There is no definition of inclusive education in the Education Act (2005).
Special Education Needs
As stated in the Education Act (2005), special education programmes are provided to “students of compulsory school age who by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioural, physical or multiple exceptionalities are in need of special education”.
Although Special Education Needs (SEN) are referred to in the Education Act and several policies, there is no explicit definition of SEN.
According to the Education Act (2005), the Ministry of Education is responsible of assisting in the establishment and maintenance of educational institutions or other facilities for tertiary, adult and continuing education and special education. It is also responsible for the referral of children who have been identified by the Chief Education Officer as having learning difficulties to appropriate medical, educational, social services or other agencies where they exist for remedial treatment or assistance.
If the student has special educational needs or learning difficulties, he/she will be referred to the Chief Education Officer, after receiving written consent from the parent. The Chief Education Officer together with a team of professionals will conduct a multidisciplinary assessment to determine the special education program that is considered appropriate to meet the needs of the student. A special education programme may also take the form of an individual education plan tailored to the specific or individual needs for the student.
The White Paper on Education Development and Policy (2009-2019) defines a Special Education Unit as an educational facility that caters to the needs of children with a variety of challenges. There is one unit in St Kitts and one in Nevis. One of the Units began operating in 1982 in a classroom at a primary school and catered solely for the needs of children who were mentally challenged. Nowadays, it caters for the needs of children with a variety of challenges. Special Education Units seek to equip each student with skills that will enable them to lead an independent life as possible.
As reported by the Education Sector Plan (ESP) 2017-2021, for learners with a range of special education needs (SEN), education and training is provided at the Cotton Thomas Comprehensive School (CTCS) in St. Kitts or the Cicele Brown Integrated School (CBIS) in Nevis. Approximately 107 students aged 5-19 are enrolled at the CTCS in St. Kitts and 19 students aged 5-15 are enrolled at CBIS in Nevis, with a range of cognitive, learning, behavioural and physical disabilities. However, according to the ESP, there is no available data on the number of students who may need special education services but are not receiving them and “anecdotal evidence suggests that, owning to societal stigma, some parents/guardians are unwilling to have their dependant(s) assessed for special educational needs or enrolled in CTCS/CBIS despite official recommendations from the MoE.”
The ESP recognises that “owing to resource constraints for promoting inclusion in general education, CTCS and CBIS also serve students who are cognitively capable of attending mainstream schools, but owing to certain disabilities (e.g. vision impairments) are attending special education institutions”.
One of the immediate outcomes outlined in the ESP is for “students from ECD to post-secondary with special educational needs to be able to access quality care and instruction in the least restrictive school environment for the identified need”. Where feasible, the MoE will provide inclusive learning environments for students with SEN and disabilities. The target is for at least four mainstream schools (two primary and two secondary) to provide appropriate accommodation for special needs students.
The Education Act (2005) regulates the provision of education services in St Kitts.
In 2006, St. Kitts developed a Plan of action for localising and achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The plan sought to achieve universal primary and secondary education and eliminate gender disparity in both levels, create policies to fight male underachievement in high-school, increase quality of education by providing in-service and pre-service teacher training and building and renovating schools and sharpen the content and focus of the curriculum, particularly at the primary level.
The Ministry of Education of St Kitts and Nevis considers that education is the key to the future. The Ministry aims to provide for all citizens and residents, in collaboration with other stakeholders, a comprehensive course of quality lifelong education, which would enable individuals to develop and achieve their full potential, allowing them to make meaningful contribution to National Development. To continue raising the nations’ educational standard, the Ministry’s objective is that “a minimum of 20% of the population to have tertiary education and to provide alternatives for students who are exiting school at the fourth form level or before.” Alternatives include:
- Enrolling in the Project Strong, which delivers a skills-based curriculum
- Enrolling in a programme at an Advanced Vocational Centre (AVEC) or the National Skills Training Programme (NSTP)
The White Paper on Education Development and Policy (2009-2019), provided guidance for education developments and policies for a ten-year-period after a process of consultation with local stakeholders and regional and international agencies. The main objective of the White Paper was to provide for all citizens and residents, in collaboration with other stakeholders, a comprehensive course of quality life-long education, which will enable individuals to develop and achieve their full potential.
The Education Sector Plan for 2017-2021 “Education for All: Embracing Change, Securing the Future” of St. Kitts and Nevis provides the roadmap for the Ministry of Education to improve the provision and administration of the education over the medium-term period. It demonstrates the countries’ regional and global commitments on education acquired through the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) 2012-2021 sub-regional education sector-strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG 4).
The Education Sector Plan establishes a series of key policy goals for 2017-2021. These include:
- Improving equitable access to and participation in education at all levels
- Strengthening the quality and relevance of education at all levels to improve learning outcomes
- Enhance governance, planning and management to improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout the sector.
