According to the 2017 Inclusive Education Policy and Guidelines, inclusive education occurs when all education stakeholders work together to strengthen the capacity of the education system and combat discriminatory approaches and attitudes towards students, particularly those with disabilities. Inclusive education is about changing the system to suit the needs of all learners. A disability-focused definition was included in the 2011 Education Act, which defines the principle of inclusive education as ‘the principle that school-age children who have a disability must, where practicable, be enrolled in and attend a school, and be given the opportunity to participate together with the other students at the school in the education and extracurricular activities offered by the school’.
Special education needs
The 2017 Inclusive Education Policy and Guidelines define students with special learning needs as those learners who, for one reason or another, do not develop to their full education potential. This category includes students who are not extended by the curriculum or are regarded as gifted and talented. Students with special learning needs may have been diagnosed with a disability.
The 2011 Education Act states that special education needs with regard to a child with a disability refer to ‘the child’s need for education to be tailored to suit the child’s individual requirements, and to receive other forms of support and assistance, in order to maximise the child’s academic and social development’.
According to the 2011 Education Act, the principal of the school is responsible for determining the ‘practicable’ attendance at regular school for learners with disabilities. The decision takes into consideration the extent of the special education needs and the developmental and learning benefits for the child, school accessibility, the parents’ decision and consent to let the child undertake a medical consultation, and the medical practitioner’s advice (Art. 2). Home schooling is also allowed upon formal registration (Art. 97). School-age children who cannot attend regular school attend a centre for special education (Art. 95.3).
Children with disabilities are not mainstreamed in regular schools and have a centre of their own, although support is provided by the Education Department under the 2011 Education Act. In 2002, the Able Disable Centre was set up to provide education for children and youth with disabilities who cannot be included in regular schools. However, the centre provides mainly care rather than education services since few teachers have obtained a recognized teaching qualification. According to Nauru reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as of 2016 the Able Disable Centre was ‘resourced by a teacher in charge, 2 teachers, 3 trainee teachers with one teacher being hearing impaired ... 42 students, with ages ranging from 4 to 34 attend classes. … Current programs taught focus on: a) life Skills in gardening, cooking, health and art and craft; and b) Individual Education Program (IEP). Inclusive education will be progressively realized in the coming years.’
Early identification, screening and assessment
As regulated by the 2011 Education Act, health practitioners notify the disability of school-age children to the parents and, upon their consent, to the director of medical services and the principal of the school (Art. 31).
However, many children are not identified because of parents’ resistance or insufficient resources and equipment.
The 1968 Constitution of Nauru does not explicitly enshrine the right to education. In its non-discrimination provision, it affirms that every person enjoys the same rights and freedoms regardless of ‘race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex’ (Art. 3). Conversely, the 2011 Education Act lays down the right to education for all (Art. 7.a), providing positive learning experiences in a ‘safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment’ and according to the learners’ education needs (Art. 7.c).
While the 2011 Education Act regulates the education system, the 2016 Child Protection and Welfare Act lays legal foundations for the overall protection of children’s rights in the country. Adopted by the Directorate of Youth Affairs under the Department of Education, the 2008–15 National Youth Policy promoted the integration of the youth interest and youth rights across all sectors, paying particular attention to the most disadvantaged groups, such as young women, young people with disabilities, and school drop- and push-outs.
As established in the 2016 Child Protection and Welfare Act, education and training opportunities are provided according to the learner’s age and capabilities. In case of disability, the child is entitled to appropriate assistance to cater for his/her special needs. However, there is no specific legal document regulating service provision, including education, for people with disabilities.
Informed by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified in 2013, a Nauru Policy on Disability was adopted in 2015 to reiterate the right of non-discrimination and full participation of persons with disabilities in society. Adopting an inclusive approach, the 2015–19 National Policy on Disability protects and promotes the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, including in education provision.
In the education sector, the 2011 Education Act establishes the right of children with disabilities to be enrolled in regular school according to the principle of inclusive education; namely, they are entitled to participate with their peers in curricular and extracurricular activities 'where practicable’ (Art. 93). Denying access to primary and secondary education on the grounds of disability is prohibited (Art. 95.1). In this respect the government is mandated to provide ‘reasonable accommodation’ and ensure support through individualized measures and adequate and qualified school staff (Art. 95.2).
The 2008–13 education and training strategic plan intended to support all learners, including children and youth with disabilities and special needs, by providing specialist training for practitioners and teachers and equipping all schools with adequate infrastructure.
While the Constitution promotes fundamental rights and freedoms regardless of sex (Art. 3), substantive gender equality is not enshrined in the Constitution nor in other dedicated legislative documents.
Among its strategies and goals, the 2005–25 National Sustainable Development Strategy, as revised in 2009, promotes the rights of women and gender equality and commits to adopting a gender approach in all development sectors. Within this strategic framework, the 2014–25 National Women’s Policy translates the strategy’s indicators into key policy goals, which include the increase of equitable participation in all education levels of girls and women. Integrating the Beijing priorities, the 2004–15 National Action Plan for Women was adopted by the Women’s Affairs Department, developed together with the Nauru Women’s National Council and Young Women’s Council. A second plan following the 2009–15 Young Women’s Action Plan intended to improve women’s conditions on the island to focus on, among other areas, education and training and the elimination of violence against women.
