No specific definition of inclusive education has been found.
Special education needs
According to the Ministry of Education’s National Education Strategy (2014-2030), students with special educational 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 the Education Law number 39 (1981) 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 (p. 4).
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 “pilot phase”. Those efforts need to be expanded and replicated to serve more students with disabilities. Schools that integrate students are few in numbers and do not fulfil the large needs (p. 30). In this respect, the National Education Strategy (2014-2030) 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 number of schools dedicated to students with special needs; and 2) equipping all new schools with infrastructure to help fully integrate students with disabilities (p. 87).
The Law on the rights of persons with disabilities (2018) states that public and private educational institutions commit to apply the rule of equality between children with disabilities and other children (art. 13). The MOE 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-governmental educational institutions should not be lower than 5%, especially in situations where 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 due to the project SETI: Quality of life for persons with disability lead by Caritas Egypt.
Egypt ratified the Convention against Discrimination in Education (CRPD) in 1962. In addition, Article 19 of the Constitution (2014) states that every citizen has the right to education and promotes the values of tolerance and non-discrimination. 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” (p. 15). Similarly, Articles 3 and 15 of the Education Law 39 (1981) state that free access to basic education and pre-university education are a right for all and that it 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 (2014) states that: “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”, it also confirmed all rights and duties for special needs person as described in “53, 55, 54, 80, 81, 180, 214, 244” constitution articles.
Following endorsement of the CRPD, the Egyptian Ministry of Education (MoE) issued a Ministerial Decree in 2009, updated in 2015, mandating the admission of students with mild disabilities in public and private schools ready to do so aiming at the same time to prepare 5,040 schools suited for the inclusion of 152,000 students by 2012 (MoE, 2008; MoE, 2014).
The Law 10/2018 on the rights of persons with disabilities includes 7 parts, including one dedicated to education. The latter requires educational 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 $28 to $113), with multiple fines for multiple offenses. The Law 10 on the rights of persons with disabilities (2018) states that educational institutions should not refuse a child based solely on their disability; otherwise their licensing shall be revoked; 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 governmental and non-governmental educational 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 outlines several priorities aiming to make education more inclusive for currently marginalized segments of society: “Adopting a program for integrating slightly disabled students in schools” (p. 27).
Egypt ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981. Girl-friendly schools — that can be categorized under “community schools” — aim to encourage higher enrolment of female students especially older girls who had been schooled at the right age and those who have dropped out of school. 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. Yet the 2014 Constitution emphasizes the importance of teaching the Arabic language. For instance, Article 24 states that “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 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 have to learn a foreign language from the first cycle: they could choose between English and French. 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 (p. 27). Among the Social Justice Pillar, the Plan will “launch a program that aims to increase the number of students in poor zones to enrol in pilot schools/smart schools/schools with certified quality education” (p. 154). Similarly, one key strategy of the National Educational Strategy (2014-2030) is to decrease the gap in access to quality schooling between the rich and the poor, and between rural and urban areas
The National Education Strategy (2014-2030) emphasizes the importance of making education accessible to various marginalized populations, 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. Also, Egypt’s Vision 2030 plans to implement a Illiteracy and dropout eradication programme. Moreover, in the Law regarding the rights of persons with disabilities (2018), 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 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, Faculty of Sciences for Special Needs, Faculty of Education in Ain Shams University, and Faculty of Education in Alexandria University.
The National Council for Persons with Disabilities has a mandate to propose policies, evaluate existing ones, and coordinate efforts among various entities working in the sector of supporting persons with disabilities. The Association of National Institutes also plays an important coordinating role to promote the inclusion of students with special needs in schools, including collaborating with the MOE to organize conferences that improve coordination efforts and create awareness about the issues and challenges.
In the Law on the rights of persons with disabilities (2018), the Ministry of Education commits to further developing existing special education schools while abiding by international quality criteria and offering suitable curricula, trained and qualified teachers and specialists (article 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 United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Egypt ratified in 2008. Finally, there has been an expansion in resource rooms in schools to reach 200 rooms across the country.
Article 19 of the Constitution (2014) affirms that “the state commits to uphold its aims in education curricula and methods, and to provide education in accordance with global quality criteria” (p. 15). The educational curricula for all levels need to include clear explanation of notions of disability to create awareness about needs and status of persons with disabilities (art. 13 law 10/2008). Finally, 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 (MoETE).
The Law on the rights of persons with disabilities (2018) 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 educational process, taking needed measures to support learning including through Braille language and alternative writing methods and sign language (Art. 16). The ministry should provide educational 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 has trained approximately 37,400 teachers on effectively dealing with students with various types of disabilities. Also, 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 and prepared and thus are generally unqualified to teach effectively in public schools.
Despite the absence of national education monitoring report, the situation of the education sector was reviewed prior to the Incheon conference in 2015. Moreover, Annex of the Ministerial Decree 264 (2011) includes a list of criteria to evaluate schools in terms of their preparedness to integrate students with special needs. Those include the availability of resource room, school management, infrastructure, teachers, social and psychological dimensions to evaluate the preparedness.