The 2005 Law 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 2015 Law on Early and Preschool Education defines inclusive education more broadly as an education 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 education 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 in Tbilisi and in 10 additional public schools throughout the country with the support of the Government of Norway. After an assessment conducted in 2009–10, only eight special schools were maintained, including those targeted at children with visual impairments, those for learners with hearing impairments, one school for persons with behavioural disorders and centres for people with mental disorders.
Since 2012, the main approach endorsed is integration of children with special education 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, with leukemia or affected by autism.
According to 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 and a special teacher is responsible for the definition of the special education needs of a child, based on a form filled out by the parent or 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 for 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’), inclusion (‘including those with special education needs’) and 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 2017–21 Unified Strategy for Education and Science 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 who are socially vulnerable or 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 2014 ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the 1995 Law of Georgia on Social Protection of Persons with Disabilities (Art. 2) adopts and reflects a social model of disability. The 2016–17 Governmental Action Plan on Human Rights lays down the commitment to amending and harmonizing the existing legislation. Following the CRPD ratification, the 2014–16 Action Plan on Ensuring Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities 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 2015 Law on Early and Preschool Education calls for the delivery of equally available and inclusive preschool education.
The 2013–16 strategy for inclusive education planned to improve the legal framework and management system of inclusive education and to enhance the quality of education for children with special needs, also through an adequate financial system and monitoring system. The Inclusive Education group at the Ministry of Education and Science thus developed an action plan for the development of the sector that focused on ensuring access to quality inclusive education at all levels of education for students with special needs. The 2013–20 Vocational Education and Training Development Strategy 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 the development of 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 related action plan for the years 2019–22. A thematic working group was established with the participation of experts in the field, representatives of children with special education needs and their parents, 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 equality in rights, freedoms and opportunities, including in the sector of education and science. In 2014, the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination was adopted in part to enhance gender equality.
A gender equality policy was introduced in 2010, followed by a 2014–16 action plan for its implementation. The latter included a gender analysis of legislation, triggering several amendments, including to the Law on General Education and the Law on Higher Education. Within the new framework, the Ministry of Education and Science with the support of UN Women introduced some changes in the national curriculum.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous groups
The 1995 Constitution established Georgian as the official language, while Abkhazian is the official language of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (Art. 2.3). 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 to receive a full-course general education in their native language. The 2004 Law on Higher Education established a new system facilitating access to higher education institutions for national minorities. Since 2010, access to higher education for Azeri and Armenians has been encouraged with quotas. Before accessing education, they are required to take a one-year preparatory course in the Georgian language. Still, the quality of state language teaching and the compliance of non-Georgian learning with the national curriculum remain key challenges to the integration of ethnic groups, as recognized in the 2017–21 Unified Strategy for Education and Science.
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 financing for vocational education and training (VET) was introduced in 2012 based on a voucher system. Grants for accessing 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 many disadvantaged groups into education, including children with special education needs and socially unprotected, minority and Roma children. Within it, a special component was dedicated to promoting, through non-formal education, the socialization and integration of youth of different social backgrounds and abilities, including Roma children.
Cooperation across sectors
The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for the country’s inclusive education policy. A multidisciplinary inclusive education team was established within the ministry to offer qualified assistance to develop inclusive education. The Ministry of Labour, 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 except preschool 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 centres and academic and representative councils for higher education institutions.
According to the 2014 Decree N41 on Technical Regulation on Arrangement of Space for Persons with Disabilities and Architectural and Planning Elements, the physical environment of schools has been adapted. However, there are no special norms regulating the class dimensions or the number of children per class to enable special arrangements for the learners' needs.
The 2016 introduction into the national curriculum of a course titled ‘Me and Society’, dealing with gender issues, early marriages and healthy lifestyle, attempts to adhere to the principle of gender equality.
In 2006, the National Curriculum and Assessment Center launched a textbook translation project 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, with plans to develop new criteria, including ones related to gender.
Many programmes are attempting to strengthen teacher training and development in different areas.
In 2012, a special training course for teachers and other school professionals was piloted to prepare practitioners dealing with learners with special education needs. Professional standards of special education teachers were also elaborated by the National Center for Teachers Professional Development. Students with special education 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 education teacher master's degree programme was established in 2013, special education teachers still represent a small group of specialists in the country.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous groups
A professional development programme for ethnic minority school teachers was launched to support teachers’ professional development and improve the process of teaching and learning the Georgian language for non-Georgian-speaking schools. The programme Teach Georgian, as a Second Language promotes teaching of the Georgian language in regions populated with ethnic minorities.
People living in rural or remote areas
The Teach for Georgia programme is an example of a measure, financed by the government, to increase access to education and high-quality teaching in the remote regions of the country.
In 2015, a monitoring instrument for inclusive education was elaborated with the financial support of the European Union and with the assistance of the non-government 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, the instrument was launched in 2016.