In addition, there are a number of cross-cutting themes central to achieving the three policy goals, which include increase focus on equity in education, TVET as a driving and valued force in education sector development and the integration of ICTs as a value-added pedagogical and management tool. The ESP seeks to redefine targeting mechanisms for social assistance programmes and implementing appropriate services for vulnerable populations who are not being adequately served, to redress inequalities by providing opportunities for quality learning outcomes to all students, to reduce gender disparities at the secondary level and beyond and to ensure that students with special education needs can access quality teaching and learning in the least restrictive school environment.
Division 4 of the Education Act (2005) regulates special education in the country. Special education programmes are provided to “students of compulsory school age who by virtue of intellectual, communicative, behavioural, physical or multiple exceptionalities are in need of special education”. The Chief Education Officer in consultation with professional staff of the school and the Ministry of Education and the parents will decide the special education programme that is tailored to the educational needs and rights of the student. The special education programme will be delivered to the student in the “least restrictive and most enabling environment to the extent that resources permit”.
According to the Act, a special education programme may take the form of an individual education plan tailored to the specific or individual needs for the student. Once it has been determined that the student will require an individual education plan, “the cost of developing, providing and maintaining that plan shall be apportioned between the student, if the student is above 18 years of age, or the parent of the student, where the student is below 18 years of age, as the case may be, and the Ministry of Education in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made under this Act” (art. 82.4).
The Government of Saint Kitts established a Special Education Unit to assist special needs children.
According to the White Paper on Education Development and Policy (2009-2019), inclusion “means that students with a wide range of difficulties may depend on the regular classroom teacher for their education”. Services for students with special needs may be provided in classrooms with students who have no learning difficulties, however children “at the lowest end of the continuum are educated at the Special Education Units on St. Kitts and Nevis”.
In order to improve equitable access to and participation in education at all levels, the Education Sector Plan 2017-2021, wants to strengthen the regulatory framework for special education and equipping schools with infrastructure and resources to better serve special needs students. According to the ESP, “low academic performance in mainstream education hints that additional students may need special education or learning support services”.
The ESP recognises that some issues need to be addressed to improve the quality of special education services. These include:
- Inadequate diagnostic testing and fragmented documentation of student’s history
- Need for additional therapeutic equipment
- Insufficient training for staff in mainstream and special needs schools
- Insufficient student support services for students with special education needs in mainstream schools
- Lack of support for gifted or talented special needs students
As stated in the ESP intermediate outcome 5, wherever feasible the MoE will provide inclusive learning environments for students with special education needs and disabilities. This will require strengthening the regulatory framework that guides access and participation of students with SEN and the developing of a special education policy that “defines and operationalises terms including, but not limited to, “least restrictive environment and inclusion”.
The Education Act (2005) established that the Ministry should develop an understanding of the principle of gender equality and other forms of equality as defined in the Constitution.
The White Paper promoted the development of an HIV/AIDS Policy for Education in collaboration with UNESCO, to recognise HIV and AIDS as a socio-economic issue affecting all sectors inclusive of education, ensure that no student will be denied access to education on the basis of his or her actual or perceived HIV status and fight discrimination. In the medium term, the Ministry envisages to review together with Social Development and Gender Affairs, a written policy that will allow pregnant students to return to school after their pregnancy.
St Kitts and Nevis has not yet developed a Gender Policy.
The Education Sector Plan 2017-2021 acknowledges that differences in participation between males and females have been noted in the secondary level and beyond. The ESP plans measures to eliminate gender disparities in participation by 2020.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
According to the Education Sector Plan 2017-2021, St Kitts should be ready to accommodate learners with potential language barriers such as the growing number of migrants from the Dominican Republic. While most of the population are English speakers, 1.2% identified as Hispanic (SKN Census, 2001). Meaningful participation is constrained for English language learners. The Plan recognises the need to take into consideration the needs of the growing numbers of persons emigrating from the Dominican Republic, for many of whom English is not a first language.
In 2006, the School Meals Programme was already envisaged. The Programme provides hot lunches for students at the primary level to ensure the maintenance of adequate nutrition, which serves as a basis for learning. The Plan of action for localising and achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established that by 2015 all schools should be provided with hot lunches heavily subsidised by the government to help those in need of assistance. In addition, a public assistance programme from the Ministry of Social Development provides school uniforms for students from low-income families.
The Education Sector Plan 2017-2021 refers to a number of measures to support the access and participation of children from low-income households. Social assistance programs have been implemented to defray the costs of school meals, textbooks, examinations and uniforms. To improve targeting and reduce inefficiency in service delivery, more collaboration is needed between the Ministries of Education and Ministries of Social Development.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) is the highest authority in education. The Chief Education Officer is responsible for the general administration of the Education Act (2005) and to ensure that schools and other educational institutions are administered in a proper and efficient manner, develop and direct training for all professional personnel and develop administrative principles and procedures for implementing general policies and administering the school system, amongst others.
The Education Sector Plan 2017-2021 sought to enhance governance, planning and management in the education sector. Some of the strategies envisioned include strengthening policy action by aligning education legislation with policy mandates, developing capacity in policy development and raising awareness of MoE policies, modifying the MoE organizational structure to improve work processes and implementing policies on equity, resource and data management.
