Inclusive education is not addressed in the 2014 Education Bill.
The 2008–13 education strategic plan determined that developing an inclusive education system in Guyana was a top priority. The plan stated: ‘Particular attention needs to be given to developing a more inclusive education system that provides quality and equitable opportunities to indigenous and hinterland children and children with disabilities. Gender equality and equity also need to be integrated as a goal within a truly inclusive system.’
Special education needs
Special education needs are defined in the 2014 Education Bill as ‘education suited to the requirements of persons who are mute, deaf, blind or otherwise physically, psychologically or mentally challenged’ and ‘education suited to the requirements of students who are gifted or have exceptional ability’.
The term ‘special education needs’ is used by the Ministry of Education of Guyana to describe students who have learning difficulties or disabilities which make it more challenging for them to grasp concepts, access information, master skills or absorb content compared to other students of similar developmental age.
The 2010 Persons with Disabilities Act determines that the Ministry of Education shall promote the integration of students with disabilities into regular schools and learning institutions and promote the establishment of special schools by the government and private sector for those persons in need of special education so that children with disabilities living in any part of Guyana can have access to these schools. The minister is to establish special education classes in schools and facilitate learning in subject areas including Braille, alternative script, formats of communication and mobility skills. Local government authorities are to adopt appropriate measures to facilitate the implementation of the special education programme.
The 2014 Education Bill determines that the chief education officer shall provide a special education programme for any student of compulsory school age and may provide education for a student beyond that age who, by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioural, physical or multiple attributes or other conditions, is in need of special education. A student who is entitled to a special education programme ‘shall have the programme delivered in the least restrictive and most enabling environment that resources permit, and that is considered practicable by the Chief Education Officer in consultation with the principal and professional staff of the school and the student’s parents, having regard to the educational needs and rights of other students.’
A special education programme may take the form of an individual education plan tailored to the specific or individual needs of the student. If it is determined that a student will require an individual education plan, the cost of developing, providing and maintaining the plan shall be apportioned between the parents and the ministry.
According to the bill, the principal, in consultation with professional staff and the parent, should determine whether a student at the school has special education needs and the appropriate programme to meet those needs. The bill also underlines how the assessment of special education needs should be made:
- The assessment of needs should be done, if possible, on a multi-disciplinary basis.
- Written consent of the parent shall be obtained before the assessment of the child is undertaken.
- The parents or guardian of the child and, where appropriate, the child shall be consulted prior to the determination of and during the implementation of the special education programme and shall be provided with the information concerning the right of appeal to the minister.
The School Health Unit collaborates in identifying children with special education needs through screening.
The Ministry of Education of Guyana is developing a more inclusive education system that is flexible and caters for children with different educational needs. The ministry acknowledges that it has to create the opportunity for all students to be in regular classes where the education programme caters for their individual needs and where they are accepted and supported. The tendency in Guyana has been to regard inclusive education as necessary for children with physical disabilities while catering less for gifted and highly talented children. According to the ministry, persons with disabilities who are mainstreamed in regular schools have to contend with negative attitudes from other students and teachers.
The 1980 Constitution of Guyana, as amended in 2001, enshrines the right to education in its Article 27, which provides that: ‘Every citizen has the right to free education from nursery to university as well as at non-formal places where opportunities are provided for education and training.’
Education in Guyana is regulated by the 2014 Education Bill.
The 2008–13 education strategic plan determines that the Ministry of Education is to ensure that all citizens of Guyana, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, physical or mental disability, or socio-economic status, are given the best possible opportunity to achieve their full potential. This is achieved through equal access to quality education as defined by the standards and norms outlined by the ministry. A commitment to quality and equity in education with no barriers in access to anyone is clear in this declaration.
Particular attention needs to be given to developing a more inclusive education system that provides quality and equitable opportunities to indigenous and hinterland children and children with disabilities. Gender equality and equity also need to be integrated as a goal within a truly inclusive system.
The 2014–18 education sector plan focused on increasing learning achievements at all levels of education and for all subgroups and decreasing the differences in learning outcomes between subgroups, especially between students in coastal and hinterland schools. One of its priorities was to increase enrolment rates and maximize learning achievements of at-risk and vulnerable children and children with special education needs.
The 2021-2025 Education Sector Plan promoted strategies related to the development and establishment of standards on materials to be procured for special education needs and disability programmes and facilities to better serve children with special educational needs.
The Sub-Part II of the 2010 Persons with Disabilities Act regulates the education of persons with disabilities in Guyana. As stated in the act, the Ministry of Education should ‘implement a national education programme to ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary and secondary education on the basis of having disabilities’. The ministry shall also encourage learning institutions to take into account the special needs of persons with disabilities with respect to entry requirements, pass marks, curriculum, examination, auxiliary aids and services including access to school facilities.
According to the 2014–18 education sector plan, the Ministry of Education took some major steps to alleviate the challenges faced by students with disabilities. These steps included completing a draft national inclusion policy, appointing a national special education needs coordinator and, in some regions, appointing persons with specific responsibilities for coordinating special education needs and screening programmes. The intent of these programmes is to identify children with disabilities who are not in school and, where possible, to bring then into the school system.
The 2014–18 education sector plan set out to support the creation of alternative methods for the assessment of students with disabilities.
