The 2005 Law of Georgia on General Education, as amended in 2010, defines inclusive education as the involvement of children with special needs in the process of general education with their peers. The most recent 2015 Law on Early and Pre-school Education defines inclusive education more broadly as an educational approach within which the education system ensures quality education for every child at institutions, considering their individual necessities, regardless of their physical, cognitive, sensory, social, emotional, linguistic, ethnic, racial, religious, gender or other particularities.
Special education needs
The 2005 Law on General Education defines Pupils with special educational needs as “persons who have difficulties in learning compared to their peers and for whom modification of the national curriculum and/or adaptation to the educational environment and/or preparation and implementation of the Individual curriculum are needed”.
In 2005, inclusive education was piloted in 10 public schools of Tbilisi and in 10 public schools throughout the country, with the support of the Government of Norway. After an assessment conducted in 2009-2010, only eight Special schools were maintained, among which those targeted at children with visual impairments, those for learners with hearing impairments, one school for persons with behavioral disorders and centers for people with mental disorders.
Since 2012, the main approach endorsed is integration of children with special educational needs into regular schools. However, special education is still in place. Within the 2013 Inclusive Education Support programme, the Ministry of Education and Science has introduced integrated classes in regular schools for learners with hearing impairments, children affected by autism and those with leukemia.
According to the Decree N05/N on the Enrolment of Students in the Institutions of General Education and Termination of the Status of a Student, a multidisciplinary group of specialists, consisting of, among others, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, a psychiatrist, a special teacher, is responsible for the definition of the special education needs of a child, based on the form filled out by the parent or the legal representative.
The 1995 Constitution of Georgia, amended in 2018, lays down the right to equality, prohibiting “any discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, origin, ethnicity, language, religion, political or other views, social affiliation, property or titular status, place of residence, or on any other grounds” (art. 11.1). It enshrines the right to education to all and to choose the form of education provision (art.27.1). The 2014 Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination consolidates and harmonizes anti-discrimination provisions set in previous legislation, “regardless of race, color, language, sex, age, nationality, origin, place of birth, residence, property or title, religion or faith, national, ethnic or social belonging, profession, marital status, health condition, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, political or other beliefs or other basis”.
The 2005 Law on General Education, amended in 2010, provides access to general education for each pupil based on the principles of proximity (“as close to his/her place of residence as possible”), of inclusion (“including those with special education needs”) and of multilingualism (“in the official or in his/her native, language) (art. 7.1). Linked to the socio-economic development strategy Georgia 2020 and the four-point plan of the reform of the Government of Georgia, the Unified Strategy for Education and Science for 2017-2021 reaffirms the country’s commitment to developing and expanding inclusive education, paying special attention to the most vulnerable groups, such as learners belonging to ethnic minorities, pupils with special needs, children and youth socially vulnerable and living along the demarcation line of the occupied territories of Georgia and students residing in mountainous villages.
The Constitution mandates the state to “create special conditions for persons with disabilities to exercise their rights and interests” (art. 11.4). In line with the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014, the 1995 Law of Georgia on Social Protection of Persons with Disabilities (art.2) adopts and reflects a social model of disability. The Governmental Action Plan on Human rights for 2016–2017 lays down the Commitments to amending and harmonizing the existing legislation. Following the CRPD ratification, an Action Plan on Ensuring Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities for 2014–2016 was adopted.
Since 2004, Georgia has introduced the principle of inclusive education for pupils with special education needs in education legislation. The 2005 Law on General Education provides for the inclusion of children with special education needs in regular schools by developing an individual curriculum and/or additional training programme based on the National Curriculum. The 2004 Law on Higher Education, amended in 2009, requires creating essential conditions for the access to higher education of students with disabilities and the most recent 2015 Law on Early and Pre-school Education calls for the delivery of equally available and inclusive preschool education.
The Strategy of Inclusive education 2013-2016 planned to improve the legal framework and management system of inclusive education, to enhance the quality education for Special Education Need children, also through an adequate financial system and monitoring system. The Inclusive Education group at the Ministry of Education and Science therefore developed an Action Plan for the development of the sector, which focused on ensuring quality inclusive education access to all levels of education for students with special needs. The Vocational Education and Training Development Strategy 2013-2020 aims to adapt existing school infrastructure and learning materials to cater for students with disabilities. Their needs have been taken into account in the design of new schools and in developing admission procedures to professional programmes.
A formal Memorandum of Understanding, encouraged and supported by Save the Children, was signed with the Ministry of Education and Science to initiate a new Inclusive Education Strategy and relevant Action Plan for years 2019-2022. A thematic working group was established with the participation of experts in the field, representatives of children and parents with special educational needs (SEN), government and civil society actors.
The Constitution recognizes and promotes equal rights and opportunities for men and women (art.11.3). The 2010 Law on Gender Equality reaffirms the principle of equability in rights, freedoms and opportunities also in the sector of education and science. In 2014, the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination was adopted aiming to also enhance gender equality.
