An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found. However, the term was used in the first initial report submitted by Kuwait under Article 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) with reference to the integration of students with disabilities in general education to avoid their social and psychological isolation.
Special education needs
Schools for special needs fall under the umbrella of the Public Authority for Disability Affairs, which also covers learners with learning difficulties.
The 1965 Compulsory Education Act, amended in 2014, establishes that students with disabilities who are not able to attend general education schools are educated in special schools. A child who suffers from a physical or mental impairment that prevents him/her from regular attendance at a special education school or equivalent education institution established for those with special needs is excused from compulsory education (Art. 4).
A partial integration of students with disabilities has been promoted with the establishment of special classes in regular schools. Special classes for students with learning difficulties were introduced at the primary and intermediate education levels in 1995. In 1997, special kindergarten classes were established for children with Down syndrome. Full integration involves including five students with disabilities in each class for every 15 students without disabilities.
Ministerial Decree No. 16 of 2016 reiterates the state’s commitment to integrating students with disabilities in public schooling (Art. 26 and 27). The Ministry of Education is mandated to establish schools or classrooms for those whose conditions might not allow for their integration in public schools. Special schools target those with severe disabilities to better accommodate them and their needs. According to the information available on the website of the Public Authority for Disability Affairs, education is delivered in integrated classes in regular schools, in special needs classes and in mixed classes (in bilingual schools).
Despite these offerings, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in its 2019 concluding observations on the initial report of Kuwait, pointed out that inclusive education ‘is limited to students with certain kinds of impairments while others are relegated to segregated classes within mainstream school and to segregated schools’.
Kuwait ratified the UN Convention Against Discrimination in Education in 1963. The 1992 Constitution highlights the inclusivity of the state. Equal access and opportunity are enshrined in the Constitution: ‘Justice, freedom and equality are the pillars of society; and cooperation and compassion are the firm link binding all citizens’ (Art. 7). The Constitution mandates the state to ‘preserve the pillars of society and ... guarantee security, tranquility and equal opportunity to all citizens’ (Art. 8) and further prohibits discrimination on grounds of ‘race, origin, language or religion’ (Art. 29). Education is a right guaranteed by the state, enshrined in Article 40 of the Constitution and Article 2 of Law No. 4 of 1987 on Public Education. The first levels of education are compulsory and free.
Kuwait ratified the CRPD in 2013. Article 11 of the Constitution mandates the state to ‘guarantee assistance to citizens in their old age, in sickness or in disability. It shall also provide them with social insurance services, social help and medical care.’ Article 3(3) of Law No. 49 of 1996 on People with Disabilities stipulates that the government provides regular, comprehensive and ongoing services to persons with disabilities in terms of education and cultural services throughout all education levels pertaining to their physical and mental capacities and abilities.
Law No. 8 of 2010 regarding the rights of people with disabilities, amended in 2017, reiterates the protection of Kuwaiti citizens with disabilities within the limits of health and education care rights mentioned in the law (Art. 2). Article 4 stipulates that ‘Taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities and taking the necessary facilitative arrangements, the government provides regular, integrated and continuous services for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others in the following areas: ... Educational and cultural in all educational stages, including kindergarten, in a manner that is compatible with the capabilities of people with physical, sensory and mental disabilities’. Article 9 sets the commitment of the government to provide education and training services and teaching aids to persons with disabilities, including ‘slow learning and learning difficulties categories’, on an equal basis with others, taking into account their special needs of communication, language and facilitative arrangements, and providing them with specialized education and professional staff to address their needs. The integration of learners with disabilities, ‘slow learners’ and students with learning difficulties at all education levels is required to be ‘commensurate with their sensory, physical and mental capabilities’ (Art. 10).
Kuwait's New Kuwait 2035 national development plan sets out ‘the care for and integration of persons with disabilities’ among its priority areas. To comply with this objective, three projects have been rolled out: the design of the Kuwait Sports Club for the Disabled, the Endowment School for Persons with Disabilities and rehabilitation workshops for persons with disabilities.
