The Inclusive Education Policy (2010) defines inclusive education as the set of educational responses designed to gradually and effectively eliminate barriers to access and participation, ensuring the right to a timely, comprehensive, high-quality and equitable education as part of an ongoing effort to transform and strengthen the education system, empower schools and facilitate community participation throughout the pedagogical process.
The General Education Law approved through the decree no. 917 of 2018 defines special education as a teaching-learning process offered to people with SEN using specific and targeted methodologies. People with SEN will be offered education in specialized institutions and mainstream education centres, according to their needs, with support from specialists or qualified teachers. Special schools will provide educational and pre-vocational services to people whose circumstances prevent their inclusion in mainstream schools.
People with SEN will be educated in specialized institutions and mainstream education centres, according to their needs. According to the 2014 school census, 85 per cent of children and youth with disabilities attend mainstream schools, while the rest attend special education schools. However, according to the Educated El Salvador Plan (2016), 18 per cent of disability registrations do not specify the type of disability.
El Salvador’s inclusive school model emerged in 2005 when the National Directorate of Education, with support from the Italian Government, sought to move from an experimental inclusive school model to a territorial inclusive education system. A pilot project was developed in the Republic of Haiti school, and was then extended to 18 inclusive schools nationwide. The project was formalized in 2009 as the Full Time Inclusive School Model. The model included changes to school organization, curricular adjustments, lengthening of school days and increased community participation.
According to the Ministry of Education, the Full Time Inclusive School Model seeks to foster a safe school environment for equality and diversity with the following characteristics: commitment to the quality of learning processes and use of physical space, school organization and management, to nurturing a family atmosphere among the student body, and to respecting the student community and its cultural and social characteristics; a belief that formal education is a path towards ensuring access to high-quality and relevant education for all girls, boys and adolescents at all levels from early childhood; and the provision of flexible education so that those outside the system can complete education. The model’s inclusive principals facilitate students’ access, completion and graduation under equal conditions, not only in terms of disability, but also gender, faith, race and more.
The Educated El Salvador Plan proposed the creation of a Full-time Integrated Inclusive School System and technical assistance to monitor and maintain this model. The aim is to implement 351 Full-time Integrated Inclusive School Systems between 2016 and 2026, benefiting 558,180 students. The plan also suggests the design and implementation of a programme of incentives for schools and teachers that promote inclusive practices in their institutional, administrative and pedagogical management. The Full-time Integrated Inclusive School System comprises an institutional organization strategy designed to bring together neighbouring schools to share learning experiences and complement the provision of educational services.
The Constitution of El Salvador (1983) promotes the right to education. Article 58 states that “no educational establishment shall refuse to accept students because of the marital status of their parents or guardians, nor for social, religious, racial, or political differences.” The General Education Law governs the Salvadoran education system. The law states that the state shall create policies for education access and promote full access to the education system for the eligible population as a strategy for democratizing education. This strategy shall involve developing adequate physical infrastructure, and acquiring competent staff and the relevant curricular tools. The law states that preschool and primary education are compulsory and shall be provided free of charge. Special education shall also be free of charge when provided by the state. Primary education usually consists of nine study years, from first to ninth grade.
The state shall also promote scholarships, grants and financial credits for those with the intellectual and vocational ability who wish to continue their studies beyond primary education. Chapter VIII refers to special education.
Decree no. 468 of 2004 regulates higher education, and the creation and operation of state and private higher education institutions.
Article 11 of the Law on the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents (2009) promotes the principles of equality, non-discrimination and equity. Preschool, primary, secondary and special education will be compulsory and provided free of charge.
In 2010, El Salvador implemented an Inclusive Education Policy which seeks to respond to the needs of children, young people and adolescents who:
- do not attend school;
- are not progressing as expected (or progressing too far ahead of their classmates);
- repeat grades, are too old to attend school or drop out of school;
- are marginalized at school because they belong to vulnerable groups (SEN students, ethnic groups), or due to their gender or social status.
The policy seeks to ensure that greater attention is given to diversity in schools through impactful inclusive education interventions.
The National Education Plan 2021 was drawn up in 2005 as a long-term education plan. Policies and strategic lines were developed under this plan to achieve its four main objectives. Access to education with equity criteria is one of the plan’s main strategic lines. Efforts to increase education access need to ramp up in the coming years, and the education system’s capacity needs to increase to ensure that children’s needs are met, with equity criteria, so that services can be provided to the most disadvantaged sectors, non-gender-discriminatory opportunities can be ensured and diversity is respected. Policies will be developed to ensure access to education for young people and adults who never went to school or dropped out before completing primary or high school education.
