No specific definition of inclusive education has been found.
Special education needs
According to the Ministry of Education's 2014–30 education strategic plan, students with special education needs includes not only learners with various forms of disabilities, ‘but also the talented and excelling students requiring special care.’ Law No. 10 of 2018 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines special needs persons as ‘everyone who has persistent complete or partial deficiencies, whether physical, intellectual, mental or sensory, which prevents him to participate fully and effectively in society and on an equal basis with others’.
Article 9 of Law No. 139 of 1981 (the Education Law) states that the Ministry of Education can create schools for gifted and talented students as well as special education schools to teach students with disabilities based on their abilities and readiness.
Efforts have been made to integrate students with disabilities, including through full integration into equipped schools. However, the Ministry of Education sees the past and current efforts as merely a ‘trial phase’. Those efforts need to be expanded and replicated to serve more students with disabilities. Schools that integrate students are few in number and are not meeting needs. In this respect, the 2014–30 education strategic plan seeks to achieve full integration of children with simple/basic disabilities as well as to improve service in currently available special education schools through: 1) expanding the number of schools dedicated to students with special needs and 2) equipping all new schools with infrastructure to help fully integrate students with disabilities.
The 2018 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that public and private education institutions must commit to applying the rule of equality between children with disabilities and other children (Art. 13). The Ministry of Education also commits to offering special needs education based on nature and level of disability (Art. 12). Moreover, the percentage of accepted/admitted children with disability in non-government education institutions should not be lower than 5%, especially when the percentage of applicants with disabilities exceeds that percentage (Art. 14).
Some small-scale projects are supporting full inclusion of persons with disabilities in mainstream classes. For example, more than 1,100 children with disabilities are now included in over 90 regular schools thanks to the project SETI (Support, Education and Training for Inclusion) led by Caritas Egypt.
Egypt ratified the Convention Against Discrimination in Education in 1962. In addition, Article 19 of the 2014 Constitution states that every citizen has the right to education and promotes the values of tolerance and nondiscrimination. It also affirms that ‘the state commits to uphold its aims in education curricula and methods, and to provide education in accordance with global quality criteria.’ Similarly, Articles 3 and 15 of the 1981 Education Law state that free access to basic education and pre-university education is a right for all and that such education is to be made free for all in the state’s public schools.
Egypt ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008.
In addition, Article 81 of the Constitution states:
‘The state shall guarantee the education rights of dwarves and people with disabilities. The state shall provide work opportunities for such individuals, and allocate a percentage of these opportunities to them, in addition to equipping public utilities and their surrounding environment. The state guarantees their right to exercise their integration with other citizens in order to achieve the principles of equality, justice and equal opportunities.’
Article 93 of the Constitution provides that: ‘The State shall be bound by the international human rights agreements, covenants and conventions ratified by Egypt, and which shall have the force of law after publication in accordance with the prescribed conditions’. The Constitution also confirms all rights and duties for special needs persons in Articles 53, 55, 54, 80, 81, 180, 214 and 244.
Following endorsement of the CRPD, the Egyptian Ministry of Education issued a ministerial decree in 2009, updated in 2015, mandating the admission of students with mild disabilities in public and private schools ready to accept them while aiming to prepare 5,040 schools for the inclusion of 152,000 students by 2012.
The 2018 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities consists of seven parts, including one dedicated to education which requires education institutions to adopt policies to support people with disabilities and provide equal opportunities in education. Most importantly, it prohibits refusal of students’ applications on grounds of disability. The law imposes a criminal liability on officials who violate this provision, with a fine ranging from 500 to 2,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately US$32 to US$128), with multiple fines for multiple offenses. The Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that education institutions should not refuse a child based solely on disability – with their licensing to be revoked if they do so – and that the Ministry of Education and other concerned parties commit to taking necessary steps to ensure that persons with disability receive an education that allows them to be included and integrated in government and non-government education institutions (Art. 12). Moreover, persons with disabilities have the right to obtain a good-quality and inclusive education which allows them to participate in society and to face no discrimination (Art. 12).
Finally, Egypt’s Vision 2030 sustainable development strategy outlines several priorities aiming to make education more inclusive for marginalized segments of society, including adopting a programme ‘for integrating slightly disabled students in schools’.