In 2010, a Gender Equality Policy was introduced, followed by the 2014-2016 Plan of Action for Implementation of Gender Equality Policy in Georgia. The latter includes a gender analysis of the legislation, triggering several amendments, including in the Law on General Education and the Law on Higher Education. Within the new framework, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia with the support of UN Women introduced some changes in the National Curriculum.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and Indigenous groups
The 1995 Constitution set Georgian as the official language, while Abkhazian is so in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (art. 2.3). The citizens’ right to maintain and develop the culture, and the use of the mother tongue is protected from discrimination, “regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliation or language” (art. 11.3).
The 2005 Law on General Education recognizes that non-Georgian native speakers have the right of receiving a full-course general education in their native language. The 2004 Law on Higher Education establishes a new system facilitating access to higher education institutions for national minorities. Since 2010, access to Higher education for Azeri and Armenians is encouraged with quotas. Before accessing education, they are required to take one-year preparatory course in Georgian language. Yet, the quality of state language teaching and the compliance of non-Georgian learning with the National Curriculum is still the main challenge to the integration of ethnic groups, as recognized in the Unified Strategy for Education and Science for 2017-2021.
People living in rural or remote areas
A new subprogram on Access to Schools provides transportation to school for children coming from peripheral areas.
A new model of VET financing was introduced in 2012 based on voucher financing system. Grants to access higher education are awarded to marginalized students, including to socially vulnerable students, orphans and students from large families.
Gifted and talented children
The Gifted and Talented Youth Programme supports children to achieve their full potential in a competitive learning environment on national and international levels.
The project Supporting of Social Inclusion in Georgia launched by the Ministry of Education in 2014, aims to integrate into education many disadvantaged groups such as children with Special Education Needs, Social unprotected, Minority, and Roma. Within it a special component was dedicated to the promotion, through non-formal education socialization and integration of the youth of different social background and abilities, including Roma children.
Cooperation across sectors
The Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) is the main responsible for the country’s inclusive education policy. a A Multidisciplinary Team of inclusive education was established within the Ministry to offer qualified assistance to develop inclusive education. The Minister of Labor, Health and Social affairs is involved in the definition of disability and needs.
An Inclusive Education Development Division was established to develop Inclusive Education policy and strategy and to coordinate and monitor ongoing activities in the field of Inclusive Education.
With reference to gender inclusive education, an Inter-Agency Commission on the Issues of Gender Equality, Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence was set up in 2017 to steer effective implementation of the Gender Equality Policy.
Cooperation across government levels
In 2005 the education governance system was decentralized. The Ministry of Education and Science oversees all levels of education but pre-school education. The local government is responsible for management and financing of the latter, while School Boards of Trustees are responsible for school management, Supervisory Councils for VET centers and Academic and Representative Councils for higher educational institutions.
According to the 2014 Decree N41 on Technical Regulation on Arrangement of Space for Persons with Disabilities and Architectural and Planning Elements, the school physical environment has been adapted. However, there are no special norms regulating the class dimensions or the number of children per class enabling special arrangements for the learners' needs.
The introduction of the Me and Society course as a new subject in the National curriculum in 2016, dealing with gender issue, early marriages and healthy lifestyle, attempts to adhere to the principle of gender equality;
In 2006, the National Curriculum and Assessment Center (NCAC) launched a special Textbook Translation Project in order to provide minority schools with translated textbooks analogous to the ones introduced in Georgian schools. Textbooks are translated in Azeri, Armenian and Russian. In 2017, the procedure for authorization of textbooks was approved by Series of General Education Institutions, which has planned to develop new criteria, including gender ones.
Many programs are trying to strengthen teacher training and development in different areas.
In 2012, a special training course for teachers and other professionals working at school was piloted to prepare practitioners dealing with learners with special educational needs. Professional standards of special education teachers were also elaborated by the National Center for Teachers Professional Development. Students with special educational needs have the right to be supported by a special education teacher and a psychologist, but the current resources do not meet the actual need. Although a Special Teacher Master’s Degree Program was established in 2013, special education teachers still represent a small group of specialists in the country,.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and Indigenous groups
An Ethnic Minority School Teachers’ Professional Development Program was launched to support teachers’ professional development and improve teaching and learning process of Georgian language for non-Georgian speaking schools. Teach Georgian, as a Second Language Program promotes teaching of Georgian language in regions populated with ethnic minorities.
People living in rural or remote areas
Teach for Georgia Program is an example of a measure, financed by the government, to increase access to the education and high-quality teaching in the remote regions of the country.
In 2015, a monitoring instrument for the inclusive education was elaborated with the financial support of the EU and with the assistance of a Non-Governmental Organization "DEA" (Association of Disabled Women and Mothers of Children with Disabilities). Based on a unified educational monitoring system model, developed by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (EADSNE), the model started in 2016.