The Education Department as of 2019 has conducted consultation to develop the Education policy contain sections within the policy on Inclusive Education and Special Education needs. The Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) defines inclusive education as a means to “provide enabling learning environments for special needs students” (p. 19). Tuvalu National Curriculum Policy Framework cites the UNESCO’s definition of inclusive education: “Inclusive education is based on the right of all learners to a quality education that meets basic learning needs and enriches lives. Focusing particularly on vulnerable and marginalized groups, it seeks to develop the full potential of every individual. The ultimate goal of inclusive quality education is to end all forms of discrimination and foster social cohesion”.
Special Education Needs
The National Curriculum Policy Framework states that children with special educational needs require special attention from teachers and schools due to varying levels of disabilities they face. These learners have “special abilities, but gifts too” (p. 19). Children with disabilities are identified as a disadvantaged and vulnerable population. “Vulnerable students” include those from low socio-economic background, urban groups, those in remote and isolated areas, those with disabilities and special abilities as well as school dropouts and push outs (p. 31).
Inclusive classes and schools
Education on mainstream school is open to all children where vulnerable groups attend the same class. The National Curriculum Policy Framework states that “every effort will be made to include them into the mainstream school” (p. 31). According to the Initial report on the implementation of the CRPD (2017), the organization Fusi Alofa is responsible for the education of children with disabilities in Funafuti in 2011; however, Fusi Alofa is not a special school. Later, some children who had attended the FAA school tried to be integrated into Nauti Primary School, but for various reasons, including bullying and teasing, the children returned to Fusi Alofa.
Special classes and schools
The National Curriculum Policy Framework states that “special education does not have a separate curriculum nor is a separate category of education. Special education aims to enable students with disabilities and gifts to gain access to the curriculum in a range of educational settings. Some of these children will need special provisions in schools like walkway railings or wheel” (p. 19). A majority of children with disabilities attend separate schools known as “Fusialofa” sometimes because parents of children in “vulnerable groups” are reluctant to send their children to mainstream schools. There are no special schools for children from other groups, e.g. indigenous groups etc. In 2000, the Education for All 2000 Assessment mentioned that non-government organisations in Tuvalu managed special education for the children with disabilities. The Red Cross was the main actor for the provision of quality education to children with disabilities. Government was committed to provide financial assistance to strengthen efforts made to this effect by non-governmental organisations.
There is no mention of inclusive education in the current Education Act written back in 1978. Tuvalu has not ratified the UN Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960) but ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in 1995. The Constitution (1986) does not enshrine the right to education, but discrimination (based on race, place of origin, political opinions, colours and religious beliefs) is prohibited under Article 27 on freedom from discrimination. Disability is not included as a ground for discrimination. That said, the Education Ordinance (1976) states that “the Minister may make such arrangements as he considers necessary to ensure that educational and training opportunities are provided for children according to their age, aptitude and ability, and for adults” (p. 6). The Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) identifies (iv) cross cutting issues, including gender equality, disability inclusiveness, child protection and HIV/AIDS. To improve inclusive education, the Ministry of Education will conduct research into special needs children, develop an Inclusive Education Policy and Framework, update all strategic plans and policies to inclusive language where necessary and to capture students with special needs and promote a multi-sector approach to support the Fusialofa Centre. For the moment, there is no inclusive education policy. At last, the Education Act, Part VII Compulsory Education states that education is compulsory for all children, including children living with disabilities. The National Strategy for Sustainable Development named Te Kakeega II (2005-2015), in Area 6 Strategy also provides equal education opportunities for all where special needs education for pre-schoolers, people with disabilities with the support from NGOs are provided. Finally, the Tuvalu National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) aims to include the study of human rights in the education curriculum. It also plans to improve and strengthen budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Education to ensure all children continue to receive schooling and to strengthen efforts to retain girls in school. Strategic Goal 7 of the Tuvalu five-year National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2016–2020 is about education and training and aims to “provide high quality education; equip people with knowledge and skills to develop more self-reliance and to promote Tuvalu’s cultural and spiritual values”. Among the strategies listed to attain this goal is “inclusive education” which outlines for achievement the following dimensions: school readiness (implement and monitor Early Leaning Development Standards and conduct the TuEHCI survey to ensure children are ready for school); intervention programmes and strategies developed and implemented; early grade reading assessment; multi-sectoral approach developed to support the health, cognitive, social & emotional development of young children; and inclusive pre service scholarship scheme for formal and vocational training. One of the objective of the World Bank Tuvalu learning program of March 2020 aims to support implementation of the disability and inclusive education plan being developed with support from the ASET Program.