Egypt ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981. Girl-friendly schools – categorized under ‘community schools’ – aim to encourage higher enrolment of female students, especially older girls. The girl-friendly schools accept girls aged between 6 and 14 and allow a male student population that does not exceed 25% of the school’s total student body.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Egypt adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, the 2014 Constitution emphasizes the importance of teaching the Arabic language. For instance, Article 24 states: ‘The Arabic language, religious education, and national history in all its stages are core subjects of pre-university public and private education.’ No mention is made of any of the country’s indigenous languages, such as the Nubian language, spoken widely in the South of Egypt, or the Berber language, spoken mainly in the Siwa Oasis in Western Egypt. In fact, instruction is generally delivered in Arabic at all education levels. Some public school curricula and subjects are taught in English. According to the country's new education plan, which is part of Egypt’s Vision 2030 sustainable development strategy, students in all public schools will be taught science, math, geography and history in the Arabic language from kindergarten until the sixth grade.
Egyptian school law obliges public primary schools to teach only standard Arabic but allows private schools to teach other languages in addition to official Arabic. At the secondary level, pupils must learn a foreign language, either English or French, from the first cycle. In the second cycle, they must choose a second foreign language. In universities, the system is more flexible, although in principle classical Arabic remains the language of instruction.
Egypt's Vision 2030 outlines several priorities that would promote an education that is more inclusive for currently marginalized segments of society. Objective 9 aims at developing a subsidy system for poor families. Among the goals of the social justice pillar is the launch of a programme ‘that aims to increase the number of students in poor zones to enrol in pilot schools/smart schools/schools with certified quality education’. Similarly, one key strategy of the 2014–30 education strategic plan is to decrease the gap in access to quality schooling between the rich and the poor and between rural and urban areas
The 2014–30 education strategic plan emphasizes the importance of making education accessible to various marginalized populations, of the need for targeted approaches to reach out-of-school children and of further developing and expanding ‘community schooling’ to serve dropouts, with special attention for girls and children in poor urban and rural geographic areas. In addition, Egypt’s Vision 2030 plans to implement an illiteracy and dropout eradication programme. Moreover, in the 2018 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Ministry of Education commits to providing literacy training/illiteracy eradication services to those whose age might have exceeded the minimum age required for basic education and to out-of-school children (Art. 12).
For its programmes related to education for students with special needs, the Ministry of Education liaises with several entities, including the Ministry of Telecommunications, the Faculty of Sciences for Special Needs, the Faculty of Education at Ain Shams University and the Faculty of Education at Alexandria University.
The National Council for Persons with Disabilities has a mandate to propose policies, evaluate existing ones and coordinate efforts among various entities supporting persons with disabilities. The Association of National Institutes also plays an important coordinating role in promoting the inclusion of students with special needs in schools, including collaborating with the Ministry of Education to organize conferences that improve coordination efforts and create awareness about issues and challenges.
In the 2018 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Ministry of Education commits to further developing existing special education schools while abiding by international quality criteria and offering suitable curricula as well as trained and qualified teachers and specialists (Art. 15). The same law includes broader concepts such as ‘accessibility’ and the ‘empowerment’ of persons with disability in education and requires the Ministry of Higher Education to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, including distance learning that should be in accordance with the standards and rules of the CRPD. Finally, there has been an expansion in resource rooms in schools to reach 200 rooms across the country.
Article 19 of the Constitution affirms: ‘The state commits to uphold its aims in education curricula and methods, and to provide education in accordance with global quality criteria.’ The education curricula for all levels need to include clear explanation of notions of disability to create awareness about the needs and status of persons with disabilities (Art. 13 Law No. 10/2008).
UNICEF has been working closely to support a curricular reform process in the context of the new national education reform launched in 2018, led by the Minister of Education and Technical Education.
The 2018 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that the Egyptian state, in collaboration with civil society organizations, commits to empowering persons with disabilities to learn life skills to help them fully participate in the education process, taking needed measures to support learning, including through Braille language and alternative writing methods and sign language (Art. 16). The ministry is expected to provide education programs and ‘supporting technology’ to suit different types of disability.
The Ministry of Education has implemented a specialized certificate to prepare teachers to effectively teach students with blindness and visual disabilities. In addition, between 2015 and 2018, the Ministry of Education trained approximately 37,400 teachers on effectively dealing with students with various types of disabilities. Furthermore, in collaboration with entities such as the Professional Academy for Teachers, the Ministry of Education has been training approximately 22,100 teachers on effectively teaching students with special needs.
Qualified teachers are not distributed proportionately across governorates. Moreover, at least 30% of in-service teachers are not pedagogically trained or prepared and thus are generally unqualified to teach effectively in public schools.
Despite the absence of a national education monitoring report, the situation of the education sector was reviewed prior to the Incheon conference in 2015. Moreover, 2011 Annex of the Ministerial Decree No. 264 includes a list of criteria, covering the availability of resource rooms, school management, infrastructure, teachers, and social and psychological dimensions, to evaluate schools in terms of their preparedness to integrate students with special needs.