The 2008–13 education and training strategic plan set out among its strategic goals the elimination of gender disparities in primary and secondary education and the achievement of gender equality through the enhancement of full and equal access to quality basic education.
A project by the Ministry of Education, NauruMumz – Bright Futures, aims to re-engage young mothers with education and encourage them to return to school or enrol in courses being offered in tertiary education via technical and vocation education and training or the University of the South Pacific.
With the purpose of tackling the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy, as of 2016 the Department of Education was working with an expert in teenage parenting skills to develop a programme on teenage parenthood including counselling services and campaigning.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The 2008–13 education and training strategic plan intended to introduce a language policy to encourage proficiency in the Nauruan language for all learners starting in year 3.
Poverty and out-of-school children
Formal education is free of charge. While families are responsible for school uniforms, learning materials and transportation are provided by the state. Free lunches and a weekly allowance have been introduced to encourage school attendance after a decline in the 1990s.
Migrants and refugees
Nauru hosts the Regional Processing Centre (RPC), an Australian centre for asylum seekers and refugees. Reopened as a detention centre in 2012, it was transformed into an open centre in 2015. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that children in the centre do not have access to adequate education services. To respond to the crisis, a Vulnerable Children’s Committee was set up consisting of Save the Children, the Australian Border Force, International Health & Medical Services, Wilson’s Security, Child Protection Services and the Gender Based Violence Unit. In the Addendum to the 2016 Universal Periodic Review process, Nauru reassured that children at the RPC were offered the same treatment as Nauruan children, including in education.
Child labour and truancy
The Ministry of Education started implementing a truancy policy that forbids the recruitment of people aged less than 18 unless ‘an exemption letter is lodged for approval to the Secretary of Education by parents or guardians of the child.’ In case of recruitment, the policy demands the provision of home schooling.
The Nauru National Policy on Disability regulates ‘disability inclusive development’, which is coordinated by the Child Protection Services Division under the Ministry of Home Affairs, while policy implementation and monitoring are assigned to the Nauru Disability Coordinating Council.
Concerning gender, the Women’s Office, set up in 1997, has become the Women’s Affairs Department, strengthened and restructured under the Ministry of Home Affairs with the mandate to implement programmes across districts and mainstream gender equality in government policies.
Family violence and child protection issues are a cross-cutting responsibility involving multiple ministries and departments, including those of education, the police, justice, health and home affairs. As a result, the Cabinet endorsed an integrated case coordination structure which included the establishment of two committees, one dealing specifically with the issue of child protection.
The 2011–20 National Quality School Standards Framework includes among its four main pillars ‘quality school governance’, which encompasses interpersonal skills needed to lead the school community.
Introduced in 2012, the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy intended to address the use of drinking and toilet-flushing water shortages, which often caused school closures. Regarding accessibility for people with disabilities, while there is no explicit legal provision regulating access to public buildings, including schools, the Nauru National Policy on Disability lists among its priorities the enhancement of access to all public ‘buildings, facilities and services’.
A school environment officer has the responsibility of supervising the maintenance of the schools, ensuring school premises are clean inside and outside, fences are intact and no parts of the building are damaged.
According to the country's reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, each school in Nauru has developed education approaches guided by the three main principles of ‘Be respectful, be a learner and be responsible’.
As regulated in the 2011 Education Act, the centre for special education is allowed to apply a modified approved curriculum to cater for the special needs of the students. However, the current curriculum/programme mirrors one for early childhood offered by the Ministry of Education which is not adequate for blind, deaf or autistic children. The 2008–13 education and training strategic plan intended to develop a comprehensive curriculum for all learners, including those with hearing, visual and intellectual impairments. To make learning relevant to all, new curricula, for example at the senior secondary year levels, have been introduced.
Regarding gender, the 2014 Nauru Gender Country Plan has permitted the introduction of civics education on domestic violence into the school curriculum, while the Family Life Education module began its trial stage at year 9 in Nauru College in 2016.
The Ministry of Education ‘is fully dedicated to the implementation of supporting programmes for the education for all children in Nauru.’ Along these lines, a school feeding programme has distributed free lunches to all children in school since 2013, and free transportation has been provided to students.
Providing specialized training for practitioners and educators in inclusive education and disability assessment is part of the priorities of the 2008–13 education and training strategic plan.
To address the issue of shortages in teacher qualifications, the Department of Education has rolled out capacity-building initiatives and up-skilling programmes that have led to the graduation of new teachers at the University of New England with an associate degree in Pacific Education. In 2013, the University of New England set up a training programme for 30 local teachers at all levels of education, including special education, to obtain their advanced diploma in education by the end of 2015.
The 2017 Inclusive Education Policy and Guidelines include the development of teacher training and assistance programmes to define roles and responsibilities in relation to inclusive education as well as on screening and referral advice, assessment, defining learning needs and the designing of individual education plans.
Data on school accessibility, including on WASH in schools and in particular for specific groups, is lacking. The latest data on children with disabilities is based on the 2011 census. With the purpose of improving the monitoring mechanism, the Education Monitoring and Information Statistics division of the Department of Education is undergoing a reform process.
The National Quality School Standards Framework has introduced inclusive education indicators, including on positive school environment and quality learning outcomes.