The Educated El Salvador Plan outlines six education challenges in El Salvador and proposes 104 actions to address them. The plan aims to reduce inequality and exclusion, and dismantle the mechanisms that perpetuate these conditions in low-income groups and families that are marginalized from social rights, so that they can be quickly integrated into society. The plan includes the development and implementation of a national strategy (policy) for comprehensive early childhood care that ensures access and quality, with an emphasis on rights, gender, inclusion and diversity.
El Salvador recognizes that many children and adolescents are outside the system, either because of insufficient access or coverage, school dropout or exclusion due to other variables such as adolescent motherhood and gang violence. The Educated El Salvador Plan sought to respond to this by creating comprehensive, inclusive, gender-balanced, safe, comfortable and universally accessible school environments that are conducive to quality education. The plan also proposes measures for ensuring that the vulnerable population (people with disabilities, pregnant girls and adolescents or mothers, persons deprived of liberty and indigenous peoples) can access and remain in education.
The General Education Law states that people with SEN will be provided with education in specialized institutions and mainstream educational centres, according to their needs, with support from specialists or qualified teachers. Special education has the following objectives:
- Contribute to raising the standard of living and quality of life of people with SEN with limitations or outstanding aptitude.
- Promote opportunities for all people with SEN to access the national education system.
- Include the family and community in support for people with SEN.
The Law on the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents stipulates that the state will ensure that there are integrated or special programmes, as appropriate, for children and adolescents with physical or mental disabilities, particularly programmes designed to ensure effective access to education, training and recreational opportunities. However, the law does not contain specific actions to ensure that children with disabilities are protected.
El Salvador has a Law of Equality of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (2000). However, according to the concluding remarks on the 2013 Initial Report of El Salvador, prepared by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this law has not been harmonized with the contents of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The committee observed that this law adopts a welfare approach, as opposed to the human rights approach of the Convention. The committee also expressed concern at the low number of children with disabilities enrolled in schools, and the lack of reasonable adaptations to ensure access to education for children with disabilities in both urban and rural areas, and access to adult education. Although the General Education Law states that special education provided by the state should be free of charge, the committee found that this was not always the case.
The Inclusive Education Policy, passed in 2010, focused mainly on SEN students. Policies regarding inclusion, school integration and attention to diversity were developed as part of this policy. These are mostly socio-pedagogical integration initiatives to promote inclusive education of SEN students.
Since 2013, work has been done to ensure the rights of people with disabilities to education, such as the creation of the Full-time Integrated Inclusive School System.
A National Policy for Persons with Disabilities was also approved in 2014. This policy was drawn up by a technical team consisting of the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Works, Transport, Housing and Urban Development; the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, and representatives of various disabilities. The policy sought to transform pedagogical management so that inclusive practices could be developed in schools and classrooms, by focusing on diversity and inclusive education in the curricula of university and technical courses, especially teacher training curricula, and by systematizing inclusive practices in the educational curriculum. The policy also sought to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health for people with disabilities, with a focus on gender inclusion and human rights.
The Law on the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents states that the state must collaborate with society to establish a preventive public policy and specific programmes through information, education and early pregnancy care for girls and adolescents. This law also states that all children and adolescents, in accordance with their physical, psychological and emotional development, have the right to receive information and education on sexual and reproductive health, ideally from their parents. The Ministry Of Education must include sexual and reproductive education for children and adolescents in their programmes, as appropriate for their stage of development.
The Law on Equality, Equity and Eradication of Discrimination against Women (2011) sought to create explicit legal bases to guide the design and implementation of public policies that will ensure true equality between men and women and non-discrimination.
The Ministry of Health’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy (Resolution No. 1181 of 9 August 2012) proposed an intersectoral programme on sex education and adolescent pregnancy prevention.
To this end, the Ministry Of Education developed a Gender Equity and Equality Policy Implementation Plan for 2016–2020, which seeks to eradicate existing inequalities between men and women in the national education system and adopt measures to eradicate gender-based violence. The Ministry Of Education seeks to promote universally inclusive and non-sexist education in all its policies, programmes, plans and actions.
Ethnic or linguistic groups and indigenous peoples
The Public Policy for the Indigenous Peoples of El Salvador (2015) sought to improve indigenous people’s standard of living by promoting affirmative education actions. The policy proposes the implementation of intercultural educational programmes and intercultural schools.
Rural and remote areas
Data from the school census shows that access to primary education in El Salvador is almost universal nationwide. However, according to the Educated El Salvador Plan, there are regional and income disparities that deepen in secondary education, with a 20-point gap in coverage between urban and rural areas, and a 16-point gap between the richest and poorest quintile.
