An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found. However, in May 2018 the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, with the support of UNICEF and financial contribution of Canada, launched its inclusive education programme directed to the development of inclusive education in Lebanon and ensure “quality education for all children”, including children with disabilities and learning difficulties.
Special education needs
An official definition of special education needs has not been found. However, In 2012, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) launched an inclusion strategy . In this regard, the British Council Lebanon states that “special educational needs can be used as a term for learners who need extra provision because they have abilities significantly ahead of their peers”. A definition of learning difficulties is provided instead in the training module for teachers of the Center for Education Research and Development (CERD) and in the various modules for specialized education.
Among the type of education provision, free private schools are set up to serve poor areas whereby the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education make funds available for students from poor households. Article 10 of the Constitution states that “the rights of communities to establish their own private schools cannot be violated, provided that they comply with the general requirements laid down by the State with respect to public education”.
Dedicated organizations are set up for the education for children with special needs. This the case for example for the Lebanese Center for special education (CLES) which has been operating for 20 years now. It provides learning support classes which are classes it fully equips (furniture, computer equipment, educational tools and specialized programs) and which receive primary education students, in small numbers, in public schools spread in the six districts of Lebanon.
In collaboration with UNICEF, in 2018 the Ministry of Education has launched a pilot programme of inclusive education in 30 public schools across Lebanon aiming to create a fair chance for all children, including children with disabilities. The project aims to generate evidence-based data, as well as increase the awareness of families, caregivers, decision-makers and community leaders about inclusive education rights, opportunities, and the importance of school-family collaboration. In parallel, the Ministry of Education has also piloted a project that includes 30 schools and supporting them to integrate students with disabilities. This entailed training 24 staff members who would be qualified to deal with students with disabilities.
The Center for Educational Support Services for People with Learning Disabilities was established in 2014 under the Minister of Education and Higher Education. The center provides several services including therapeutic services for students of public and private schools almost free of charge, interdisciplinary intervention to accommodate students with difficulties, individual plans, field information that guides teacher training based on the cases studied. Informed by the principle of equal educational opportunities, the Educational Center for Research and Development seeks to generalize this experience and open similar centers spread across all regions.
Lebanon has ratified the UN Convention against Discrimination in Education in 1964 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. In parallel, the Lebanese National Strategy promotes social inclusion by increasing the sense of citizenship, belonging, civic participation and human partnership. It aims to contribute to social cohesion and offers needed knowledge, values, and skills needed to co-exist and function in a diverse society. The Lebanese National Strategy also includes as a priority offering a national basic education that is based on equal opportunity that is compulsory and available for all until age 15. Quality education is to be made available to all and is a right for all and offers a fair and equal opportunity for all to enroll and succeed in, including those with special needs. Article 1 of the new Law 150 (2011) states that education is compulsory at all levels of basic education and free in all governmental schools. The law enshrines the right to education to all Lebanese citizens at the appropriate school-age.
In the first half of 2018 the MEHE launched the National Strategic Framework for TVET 2018–2022, after several consultations led by the Government of Lebanon, with the support of UNICEF and the ILO. The consultations involved many stakeholders including MEHE, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Agriculture, the MoSA, the National Employment Office, the National Vocational Training Centre, private sector representatives and NGOs.
Lebanon signed it in 2007, but not yet ratified, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Law 243 (1993) is the main document protecting and promoting the interests and rights of persons with disabilities.
With support of the Centre for Educational Research and Development, of UNESCO and other international organizations, the Law 220 (2000) was adopted. It aims to reinforce rights for people with disabilities on social, educational and health levels. It mostly focuses on individuals with physical disabilities, not covering other types of special needs including gifted children, dropouts and marginalized, street children, mentally disabled, among others. A National Strategy for Inclusive Education for Students with Special Needs is expected to be launched in the next few months.
Lebanon has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1997. However, it has maintained several reservations including on art. 16 (1) (c) (d) (f) (g) providing for equal rights in marriage and family life which according to the CEDAW Committee “whether lodged for national, traditional, religious or cultural reasons, are incompatible with the Convention and therefore impermissible”.
In nursery schools, the teaching of Arabic or any other language is not compulsory. Sometimes Lebanese Arabic is taught, sometimes classical Arabic or French and/or English in private schools. In all primary schools, the teaching of written (classical) Arabic remains compulsory for pupils, with an average timetable of seven hours per week. Lebanese and non-Lebanese pupils who arrive at an educational institution during their schooling benefit from an adaptation: they can receive instruction in their mother tongue - usually dialectal Arabic - up to the third grade.
A multi-year project led by UNESCO aimed to assess current status and help countries exchange experiences regarding successful inclusion of vulnerable groups including marginalized groups and students in conflict areas, funded by the Saudi Sultan Bin Abdel Aziz Al-Saud Foundation. In 2011, the Lebanese government adopted a programme to contrast the phenomenon of early dropout by providing financial support to families.
As part of the Reaching All Children with Education (RACE II) programme, every day at school, around 24,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese children receive healthy snacks to prevent short-term hunger, improve dietary diversity, and create a positive disadvantaged children remain in school.
As another example of implemented policies, in 2018, the Ministry of Education supported the enrolment of 213,358 refugee children and 209,409 vulnerable Lebanese children into public schools.