Tuvalu ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) in 2013. Tuvalu Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) makes no direct mention of disability, however of the ten key policy objectives of the Te Kakeega II (2005-2015), one key objective related to students with disabilities was to “expand services and facilities for special needs students, including pre-scholars and the disabled”. In outer islands, children in primary school with learning disabilities remain in the class appropriate to their age.
The Education for All 2000 Assessment stated: “There are very few disabled children in the whole of Tuvalu. The Red Cross has been mandated for the education of these students. On every island, there is a Red Cross Association that carries out the work required for one or two students who belong to this category. Government will continue to support the Red Cross in its training activities particularly the training of the handicapped.” (p. 43). At that time, government planned to establish a national centre for the education of children with disabilities.
According to the Initial report on the implementation of the CRPD (2017), the government is currently drafting a National Disability Policy. The Tuvalu National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) aims to review government allocation to Fusi Alofa, the only umbrella Disabled Person's Organization in Tuvalu, in line with increasing demands to provide such services; to strengthen partnership with this organization to ensure broader consultation on education curriculum that is inclusive and to strengthen initiatives aimed at mainstreaming students with disabilities in primary and secondary schools. Finally, the Tuvalu National Youth Policy 2015-2019 makes references to youths living with disabilities.
While boys and girls are almost equally represented in primary and secondary education, boys are under-represented compared to girls in secondary and tertiary education.
Tuvalu ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979). Tuvalu Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) makes no mention of strategies and policies for gender inclusion but ensures that every child has access to education irrespective of gender. The National Curriculum Policy Framework promotes gender sensitive curriculum materials, gender sensitive pedagogies and classroom management and a whole school approach to addressing issues of discrimination and inequity.
In 2013, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in consultation with the Government of Tuvalu launched the Tuvalu Pacific Women Country Plan (2015–2018) which endorsed initiatives to support gender equality in education in Tuvalu. One of the key activities was also to support the Tuvalu Disabled Persons Organisation, Fusi Alofa Association of Tuvalu (FAA).
The Tuvalu National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) aims at including young mothers and to encourage more girls to enrol in male dominated fields including science, technology, engineering etc., improving sanitation facilities in schools and increasing girl’s dormitories facilities.
Finally, the Tuvalu National Gender Policy 2014-2016 addressed specific situations of rural women and girls with disabilities. The policy aimed to develop a gender policy in education (not available), to monitor indicators for gender equality in education, to support vocational and non-formal education and training for young men and women in non-traditional sectors, to conduct awareness raising sessions to address stigma associated with teenage pregnancy, to review all teaching material to remove gender stereotypes and make sure it promotes gender equality and to train teachers on gender issues.
In 2016, the Joint Pacific UNCT endorsed the UN Pacific Communication and Advocacy Strategy 2018-2022. The UNPS result framework 2018-2022 set in its outcome 2 that “by 2022, gender equality is advanced in the Pacific, where more women and girls are empowered and enjoy equal opportunities and treatment in social, economic, and political spheres, contribute to and benefit from national development, and live a life free from violence and discrimination”. One of its relevant objectives concerns child marriage: “number of PICTS whose proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18 has decreased based on the latest available data 59 (SDG 5.3.1)”.
According to the Tuvalu five-year National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2016–2020, the Government of Tuvalu “will formulate the National Hardship Assistance Policy (HAP), designed to deal with rising poverty rates, and have it implemented as early as possible”.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Tuvalu Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) and the National Curriculum Policy Framework make no mention of strategies and policies for the inclusion of ethnic groups in education. English and Tuvaluan language are taught from the early primary years up to form 7. The Tuvalu Language Policy guides the implementation of the curriculum in Tuvalu. The Tuvalu Cultural Mapping, Planning and Policy Report (2012) recommended to include a stream on the Tuvalu culture in the national curricula at all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary. It also prioritized the promotion of vernacular language in education policy (local language school, teaching of local language in school, teaching of youngster by elders in cultural practices).
