3. Laws, policies and programmes
Act 5136 of 2013 on Inclusive Education defines inclusive education as "the systemic process of educational improvement and innovation to promote the presence, performance and participation of students in all national education system institutions where they are enrolled, with particular attention to students most vulnerable to exclusion, school failure or marginalization, thus detecting and eliminating the barriers that limit this process".
Special educational needs
The same act defines a student with specific educational support needs as one who, "due to specific educational support needs arising from physical, intellectual, auditory, visual and psychosocial disabilities, specific learning disorders, high intellectual abilities, late incorporation into the education system, personal circumstances or school history, requires support and/or adaptations to achieve the maximum possible development of their personal abilities."
Article 58 of the 1992 Political Constitution refers to the rights of gifted people.
According to the Education Action Plan 2018–2023, the national education system comprises general, special and other forms of education. Formal education is structured into three levels: early education, primary school education, and secondary education and higher education. The Action Plan proposed the creation of inclusion support centres through the gradual renovation of special schools. In 2014, there were around 70 schools and education centres for people with disabilities in Paraguay. The eradication of special schools is one of the main goals of the Directorate of Inclusive Education.
According to the National Development Plan 2030, the illiteracy rate among the population with disabilities is 43 per cent. Many children with disabilities do not attend school either because the centres are not equipped to care for them or because their parents prefer to keep them at home. According to the Plan, it is estimated that only 36 per cent of people with disabilities between the ages of 6 and 18 attend an educational institution. Disability is a major factor in exclusion from the education system. Indeed, it is estimated that 83 per cent of the population has not completed six years of primary school education and only 2 per cent entered higher education.
The Inclusive Education Act (2013) promotes inclusive education for pupils with specific educational support needs. It decrees that officially managed, private and subsidized private educational institutions must ensure access to students with specific educational support needs at the different levels and modalities of the institution and must create a support system to facilitate their learning in mainstream school.
According to the Guidelines for an Inclusive Education System, between October 2016 and December 2018, a pilot plan was implemented in eight public and private schools and four inclusion support centres. The programme has supported more than 2,000 children, including more than 100 children with different disabilities, and has trained more than 200 teachers and technicians in inclusive education.
With regard to education for indigenous peoples, the Education Action Plan 2018–2023 proposed the construction of intercultural education centres to provide comprehensive training to indigenous peoples.
The 1992 Political Constitution recognizes the right to education in article 73. Article 46 states that all inhabitants of the Republic are equal in dignity and rights. It does not allow discrimination and promotes equal rights for men and women.
According to the General Education Act 1998, the State has the responsibility to ensure access to education for the entire population and to create the conditions for real equality of opportunity. The aims of the education system are true gender equality, the rejection of all types of discrimination, respect for all cultures, equal conditions of access and teaching in the two official languages: Guarani and Spanish. Chapter VI refers to the Compensation of Inequalities in Education. It is stipulated that "the education authorities, through compensation programmes, shall give preferential attention to groups and regions facing economic, demographic and social disadvantages. The State shall guarantee the integration of pupils with special educational conditions. These programmes will allow equalization of opportunities, offering different alternatives and eliminating physical and communication barriers in public and private education centres, in both formal and non-formal education".
Act 4088 of 2011 establishes free early and secondary education.
Act 5136 of 2013 on Inclusive Education aims to establish actions and mechanisms aimed at the creation and implementation of an inclusive education model within the mainstream education system. The act seeks to fulfil the principles of comprehensiveness, equity and inclusion for all students with specific educational support needs and to establish procedures for the inclusion of these students in mainstream education. The act also states that the Ministry of Education and Culture will guarantee equal opportunities for students with specific educational support needs, recognition of disability as a component of human diversity, access to all levels and modalities of education, non-discrimination and the creation of support services in all public and subsidized private educational institutions.
In 2015, Resolution 1 was passed, regulating the system of infringements and penalties for non-compliance with the Inclusive Education Act.
The Ministry of Education and Science’s Education Action Plan 2018–2023: Let Us Transform Education is governed by the principles of community participation, effectiveness, transparency, quality and inclusion. Inclusion is "oriented towards diversity, non-discrimination and equal educational opportunities for everyone throughout life, according to their own characteristics". The Action Plan promotes the consolidation of flexible provisions to increase coverage, retention and timely completion of secondary education through programmes like the Programa de Educación Media Abierta [Open Secondary Education Programme] (EMA) with emphasis on reincorporation strategies for students who for some reason dropped out of the education system. It also sought to improve learning conditions, expand literacy programmes and improve educational practices, among others.