For the Ministry of Education, one of the areas of greatest concern has been ‘the inability to adequately meet special education needs of children with physical or mental disabilities’. Although some efforts have been made in the last five years to meet special education needs, they continue to be one of the most neglected areas in the education sector. According to the ministry, this concern is reflected in surveys and consultations that have been conducted by other organizations, such as the National Commission on Disability (NCD) and the Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO), from which the education sector has benefited. In a study carried out under the auspices of NCD with the assistance of VSO, 15% of persons surveyed had never attended school, 42% of whom were under 16 years old.
The 2014 Education Bill establishes that the minister shall promote the principles and practice of gender equality.
As mentioned in the 2008–13 education strategic plan, efforts have been made to reduce sex stereotyping in education material, to offer a module in the teacher training programme on gender, and to offer males and females the same programme options.
Sex stereotyping in materials has been significantly reduced, and although there are still perceptions in society about traditionally male and female subject areas and males and females cluster in different careers in the higher grades, the ministry offers the same curriculum to all students.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous peoples
The 2008–13 education strategic plan indicated that the Ministry of Education has been trying to respond to the needs of the indigenous communities where English may not be the first language and where cultural norms may be somewhat different from other communities.
The plan recognized that there have been limited attempts to respond to the language issue, with the ministry supporting the use of the children’s mother tongue, where possible, in the early years of school and giving support to projects such as the Macushi Language project.
People living in rural and remote areas
As established in the 2014 Education Bill, the chief education officer may, after consultation with the council on special education, in special circumstances and under conditions to be determined after full consideration of each case, give grants to a governing body for the primary education of children residing in remote or sparsely populated places and in difficult-to-access places.
The 2014–18 education sector plan considered implementing flexible school schedules in some regions to reduce student absenteeism attributable to rainy seasons, low water that prevents travel by boat and weeks when children are needed to help in harvesting crops.
One of the priorities of the 2014–18 education sector plan was to reduce the costs of education for poor families to encourage them to keep their children in school. To achieve this, the ministry intended to continue and enhance welfare measures such as providing free exercise and textbooks, school uniforms and school feeding programmes. The objective was to increase school attendance by 5% in three years.
The Guidance and Welfare units of the Ministry of Education of Guyana provide support to at-risk and vulnerable children.
The National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) is in charge of increasing the inclusiveness of the education system. The role of NCERD in a decentralized education management system is to provide professional support to all levels of education management that will result in the delivery of quality education in schools. Its key areas of work include providing updated curriculum guides and related learning materials to support quality classroom teaching and learning, improving teacher training and coordinating special education needs training through customized curriculum development.
The Special Education Unit, located within NCERD, is in charge of developing policies to support students who have learning difficulties, children with disabilities and students who are gifted. The unit aims to improve the quality of teaching and services offered throughout the national education system through professional development programmes and teacher training. A special education needs coordinator is appointed at the level of the central ministry.
The Ministry of Education works in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and with the support and participation of the regions in order to be able to provide better-quality education to students with special needs.
The Planning Unit of the Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing monitoring and evaluation of the implementation and results of the education sector strategic plan.
The School Health Unit collaborates in identifying children with special education needs through screening.
Infrastructure and services
As part of the 2014–18 education sector plan, the Ministry of Education was to improve the quality of school facilities. Regions were to be assisted to develop preventative maintenance plans for schools and improve their infrastructure.
The 2014 Education Bill established that furniture and equipment, washrooms and other facilities must be adequate and suitable, having regard for the number, ages and gender of the students who will be attending the institution or school.
According to the 2008–13 education strategic plan, sex stereotyping in materials has been significantly reduced, and although there are still perceptions in society about traditionally male and female subject areas, the Ministry of Education offers the same curriculum to all students.
The 2014 Education Bill determined that in schools for girls, or in co-educational schools, the curriculum shall, wherever possible, include provision for theoretical and practical instruction in home economics and an approved course in this subject may in such cases be substituted wholly or in part for science and for mathematics other than arithmetic.
In order to improve the access and quality of the education offered to students with special needs, the Ministry of Education has placed special education needs specialists in the Curriculum Department at NCERD. This will allow the ministry to better support the services offered in the area of special education needs.
According to the 2008–13 education strategic plan, more needs to be done at the teacher training level to respond to the needs of different genders or groups. For example, according to the Ministry of Education, data shows that less than 40% of the teachers in special education institutions have sufficient training.
The 2010 Persons with Disabilities Act establishes the development and implementation of training programmes for teachers specializing in disabilities so that requisite trained personnel are available for special schools and integrated schools for children with disabilities. Special education shall be made a compulsory component of the teacher training curriculum offered by institutions established to train teachers.
One of the main priorities of the 2014–18 education sector plan was to improve the quality of teaching throughout continuous initial teacher training. The ministry was to set targets for increasing the number and subject specializations of teachers in remote hinterland and riverine schools and expand incentives to attract teachers to those areas. In addition, the plan envisaged expanding training on needs assessment in all special schools to improve the quality of teaching for students with special education needs.
NCERD organizes in-service training sessions for practising teachers to help them provide support to children with special needs in school and trains specialists in the areas of curriculum, measurement and evaluation. Teachers are learning how to make their classrooms more inclusive with trainings organized by the Special Education Needs Unit. In 2018, the Ministry of Education organized a training for teachers in Essequibo Islands-West Demerara aimed at helping them incorporate special needs students into regular classrooms.
Guyana does not have a national education monitoring report and has not developed indicators to monitor inclusive education.
The Ministry of Education publishes the monitoring and evaluation results of the education sector plan.