Kuwait ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1994; however, there do not seem to be any specific laws or policies for the promotion of gender and/or inclusion of gender minorities in the education system.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
In 2007, Kuwait voted in favour of adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Arabic is the only language of instruction at all levels, while English is taught to all children as a second language. For all children, classical Arabic, the language taught in schools, is also considered a second language. Foreign children who speak Arabic may be admitted to the country’s schools only after five years’ residence.
To avoid the phenomenon of drop-outs, the 1965 Compulsory Education Act, amended in 2014, imposes a financial fine (from 100 to 200 Kuwaiti dinars) on parents who do not register their sons and daughters when notified by the state which school their children have been allocated to study in or in the case of absenteeism that is not accompanied by plausible reasoning and justification (Art. 10).
Scientists of the Future, a programme for discovering and nurturing gifted students, was included among the key projects of A New Kuwait Vision 2035, with an eye toward completion in 2020. The project aimed to establish and operate 48 classes for gifted students in public schools, identify 720 gifted students (boys and girls) at an early age in the sciences and mathematics, enroll 270 students throughout the term of the project and generally improve the quality of the education system in the country.
Law No. 49 of 1996 on Persons with Disabilities defines the members of the National Supreme Council for the Affairs of the Disabled, which includes representatives of the ministries of health, education, and social affairs and labour, among others (Art. 16). Among its key functions, the council is mandated to set standards and mechanisms for better coordination among the bodies dealing with people with disabilities. Article 48 of Law No. 8 of 2010 sets up the Public Authority for Persons with Disabilities (Art. 48) and a Supreme Council to set the goals and general policies of the Authority (Art. 49), which consists of the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Higher Education, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority for Youth and Sports, which includes representatives of civil societies working in the field of disabilities. In addition to providing education and rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities in coordination with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, the Authority donates scholarships inside and outside Kuwait.
Ministerial Decree No. 16 of 2016 requires that all applications submitted to schools and classrooms to enrol students with disabilities be referred to the specialized team created by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the General Authority for Disabled People’s Affairs (Art. 30). The team includes specialized physicians, social workers, psychologists and pedagogy specialists and is responsible for conducting physical and medical assessments and tests, assessing hearing and other abilities to confirm type and degree of disability, whether physical, mental or cognitive. If no specialists are available to assess a case, the Ministry of Health is required to provide those and attempt to reach children for these assessments in their geographic location. Each special school sets up a technical committee consisting of specialized physicians, psychologists, social workers, special education instructors, a teachers’ representative and a parents’ representative (Art. 33). This committee is responsible for assessing the progress of various cases, deciding on the status of diagnosis and advising whether the student needs to move to another school (Art. 25).
Ministerial Decree No. 16 of 2016 requires that all preschool nurseries are equipped with adequate infrastructure and health and technical conditions to allow full access to children with disabilities.
Appropriate teaching and learning facilities are provided according to the individual needs of learners with disabilities, including teaching and learning in Braille and in sign language. Elevators and escalators are adequate for learners with disabilities, who also benefit from the support of modern teaching aids and from a tailored curriculum, as is the case at Al-Amal, Al-Raja and Al-Noor schools.
Law No. 8 of 2010 establishes training courses for all staff of public schools on disability and needs identification and on the provision of individualized support. A teacher specialized in special needs is expected to be available in each preschool nursery that includes students with disabilities.
A teacher’s license project, which was to be completed by 2020, aimed to apply objective benchmarks for testing teachers’ competencies for performance evaluation, promotion and technical and professional development. However, the project made no direct mention of inclusive education. As part of the New Kuwait 2035 national development plan, a project for discovering and nurturing gifted students aimed to qualify 150 teachers and supervisors to work on the enrichment curriculum and provide them with the skills and competencies necessary to deal with gifted students throughout the term of the project.
Ministerial Decree No. 16 of 2016 requires special education teachers to closely monitor the progress of their students (Art. 32). Ministerial Decree No. 239 of 2008 established education inspectors in each education district with the responsibility for monitoring and reporting on students with disabilities. However, Kuwait has no national education monitoring report.