On the other hand, the Action Plan highlights that students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, rural areas or indigenous communities who attend official institutions and do not speak Spanish have low levels of performance in national and international tests like PISA, and face greater obstacles in accessing education.
The Ministry of Education and Culture’s National Education Plan 2024 states that one of the major challenges is to ensure inclusion and quality education for the entire population. It defines "educational inclusion as a quest for greater levels of equity, also recognizing the need for its contextualization in the policies of a politically and socially determined space". In addition to educational inclusion, the National Education Plan 2024 promotes a teacher training policy and multilingualism and interculturalism.
Lastly, the National Development Plan 2030 promotes the development of programmes with a focus on vulnerable populations to eradicate poverty, and programmes for the continuous improvement of the coverage and quality of education at all levels.
Chapter IV of the General Education Act 1998 sets out the provisions for the education of people with disabilities or gifted people. Article 80 stipulates that the State shall guarantee primary education for people with unique educational characteristics significantly different from those of their peers and for people with special educational needs (gifted, with learning difficulties, with behavioural disorders, with language disorders and others). As far as possible, the education of such people shall be carried out in an integrated manner within mainstream educational institutions.
Act 1680 of 2001 approves the Childhood and Adolescence Code. Article 22 states that "children and adolescents with physical, sensory, intellectual or emotional disabilities have the right to receive adequate, immediate and continuous care and attention, including early stimulation and specialized educational treatment, aimed at their rehabilitation and social and occupational integration, enabling them to take care of themselves and participate in the life of their community in conditions of dignity and equality". It also establishes the Sistema Nacional de Protección y Promoción Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia [National System for the Comprehensive Protection and Promotion of Childhood and Adolescence] (SNPPI).
Act 2479 of 2004 establishes the mandatory incorporation of people with disabilities in public institutions. Four years later, through Act 3540 of 2008 the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol were adopted.
The Inclusive Education Act promotes the implementation of reasonable accommodations or modifications and adaptations necessary to ensure that people with educational disadvantages, such as people with disabilities, can enjoy and exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms on an equal basis with others, and that barriers to learning and participation are removed.
The Guidelines for an Inclusive Education System developed by the Ministry of Education and Science, the Saraki Foundation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), seek to ensure the implementation of the Inclusive Education Act. They define the regulatory and programmatic framework for inclusive education and the educational reference framework for the inclusive education system. The guidelines are based on the Proyecto Educativo Institucional [Institutional Education Project], a school management planning, implementation and evaluation tool.
The National Action Plan for the Human Rights of People with Disabilities (2015) led by the National Secretariat for the Human Rights of People with Disabilities is the first compendium of comprehensive public policies for people with disabilities in Paraguay.
The General Education Act 1998 promotes true gender equality and the rejection of all forms of discrimination.
Article 7 of Act 5777 of 2016, which regulates the comprehensive protection of women against all forms of violence developed by the Ministry of Women, stipulates that the Ministry of Education and Science shall establish mechanisms for the participation of women in the design of the national education system’s educational materials, promote decision-making spaces convened by the Ministry of Education and Science that are carried out with equal participation of men and women, include training plans on the prevention of violence against women and children and on gender equality, taking into account women's specific ethnic and cultural characteristics, and coordinate the incorporation of a gender equality, non-discrimination and non-violence approach in the criteria for evaluating degree courses, undergraduate programmes and higher education institutions.
The National Plan for Equal Opportunities for Men and Women 2008–2017 sought to ensure full access and equal retention of women and men in the formal and non-formal education system, as well as the promotion and incorporation of gender equity in the educational practice of learning.
Indigenous population and ethnic and linguistic groups
Article 66 of the 1992 Political Constitution stipulates that the State shall respect the specific cultural characteristics of indigenous peoples, especially with regard to formal education. Article 77 stipulates that teaching at the beginning of the school process shall be in the official mother tongue of the learner. They shall also be taught in the knowledge and use of both official languages of the Republic. In the case of ethnic minorities whose mother tongue is not Guarani, one of the two languages may be chosen.
The Republic of Paraguay is a multicultural and multilingual State. There are two official languages in the country: Guarani and Spanish. According to the Education Action Plan 2018-2023, 29.3 per cent of the population over five years of age speaks only Spanish, while 37.6 per cent speak Guarani and 30.7 per cent speak both languages. The rural area has the highest proportion of Guarani speakers with 66.9 per cent.
