An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found.
Special education needs
An explicit definition of special education needs has not been found. However, the 2009–14 education sector plan, when talking about children with special needs, lists ‘gifted children, the poor, differently abled, physically challenged/ handicapped, HIV/Aids, students at risk, orphans and others’. According to the 1999 Education Act, learners in need of special education are those with ‘intellectual, communicative, behavioural, physical or multiple exceptionalities’ (Art. 83.1).
As regulated by the 1999 Education Act, the special education programme is tailored to individual needs and can be delivered in the form of an individual education plan (Art. 83.3).
As reported by the UNICEF report Situation Analysis of Children in St. Lucia, as of 2017 there were five special education schools and centres throughout the country targeting students with functional learning disabilities, from mild to more significant impairments.
Early identification, screening and assessment
In consultation with parents and professional staff, the principal is responsible for determining the special education needs of a student and for deciding the most appropriate special education programme. Special needs assessment involves, ‘where possible’, professionals from different disciplines (1999 Education Act, Art. 84). The capacity of health services was planned to be strengthened in the 2015–20 education sector development plan to make needs assessment more affordable.
The 1978 Constitution of Saint Lucia, amended in 2006, prohibits any form of discrimination on grounds of ‘sex, race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed’ or disability (Art. 13). It does not enshrine the right to education, which is set out by the 1999 Education Act, revised in 2001, which states: ‘all persons are entitled to receive an educational programme appropriate to their needs’ (Art. 14). Refusal of admission to a public education institution owing to ‘race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, sex’ or to mental and/or physical disability is considered a discrimination and it is therefore unlawful (Art. 29). The 2001 Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Employment and Occupation Act expands the grounds of discrimination to include ethnic origin, social origin, family responsibility, pregnancy, marital status, age and disability (Art. 3.2).
Among its main priorities, the 2009–14 education sector plan sets out the development of inclusive education and the expansion of support services for children with special needs, namely gifted children, the poor, students with disabilities, those affected by HIV/AIDS, learners at risk, and orphans. Among its core values and beliefs, the 2015–20 education sector development plan promoted equity by providing the necessary support to all learners, respect by enhancing tolerance regardless of ‘age, gender, religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation’, flexibility by developing a differentiated curriculum and accommodating learners with special needs, and diversity by respecting individual differences and ensuring inclusion. It further intended to roll out differentiated practices to address diverse learning needs and to implement a zero-tolerance policy against discriminatory behaviours.
The country signed but has not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A student with physical or mental disability can be exempt from school attendance if the impairments make him incapable of following an ordinary school curriculum (Art. 38[d]). By virtue of the assessed disability, a student is entitled to be educated according to a special education programme which is provided ‘in the least restrictive and most enabling environment’ (1999 Education Act, Art. 83.2).
At the school level, the Ministry of Education commits in the 2015–20 education sector development plan to strengthening the capacity of the Student Support Services Unit to particularly support learners with disabilities. It has further planned to increase the number of qualified teacher personnel to serve in special schools and to ensure that learners can use affordable transportation services to access special schools outside their residential area.
In 2006, a draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities was prepared with the aim to increase education accessibility for students with disabilities in order to strengthen early assessment and identification. A National Assessment Centre was expected to provide assessments within the education system ‘whenever necessary’.
In line with the Caribbean Community commitment set out in the 1995 document Towards Regional Policy on Gender Equality and Social Justice, the 1999 Education Act promotes the development of an understanding of the principle of gender equality (Art. 3.3[f]). The 2001 Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Employment and Occupation Act promotes equality in employment in particular.
According to a Country Gender Assessment by the Caribbean Development Bank, gender-biased legislation persists and a national gender policy does not exist.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The 1999 Education Act also mandates the Ministry of Education and Culture to promote the understanding of the local language, culture and values (Art. 3.3[g]) and to develop a Caribbean identity through regional cooperation (Art. 3.3[i]).
A National Council for Persons with Disabilities protects and promotes the interests of the target group, including providing rehabilitation and assistance services and support devices. Under the Ministry of Education, a Special Education Unit is responsible for coordinating the multidisciplinary team that carries out development and needs assessments of children.
Strengthening collaboration and partnership across government levels was one of the priorities of the 2015–20 education sector development plan, which aimed to build the management capacity of education leaders.
The 1999 Building Code set standards for the design of public buildings and facilities. The 2006 draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities intended to make schools and education institutions more accessible for students with disabilities by installing ramps, rails and other structures.
With the aim to establish an integrated system of education for all children with disabilities, the Ministry of Education committed in the 2006 draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities to supporting the production of teaching and learning materials in alternate formats, such as Braille, and to making them available in all public schools and libraries.
Acknowledging the need to improve training for teachers working with students with development disabilities, the Ministry of Education has activated a collaboration with the University of Lynchburg in the United States to train personnel on education assessment.
On the island, specialized programmes are in place for teachers working with children with learning difficulties. Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, for example, included a compulsory special education course as a core module of the teacher training programme.
The provision of pre-service training for teachers at all levels was identified and set out among the priorities of the 2015–20 education sector development plan with the aim to improve the pedagogical offer to special needs learners. The plan included the country’s intent to increase the number of teachers in special schools who have specialized training in teaching children with exceptionalities and to enhance collaboration within the multidisciplinary school team, including among special needs teachers, principals, parents and other community members.
The Corporate Planning Unit of the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development and Labour produces annual Education Statistical Digests.
Concerning disability, the statistical digest reports data about student enrolment by school, disaggregated by education level, gender and type of disability.