Refugees and displaced students
Lebanon has not ratified the UN Convention and Protocol relating to the status of refugees. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education carried out a three-year program starting in 2014 entitled Reaching All Children with Education RACE) in Lebanon. Its main objective was to serve vulnerable school-aged children (3-18 years) affected by the Syria crisis to enable their access to quality formal and non-formal learning and offer them educational opportunities in safe and protective environments. The programme targeted an average 413,000 Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese school-aged children (3-18 years) per year in different areas including ensuring equitable access to educational opportunities; improving the quality of teaching and learning; and strengthening national education systems, policies and monitoring. Systematic efforts were made to reach children and families in the most vulnerable districts of Lebanon, including through the Back-To-School campaign and by offering financial support to cover the cost of education and make schooling more attractive. For example, around 20,000 refugee children also received a top-up amount to make education attractive for the most disadvantaged families.
Over 470,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon. About 45 per cent of them live in the country’s 12 refugee camps. As no law determines the rights to education of the Palestinian students in Lebanon, circulars issued each year by the Minister of Education and Higher Education set out conditions and order for enrolment in basic education. For example, in the circular 25/M/2014, “Palestinian students who have been residing in Lebanon for over three years. Old and new students to whom there isn’t any available UNRWA school within their residency area” were mentioned. The Back-To-School campaign has enabled 36,960 Palestinian children to enrol for free in 65 UNRWA run schools, and to benefit from school transportation, uniforms and stationary.
The number of registered non-Lebanese children aged 3 to 18 years old residing in Lebanon is, according to UNHCR, 488,832. 99% of the non-Lebanese population in this age is Syrian. Around 50% of the Non-Lebanese students are enrolled now in formal education: 202,259 has been accommodated by the MEHE in its public schools, about 40,000 in the private and subsidised schools. The MEHE had opened 313 public schools for the school year 2016/2017 to operate in the afternoon as second shift schools. This type of education provision accommodates 65% of the enrolled students in public schools.
The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are working together on children issues and on how to implement international agreements linked to disabilities and education. There is also an ongoing collaboration between social centres of the Ministry of Social Affairs and with family committees to assess levels of learning difficulties. The Centre for Educational Research and Development created a committee for students with special needs, including experts from non-governmental agencies and civil society organisations and governmental agencies to create a National Strategy for Inclusive Education for Students with Special Needs.
The United Nations and the Ministry of Education work together on the programme Reaching all Children with Education in Lebanon (RACE II) to increase access for Lebanese and non-Lebanese vulnerable young people to learning opportunities. Around 770 students received scholarships enabling them to pursue academic careers at Lebanese universities. Over 14,100 young people and adolescents benefited from TVET and other non-formal education courses. Assistance included partial or fully subsidized school fees and other education-related costs, such as transportation. Moreover, the quality of training improved, new courses on business and entrepreneurship were introduced, and complementary services were established to assist young people entering the job market. In addition to enrolling children in school, efforts to keep them in school are just as important.
In collaboration with the Government and partners, UNICEF also provides services and assistance to children. This includes providing quality learning opportunities for children, adolescents and youth, evidence generation and humanitarian cash-based programming. For the 2016/2017 school year, out of 399,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese children enrolled in formal public schools, UNICEF supported 236,000 children (50 per cent girls, 50 per cent boys). In addition, UNICEF Lebanon expanded its adolescent and youth program in 2017. A total of 3,043 marginalized Lebanese and non-Lebanese youth (831 Lebanese and 2,212 Syrians) were supported for enrolment in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s technical vocational education and training schools. In total, 22,600 vulnerable youth (13,672 girls, 8,928 boys) received non-formal vocational, innovative skills building or entrepreneurship and employability competency-based skills training.
The CERD has also organized several workshops around the development of the curriculum. The second, held in 2015, addressed among its themes the characteristics of the curriculum for special needs. Further developments are ongoing according to a specific calendar. Since a workshop in January 2019 the UNESCO Beirut office is also working closely with the Lebanese Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD) on the idea of developing a Lebanese Curriculum Framework, as a main reference document for quality curriculum review and implementation in the country.
The Ministry of Education-affiliated entity Centre for Educational Research and Development aims to provide ongoing training of educators to achieve “education for all”. The Centre offers ongoing training to teachers on psycho-therapy, speech therapy and special needs in collaboration with French experts. The efforts include training of trainers on learning strategic for students with learning difficulties, on diagnosis and needs assessment, and on supporting families for early detection of their children’s learning difficulties. In its programme, CERD points out the importance of inclusion in schools “to ensure learning for all learners”.
In 2018-2019, over 10,000 teachers were trained on a UNICEF-led national Teacher Training Model to enhance their capacity to integrate the principles of gender-equity, child protection, linguistic, and cultural-diversity in their teaching and interaction with children. According to the British Council, 800 teachers and school children benefited from a weeklong series of workshops and trainings and a one-day conference, as part of the British Council’s commitment to raising awareness of Special Educational Needs. This was organized in collaboration with Ministry of Education and Higher Education, CERD and SKILD to ensure that the agenda of Special Educational Needs was being highlighted and addressed.
No information has been found on a monitoring system on inclusion in education.