Paraguay promotes multicultural and multilingual education. Two acts regulate access to education for the indigenous population. The General Education Act 1998 decrees that the purpose of the education of ethnic groups shall be to strengthen the processes of identity and integration into Paraguayan society. Act 3131 of 2007 recognizes and guarantees the respect and value of the existence of indigenous education. Members of indigenous peoples and communities are guaranteed early, primary and secondary education in accordance with their rights, customs and traditions. The schooling of indigenous peoples should be integrated into the two education systems: the indigenous system and the national society system, strengthening the values of each culture.
Though the Multilingual Education Plan for Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay 2013–2018 between the Ministry of Education and Culture with the Indigenous Education Monitoring Group, the Coordinadora Nacional de Pastoral Indígena [National Coordinator for Indigenous Groups] (CONAPI) and UNICEF, Paraguay seeks to improve school education for indigenous peoples in Paraguay by establishing language policies, designing and implementing curricula that consider sociocultural and linguistic contexts at all levels and modalities, and implementing decent education, training and specialization programmes with a focus on intercultural and multilingual rights.
Under the Education Action Plan 2018–2023, formal and non-formal literacy programmes are being promoted for young people and adults, with emphasis on the eight indigenous peoples with the highest illiteracy rates.
According to the 2030 National Development Plan, formal education is one of the focal points of inequality among the indigenous and non-indigenous population in Paraguay. The indigenous population has a high level of illiteracy, and it is estimated that 37.6 per cent of indigenous people aged 15 and over are illiterate. Likewise, it is estimated that 4 in 10 indigenous people have not completed year 3 of primary school, with those aged 10 years and over having an average of 3 years of study, compared with 7 years for the national population.
Students in rural areas
The General Education Act 1998, with regard to rural and peasant education, states that "the national, departmental and municipal education authorities shall provide a formal, non-formal and reflexive rural and peasant education service. The education of the peasant or rural man and his family will be sought, helping to train him to become an active agent of national development.”
Act 5446 of 2015 approves the Public Policies for Rural Women. It decrees that the State must guarantee comprehensive public health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, as well as formal and non-formal education for women in rural areas far from departmental capitals.
However, the population’s rapid urbanization, population dispersion in rural areas, bilingualism and ethnic diversity represent major challenges for the education sector.
People living in poverty
The General Education Act 1998 stipulates that admission to free public institutions shall be facilitated for people of limited means. Where there are no free or sufficient public institutions, the State shall finance places in private institutions through partial or full grants.
The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for creating and implementing educational policies in the field of education. The Directorate-General of Inclusive Education is the body responsible for developing strategies for equality and educational inclusion that help overcome inequality and discrimination within the school system.
The Fund for Excellence in Education and Research (FONACIDE) has contributed to financing quality policies to guarantee equal education opportunities for the entire population. This fund has enabled the financing of school repairs and adaptations, the provision of textbooks to secondary school students, the incorporation of ICT in educational institutions and teacher training, among others.
The National Secretariat for the Human Rights of People with Disabilities (SENADIS), which is at ministerial level and reports to the Office of the President of the Republic, was created by Act 4720 of 2012. SENADIS is the institution responsible for formulating and implementing national disability policies in accordance with international treaty obligations. SENADIS seeks to guarantee equality for people with disabilities and to promote their social inclusion. In 2013, the National Commission for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CONADIS) was created through Decree No. 10514 of 2013 by which Act 4720 of 2012 is regulated. CONADIS is composed of authorities from 10 public institutions, including representatives of departmental and municipal governments, as well as seven civil society organizations. It plays a central role in formulating policies to ensure equality for people with disabilities.
Through the Directorates of Levels, the Inclusive Education Act (2013) sought to strengthen the Departmental Coordinating Offices and Educational Oversight Offices with training and the provision of curriculum materials to facilitate the task of promoting, supporting and monitoring the implementation of inclusive educational projects. According to the act, the educational model depends on a structure made up of the:
Ministry of Education and Culture
Vice-Ministry of Education for Educational Management
Vice-Ministry of Higher Education
Directorate-General of Inclusive Education
Directorate-General of Early and Primary School Education
Directorate-General of Secondary Education
Directorate-General of Technical High School Diplomas and Vocational Training
Directorate-General for Strengthening the Education Process
Directorate-General of Continuing Education
Educational Oversight Departmental Coordinating Office
Administrative Support and Control Oversight Office
Technical and Educational Support Oversight Office
Technical Teams set up in the Central schools
Other non-institutional stakeholders that play a key role in promoting inclusive education in Paraguay are the Saraki Foundation, the Paraguaya Foundation and Paraguay Educa.