People living in poverty
The Educated El Salvador Plan proposed actions for eradicating poverty, inequality and social exclusion. The aim is to invest in early childhood and tackle poverty, which restricts many children’s opportunities to access and remain in education in El Salvador.
Education in contexts of deprivation of liberty
The Juvenile Penal Law states that any measures imposed on people subject to this law must prioritize education. There are four Centres for Social Integration, managed by the National Institute for the Comprehensive Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA), with the mission of ensuring access to formal and non-formal education, food and nutrition, health and psychosocial care, and other resources.
The General Education Law states that the Ministry Of Education is responsible for regulating special education and coordinating with public and private institutions to establish special education policies, strategies and curricular guidelines.
The National Education Council plays a crucial role in designing Salvadoran education policy, and developed the Educated El Salvador Plan in 2016.
The National Council for Persons with Disabilities (CONAIPD), created in 2010, coordinates, monitors, oversees and supervises compliance with national and international regulations to ensure that people with disabilities in El Salvador can fully exercise their rights.
The Secretariat for Social Inclusion works to create conditions that enable social protection, development, full exercising of rights and social inclusion of all people, with a human rights- and gender-based approach.
The Department of Inclusive Education is part of the Ministry of Education. The Deputy Directorate of the Full-time Integrated Inclusive School System was created in 2012 to facilitate planning, organization, coordination and development of strategic actions to expand the Full-time Integrated Inclusive School System in El Salvador.
The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, approved in 2014, sought to develop institutional management with a focus on inclusive education. According to this policy, the Ministry Of Education and the National Council for Persons with Disabilities are responsible for the technical and administrative coordination of education services, and for guiding them towards an inclusive approach at all levels of the national education system, as well as revising and adjusting institutional regulations to incorporate inclusive approaches.
The Ministry Of Education’s Gender Unit is responsible for guiding, monitoring and following up on compliance with the Gender Equity and Equality Policy, and on institutional coordination to mainstream this policy.
The National Education Plan 2021, which was drawn up in 2005, sought to promote the effectiveness of public institutions, inter-institutional coordination, public–private collaboration and international cooperation in achieving educational and social objectives across all regions of El Salvador.
Infrastructure and services
The General Education Law states that programmes to create, build, expand, restructure and relocate educational centres should be based on community needs as well as general needs.
Regarding infrastructure, the Educated El Salvador Plan aims to develop adequate infrastructure for all levels that ensures inclusion and universal access, reduces vulnerability and facilitates comprehensive education.
The General Education Law states that the national curriculum is the education system’s basic framework in both the public and private sectors. The curriculum will leave sufficient room for flexibility, creativity and adaptation to specific circumstances where necessary.
The Educated El Salvador Plan states that the curriculum for initial and ongoing teacher and management training should incorporate a gender-based, inclusive approach and cover diversity, while providing tools to strengthen school leadership in schools in contexts of violence.
The Public Policy for the Indigenous Peoples of El Salvador (2015) proposed curricular changes at various educational levels to include knowledge of indigenous culture.
Information and communication technology (ICT) and learning materials
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in its concluding remarks on the 2013 Initial Report of El Salvador, encouraged El Salvador to implement initiatives and public–private partnerships to develop teaching materials and methodologies in accessible formats, and provide access to new technologies and the Internet for students with disabilities.
The National Education Plan 2021, drawn up in 2005, states that schools and individual teachers must focus their efforts on equipping students with important knowledge and skills in all grades.
Teacher training is one of the central components of the Educated El Salvador Plan. Specific actions are being developed to provide teachers and headteachers with relevant, accredited continuous training on gender-based, inclusive approaches and diversity, and with tools to strengthen leadership in schools in contexts of institutionalized violence. Plans are in place to increase the coverage of technical assistants trained in educational inclusion processes in schools nationwide.
The Ministry Of Education has 600 teachers for inclusion support. However, this is insufficient to meet the needs of the more than 8,000 students with disabilities in 5,100 schools in the public education system.
The Gender Equity and Equality Policy sought to universalize gender training for teachers through initial teacher training and training for staff involved in designing, implementing and evaluating curricula in this area. The policy identifies teacher education and training as the first step towards gender equality in schools.
The Public Policy for the Indigenous Peoples of El Salvador (2015) proposed training and accreditation for indigenous teachers on the value of indigenous culture and its contribution to inclusive intercultural education.
The Ministry of Education monitors and collects data regularly via the school census.