As mentioned in the State Program for the Development of Inclusive Education for the Persons with Disabilities 2018-2024, inclusive education is considered as the process of including children with disabilities into education institutions together with their peers.
Special education needs
An explicit definition of persons with special education needs has not been found.
Education for persons with disabilities is generally provided in regular education institutions, special provision is considered “if necessary”. As regulated by the 2009 Law on Education, amended in 2019, special kindergartens act as part of pre-school education institutions (art. 14.5.1) and special schools and special boarding schools among general education institutions (art. 14.5.2), targeting children with special needs and with impaired health conditions.
As reported by the Ministry of Education, as of 2013, 16 general schools and 13 pre-school institutions adopt an inclusive education approach. There are seven special schools, alongside boarding schools targeting diverse forms of impairments. Orphans or minors without parental care may be also enrolled in public boarding schools (art.29.2.41 - 2009 Law on Education).
Within an EU-funded 2018-2020 project, nine inclusive education resource centres were established in existing schools in the seven districts of the country, namely Baku, Sumgayit, Ganja, Guba, Shaki, Agjabadi and Gazakh. Resource centers are intended to provide professional support to local teachers, school principals and parents, including in terms of education materials and equipment. Among the recent EU-funded activities, an Inclusive Education Centre was opened at the Baku Pedagogical University in 2019.
Early identification, screening and assessment
As prescribed by the 2009 Law on Education (art. 29.2.41), children with health impairments can be referred to special education and social protection institutions.
Psychological-medical-pedagogical commissions (PMPC) are responsible for conducting diagnostics of physical, mental and/or psychological impairments and for deciding on children’s education placement, including the need for special education.
The 1995 Constitution lays down the right to education for all citizens (art.42.1). It mandates the state to ensure free and compulsory secondary education (art.42.2) and continued education for talented persons (art.42.4). Concerning social development, it prescribes the promotion of people’s well-being by developing, among others, education (art.16). The constitutional non-discrimination provision covers “race, ethnicity, religion, language, sex, origin, property status, occupation, beliefs or affiliation with political parties, trade union organisations or other public associations” among the legal protections (art.25.3), and it further prohibits rights and freedoms’ restrictions based on “race, ethnicity, religion, language, sex, origin, beliefs, or political or social affiliation” (art.25.2). The 1998 Law on the Rights of the Child, as amended in 2017, reaffirms the principle of equality (art.6) and the right to education (art.11, art. 22).
To protect and promote the constitutional rights with respect to education, the 2009 Law on Education, amended in 2019, determines the principles and activities of the education system. Replacing the 1992 Education Act, the Law reorganized the levels and types of education and includes a quality standards provision (art.9).
The constitutional rights and duties are also extended to persons with “impaired health” according to their “limited abilities” (art.25.4). The 2009 Law on Education (art.5.2) and the 1998 Law on the Rights of the Child (art.6) extend the legal protections from discrimination also to health status. The latter lays down the right of children with disabilities to receive special medical, defectology and physiological support, including the provision of education according to their abilities (art.35, 41).
In education, the 2009 Law on Education recognizes the need to set special national standards for the education of persons with physical impairments (art.6.7), and establishes special education institutions from pre-school to general education for learners with special needs (art. 14.5). The education provision for persons with “limited opportunities of health” was expanded with the approval of the 2001 Law on Education of Persons with Limited Health Capacity, which lays legal foundations for their access to vocational education and allows learners with disabilities to receive education in general setting with their peers. However, the provision is applicable only to children and youth with impairments that allow them to be accommodated in regular schools.
The existing legislation still reflects a medical model in the definition of persons with disabilities, as provided in the 1992 Disability Prevention and Disabled Persons (Rehabilitation and Social Protection) Law, which is not aligned to the UN Convention of the rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), ratified in 2008.
As a matter of policy, the Strategy for the Development of Education by 2025, approved in 2013, set among its objectives the enhancement of effective teacher learning and the implementation of an inclusive education model to provide opportunities for education and the social adaptation of children with special needs from pre-school to general education. In 2015, the Action Plan on Implementation of the National Strategy includes the allocation of additional funds for the development, approval and implementation of state programmes on the inclusion of person with disabilities into regular learning. Recently, it has been established that tuition fees for adults and children under 18 with disabilities are to be covered by the state funds.
While legislation does not reflect an inclusive education approach, specific projects have been implemented to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular schools. Starting from 2005, the government has launched several initiatives to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular learning settings. One example is the National Program on Development of Inclusive Education 2005 -2009 based on pilot projects in four cities and implemented by the non-governmental organization Centre for Innovations in Education (CIE) involving children with mild and moderate disabilities. Another joint project was rolled out in cooperation with UNESCO within the Development Programme on the education of vulnerable children 2005-2009. The project included the provision of special equipment for 13 kindergartens and 16 regular education schools.