The Directorate-General of Indigenous School Education is the agency responsible for working towards a culturally relevant, inclusive and participatory education for indigenous peoples. It was created by Act 3231 of 2007, which establishes a structure within the Ministry of Education to outline and implement educational policies for indigenous peoples to guarantee their entry into early, primary and secondary education while guaranteeing their rights, customs and traditions.
In August 2015, the National Council for Indigenous Education was formed, responsible for outlining education policies for indigenous peoples. The Council is made up of 11 of the 20 indigenous peoples that exist in the country.
There is a Secretariat of Linguistic Policies that promotes the equitable use of the official languages: Guarani and Spanish.
The Ministry for Women is the governmental body responsible for the regulatory and strategic management of gender policies. It advances action plans to promote equal opportunities and equity between women and men.
Act 4934 of 2013 promotes accessibility to the physical environment for people with disabilities. The Inclusive Education Act (2013) promotes the elimination of barriers to learning and participation for people with disabilities, such as architectural barriers.
The Physical Accessibility in Schools Manual was published as part of the institutional cooperation agreement signed between the High Court of Electoral Justice, SENADIS, the Saraki Foundation and the Ministry of Education and Science. It describes the main aspects that must be considered when remodelling or building an accessible school or education centre, taking into account the Act on Accessibility to the Physical Environment and the Inclusive Education Act.
Lastly, the Directorate-General of Indigenous School Education works to ensure that the infrastructure conditions of educational institutions, basic water services, connectivity and equipment are accessible and appropriate.
The Education Action Plan 2018–2023 promoted the design and development of new educational infrastructure prototypes and the adaptation and construction of inclusive educational spaces, in accordance with the geographic, climatic and sociocultural context.
Spanish is the dominant language in education, however, since the 1992 Political Constitution, efforts have been made to promote the use of Guarani. The Secretariat of Linguistic Policies is working to make Paraguay fully bilingual.
The Inclusive Education Act (2013) proposes curriculum adaptations that enable access and progress for students with specific educational support needs. The aim is to guarantee curricular flexibility and the possibility of implementing reasonable adjustments for the population with specific educational support needs.
Article 7 of Act 3231 of 2007 stipulates that indigenous schools shall have curricula drawn up in accordance with the ethnic and cultural specificities of each people, ensuring they have programmes of study that cover their history, knowledge and value systems.
The Multilingual Education Plan for Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay 2013–2018 promotes the development of educational curriculum designs for each of the indigenous peoples.
Learning materials and information and communications technology
Act 4758 of 2015 created the National Fund for Public Investment and Development (FONACIDE) and the Fund for Excellence in Education and Research. The fund’s incorporation in programmes for the incorporation of ICT in the education system is established as a priority.
The National Reading Plan provides for the provision of textbooks and school libraries throughout the country.
The Education Action Plan 2018–2023 promoted the incorporation of the use of information and communication technologies in the national education system. It promotes the consolidation of an educational portal with an online learning platform, the provision of technological infrastructure to education centres and the development of ICT training programmes for teachers, technicians and managers at the central, departmental and institutional levels.
Teacher training is one of the priorities of the National Education Plan 2024 and the Education Action Plan 2018–2023. The latter promotes the development of in-service teacher training programmes by levels and modalities of education.
According to the General Education Act 1998, teachers working in education for people with disabilities or gifted people must have specialized training (article 83).
The Inclusive Education Act (2013) proposed the implementation of a permanent and continuous awareness-raising and training plan for in-service teachers. It sought to incorporate content related to accommodating diversity and specific educational support needs into the curricula of all teacher training courses. It decrees that the Ministry of Education and Science has the responsibility to guide, educate and/or train professionals and other members of the educational community to facilitate inclusion.
The Multilingual Education Plan for Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay 2013–2018 provides for the design and implementation of teacher training, capacity-building and specialization programmes with a rights-based, intercultural and multilingual approach, implemented by levels and modalities, and for each of the indigenous peoples.
Act 3231 of 2007 promotes teacher training and the establishment of centres for the education, specialization and training of indigenous teachers. Directorate-General of Indigenous School Education Resolution No. 37151 of 2011 concerns the appointment of indigenous and non-indigenous teachers to indigenous educational institutions.
The National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE) is responsible for implementing a system for evaluating the quality of education.
The Registro Único de Estudiantes [Unique Student Register] (RUE) is a mechanism that makes it possible to identify each student and simplify processes throughout their life within the national education system. It makes it easier to apply for scholarship programmes, facilitates enrolment and document processing throughout school life, improves the distribution of education centres and determines how many students there are in each institution, district and department.
Follow-up and monitoring of the Education Action Plan 2018–2023: Let Us Transform Education is carried out through the Educational Policy Follow-up and Monitoring System.