual community education centres and intercultural bilingual community education units. The Secretariat of Intercultural Bilingual Education was created by Executive Decree in July 2018 to lead the process of reopening one- and two-teacher schools that were closed when the Millennium Educational Units opened. At the local level, there are Local Directorates of Intercultural and Bilingual Education.
The Comisión Pedagógica Nacional de Asuntos Afroecuatorianos [National Pedagogical Commission on Afro-Ecuadorian Affairs] is responsible for designing policies on ethnic education for Black or Afro-Ecuadorian peoples.
Education in contexts of deprivation of liberty
Centre for Adolescent Offenders: The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Worship, in collaboration with the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), developed the national model for educational management and care for Centres for Adolescent Offenders, which is being implemented in Ecuador’s 11 centres.
Infrastructure and services
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education states that autonomous governments are responsible for providing physical security for educational institutions, road safety, maintenance and protection of facilities used, controlling and regulating school transport, supporting the construction of public spaces for school use, maintaining library networks, and supporting the provision of and access to ICT.
The state must ensure compliance with construction standards and adequacy of physical facilities for access of people with disabilities and/or SEN in schools.
The Ministry of Education develops and implements the necessary curricular adaptations to ensure that all students are included in and complete the education system, including students with disabilities. The Ministry of Education also promotes curricula, materials and educational texts free from sexist and discriminatory language, content and images.
The Ministry of Education’s Introduction to curricular adaptations for students with special educational needs is a continuous training programme with information on the various types of SEN that students may have, and on the design and implementation of curricular adaptations that promote the educational inclusion of children with SEN.
The intercultural bilingual education curriculum consists of the national curriculum and the intercultural bilingual education curriculum. In 2017, the Ministry of Education issued a Ministerial Resolution providing the education system with the National Intercultural Bilingual Curricula developed in indigenous languages.
The Integrated Literacy Curriculum was designed to educate people who have not completed education.
Learning materials and ICTs
The National Plan for Good Living sought to develop inclusive, culturally relevant pedagogical instruments to create an intercultural education system; increase Internet access in educational establishments to 90 per cent; and strengthen infrastructure, equipment and technologies for the development of creative, cognitive and innovative skills throughout education at all levels.
Ecuador has developed a virtual educational tool to promote interculturality and indigenous knowledge. This tool seeks to reduce the digital divide in rural areas and strengthen intercultural bilingual education.
The Organic Law on Intercultural Education establishes the right of teachers to free access to professional development, training, updating, continuing education, and all forms of pedagogical and academic improvement at all levels.
For SEN student education, the National Plan for Good Living sets out training mechanisms and teacher training in sign language, Braille and other SEN languages, and pedagogical models for the education of people with disabilities.
Since 2014, teacher training has been conducted via awareness-raising courses on disabilities, educational inclusion, inclusive special education, pedagogical updating and sustainable learning. According to a report by the National Director of Specialized and Inclusive Education, 94,348 teachers were trained in 2018.
Teacher updating is a programme promoted by the National Directorate of Continuing Education that seeks to strengthen teacher development. There are ongoing training courses in interculturality, violence prevention and linguistics for teachers in the intercultural bilingual education system.
The state promotes the training of bilingual and multilingual intercultural professionals in fields required by the country's communes, communities, peoples and nationalities.
The Programa de Educación Intercultural Bilingüe para la Amazonía de Bolivia, Perú y Ecuador [Intercultural Bilingual Education Programme for the Amazon of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador] was created by the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru; Amazonian indigenous organizations; and universities in the three countries, and seeks to strengthen intercultural bilingual education through teacher training. In Ecuador, the Intercultural Bilingual Education Programme for the Amazon of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador has supported initial teacher training in the formal system, assisting the Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos de Educación Intercultural Bilingüe [Higher Pedagogical Institutes of Intercultural Bilingual Education] in both teacher training programmes for primary and secondary education, and the new line of training in community and family-based children’s education.
Ecuador regularly publishes education accountability reports.