More recently, the State Program for the Development of Inclusive Education for the Persons with Disabilities 2018-2024 aims to promote the inclusion of learners with disabilities into regular schools and to fulfil their right to access equal education opportunities as their peers. Among its objectives, the state programme intends to amend existing legislation and make it consistent with the new approach. In line with the programme’s vision, the EU-funded Expanding Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities 2018-2020, implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Education, aims to increase access to quality education in regular schools for children with disabilities, while organizing simultaneously awareness campaigns. The project also includes teacher training modules to improve their capacities and enhance their skills to foster an inclusive classroom.
The Constitution enshrines the right to gender equality (art.25.2), after the amendment introduced in 2009. The 2009 Law on Education guarantees equal opportunities to men and women in recruitment, appointment, admission to education institutions and provision of scholarship and assessment (art.5.3). The 2006 Law on Ensuring Gender Equality intends to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on sex and create equal opportunities (art.1). A draft Law to strengthen the implementing mechanisms was developed and submitted to the Cabinet after relevant consultations.
Improving the legislation on gender is part of the objectives of the National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2019–2024, including eliminating gender stereotypes and discrimination, investigating the needs of marginalized groups of women and men, rural women, persons with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced persons. The Plan also intends to lay out measures to prevent school dropout and early marriage.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
As stated in the 1995 Constitution, everyone is entitled to use his/her native language, including in education (art.45.1), while it is prohibited to deprive anyone from the use of their mother tongue (art.45.2). According to the 2009 Law on Education, the Azerbaijani language is the official medium of instruction in education institutions (art. 7.1). Exceptions are admitted according to specific international treaties or agreements, upon the condition that “Azerbaijani language, literature, history, and geography” will also be taught (art.7.2). The 1992 Decree on the state support for the protection of rights and freedoms and development of languages and culture of national minorities, small peoples and ethnic groups provides the necessary conditions for teaching ethnic languages at comprehensive secondary schools. At present, education provision at comprehensive secondary schools is carried out in Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian and Armenian.
The 2009 Law on Education has fostered school distinctiveness and autonomy; however, all schools are administered under the Ministry of Education through its administrative bodies. Special education provision is managed by the Special Department.
In order to coordinate the implementation of the UNCRPD, a Working Group was set up under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population, including representatives from line ministries and from nongovernmental organizations working with persons with disabilities. Among its objectives, the Working Group ensures appropriate reflection of the Convention provisions in the government’s action plans and development strategies.
Concerning gender, a State Committee on Family, Woman and Child Problems was established in 2006 to regulate and monitor, among others, government’s activities on gender issues.
The 1992 Disability Prevention and Disabled Persons (Rehabilitation and Social Protection) Law regulates the necessary conditions for the accessibility to persons with disabilities and children with health impairments of public infrastructure buildings, public transportation and communication (art.31-33). An additional provision was integrated to the Law on basis of city planning for regulating accessibility, named Interests of state, Society and Individual in Urban Planning.
Curriculum and Learning materials
As prescribed by the 2009 Law on Education, special curricula are developed for students with disabilities and learners who are under long-term treatment (art.10.6). Within the State Programme for the Development of Inclusive Education, new learning materials have been planned to be adapted for catering to all students’ needs.
Before endorsement, school textbooks are reviewed against a gender-, race-, ethnic- and religion-sensitive approach. Opinions and recommendations contained in the learning materials are analysed by special experts. School textbooks are also provided in special formats, such as Braille fonts, and as audio books, to cater for the needs of blind and visually impaired learners.
As announced in the Azerbaijan 2020: Look into The Future Concept of Development, general education teachers are expected to receive interactive teaching training on technologies and inclusive education. In the disability-provision, the 2009 Law on Education states that educational staff working with children with disabilities are required to receive additional benefits (art. 36.4). Recently, the State Programme for the Development of Inclusive Education allocated specific funds to designing new methodological tools for teachers and the introduction of modules on special education for all pedagogical staff.
Among the EU-funded initiatives, the project Enhancing Teacher Skills in Inclusive Education 2018 aims to train primary school teachers and university teachers on inclusive education in the capital city and five regional towns. The training is complemented by a training portal in Azerbaijani.
Gender issues have been incorporated into the teachers’ and education personnel’s curricula and have become part of the qualification programmes for pedagogical specialists, including the Professional Development Institute of Education Specialists.
Azerbaijan provides annual education reports.
With support of World Bank, a planning and reporting system was set up to strengthen the education management capacity. Targeted training on the Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) was provided to personnel in the Ministry and district education departments were equipped with the necessary electronic systems to submit to the central EMIS unit local data. The latter informed the first education statistics report in 2008.