The Education Act (2005) provides the legal framework for the management of the Education sector. The Act sanctioned the establishment of a series of entities that could aid in the management of the sector. However, according to the Education Sector Plan 2017-2021, some of these bodies are not functioning effectively such as the Education Advisory Board or have not been established (e.g. the Council on Early Childhood Education, the Education Review Committee, the National Student Council, School Boards, etc.)
The planning Division has the responsibility for curriculum development and programme planning
According to the Education Act (2005), the Ministry may establish a Council on Special Education to advise the Chief Education on guidelines for the implementation of the provisions of this Division (art. 85). A Special Education Unit will also be established to assist children with special needs.
The Office for Special Education in the MoE has recently been reinforced to carry out its responsibility for ensuring that individuals with special education needs are served through the school system. They offer assessment, diagnosis and intervention services in speech and language therapy; educational assessment and intervention; teaching for students with moderate to severe mental challenges; and work with visually impaired students. Limited service for clinical psychology is available. The Child Development Project of the Ministry of Social Services has prioritised the development of diagnostic kits to identify children with learning or behavioural difficulties at an early age.
Infrastructure and services
The Plan of action for localising and achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) promoted the construction and remodelling of school facilities. It sought to establish school libraries to promote literacy and nurture a culture of reading among students in all schools by 2015.
The Government of St. Kitts has introduced a number of assistance programmes to support families to ensure that children can complete their education such as a School Transport System, which provides a fleet of buses to take children to and from school at no cost to parents and guardians.
According to the Education Sector Plan 2017-2021, efforts to increase access and participation in early childhood education include expanding existing centres and establishing new ones, implementing the Reaching the Unreached programme for home-based nursery providers and ensuring that public centres are accessible for children with physical disabilities.
The White Paper on Education Development and Policy (2009-2019) promoted the integration of ICTs into the delivery of curricula at all levels. A Special Education Curriculum for students with severe disabilities aged 5-16 was designed to provide targets for students’ attainment and to develop the ability of the student to track student progress “towards Primary Education level 1”. The curriculum is dependent “on the provision of trained teachers who are able to plan for, facilitate and monitor students requiring a more individualised approach, in which their needs, abilities and interests are carefully considered.”
To strengthen the quality and relevance of education in St. Kitts, the Education Sector Plan 2017-2021 seeks to implement a revised curriculum and learning assessment system that allows students to develop a holistic set of competencies for the 21st century.
Students with special education needs who attend the Cotton Thomas Comprehensive School (CTCS) in St. Kitts or the Cicele Brown Integrated School (CBIS) in Nevis have individualised education plans to meet with the specific learning needs and are exposed to a Special Education Curriculum.
Learning materials and ICTs
The White Paper encouraged strengthening the use of technology, computers and the internet to enable students to function in the computer world in which they live. ICTs will be used mainly as enablers and not as drivers and will provide support to existing manual systems to make them more efficient and effective. A Technology Planning Team comprising multiple stakeholders will develop a technology plan that includes professional development for technology use as an essential component and ensure that the educational goals for technology are in line with school and national goals for student learning and that professional development supports those goals.
The Ministry of Education of St Kitts promoted the computerisation of primary and secondary schools and set up a system to assist low-income families by providing textbooks at no cost, and to cover the cost of examination fees though the Student Education Learning Fund (SELF) Project.
The Ministry of Education regularly provides in-service training for teachers. According to the MoE, professional development enables teachers to offer students the learning opportunities that will prepare them to meet excellent standards in given content areas, can bridge gaps for the disabled and contribute to measurable improvement in student achievement. Technology can be a useful tool in the classroom and may enhance the teaching environment.
In April 2019, the Ministry organized an in-service training programme for primary and secondary school teachers to support new teachers during the first year in the profession. The training which focused on inclusion and advancement aimed at generating positive change in the classroom.
The Government of St. Kitts established a Teacher Resource Centre (TRC) as an extension of the Curriculum Development Unit, which provides information and resources for teachers. It also facilitates assistance from the University of the West Indies, which provides teacher training at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
The White Paper encouraged the revision pre-service and in-service teacher education and their recruitment. It established that by 2014, all practicing teachers should have at least a Certificate in Teacher Education. By 2015, at least 60% of the trained teachers in primary and secondary schools, as well as the Special Education Unit, will hold a Specialist Certificate in Learning Support.
According to the Education Sector Plan 2017-2021, there is a need to increase the number of trained teachers and to improve gender balance in the teaching force. One of the strategies to strengthen the quality and relevance of education include developing the framework for mandatory pre-service teacher training, establishing a National Teaching Council and a Continuous Professional Development Framework and implementing professional standards and welfare initiatives for teachers. The ESP recognises that there are Insufficient training opportunities for staff in mainstream and special needs schools
The Education Sector Plan 2017-2021 recognised that “there is an underdeveloped and underutilized Education Management and Education System (EMIS) to drive evidence-based decision making.”