Rural and remote areas
Tuvalu Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) makes no mention of strategies and policies for students living in rural and remote areas.
Overall, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) is responsible for Tuvalu’s education system and policy. The Ministry of Home Affairs is the focal point for issues related to disability. The Ministry of Education supports the education of children with disabilities and The Ministry of Health is responsible for the coordination of provision of assistive devices, medication and rehabilitation.
The School Supervisory Unit within the Education Department is responsible in overseeing all educational institution in Tuvalu. The School Supervisory Unit however is limited in staff. Support from the ASET programme has provided Technical Advisors late 2019 looking into inclusive Education to the Education Department. The programme will be recruiting a local consultant later this year to look into Inclusive Education needs.
There is currently no mechanism to identify needs of children and provide support.
Among the strategies in relation to Strategic Goal 7 in the Tuvalu five-year National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2016–2020 is the implementation of the revised structure of the Department of Education through the creation of new posts and the realignment of functions, the implementation of which is the responsibility of the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (MEYS).
The Tuvalu National Disability Coordinating Committee, the national focal point for disability in Tuvalu, aims to ensure the facilitation of the implementation of the CRPD. The TNDCC is composed of: Secretary of Home Affairs – Chairperson; Office of the Attorney General; Department of Planning; Department of Education; Department of Health; Statistics Department; Public Works Department; Fusi Alofa; Gender Affairs Department; Department of Labour; Department of Rural Development; Tuvalu Red Cross Society. It aims among other things at coordinating the development and the implementation of a National Disability Strategy for Tuvalu, to make recommendations on legislative and policy actions to be undertaken to ensure the effective implementation of the CRPD and to storage and update of data on disability in Tuvalu.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports works closely with the Ministry of Health in promoting healthy leaving in both the working environment and schools. Other line ministries with the approval and support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports Minister can organise activities in schools to educate students on awareness programmes.
A non-government organisation supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports known as the Fusialofa provides services in Inclusive Education. With support from the ASET (Australia Support to Education Tuvalu) Programme, Technical Advisors and local consultant specialised in Inclusive Education assist the department in the implementation of activities concerning inclusive education.
Infrastructure and transportation
In practice, classrooms and schools are built taking into consideration students with physical disabilities; however there is no formal school infrastructure policy. The School Infrastructure and Maintenance Manual (SIMM) is not accessible online. The Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) also aims to upgrade school resources, teaching aids and infrastructure to enable learning for inclusive education as part of the SIMM. In addition, policies are in place to incorporate the concept of “reasonable accommodation” in the draft Building Code of the Public Works Department.
In 2015, no school transportation was provided, so only children who are able to get to school are eligible.
Curriculum and learning materials
The Curriculum Development sub-unit is responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the curriculum. The National Curriculum Policy Framework aims to provide “quality education for sustainable living for all” (p. 2).
There is no policy to ensure that textbooks promote the inclusion of learners from different vulnerable groups and no policy to ensure technology is used to promote the inclusion of learners from different vulnerable groups. The Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) will develop eLearning support for children who cannot attend schools.
Among the strategies in relation to Strategic Goal 7 in the Tuvalu five-year National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2016–2020 is the “effective and relevant quality of curriculum, assessment and learning programs” to be achieved with greater investment in teacher training and teaching of subjects (such as climate change) relevant for the national context.
The Education Sector Plan III (2016-2020) aims at “improving teacher attitude and efficacy towards inclusive teaching”. To do so, teachers have to provide planning that addresses the varied ability levels of children in their classroom cohort and to utilise Learning Support programmes to support their classroom learning.
Teacher education is not directly aligned with the national policy goals on inclusive education. The School Supervisory Unit is working with an Inclusive Education Technical Advisor to propose training needed for teachers in relation to Inclusive Education. At the moment, there are no continuous professional development opportunities to help teachers meet the national policy goals on inclusive education and there are no rules in place to allocate teachers to special/or mainstream schools.
According to the Initial report on the implementation of the CRPD (2017), provisions have been made to train teachers on special needs at the University of the South Pacific. The training only concentrates on a few mild disability but not the severe ones.
Improving teaching and learning was one of the strategies to achieve strategic goal 7 in the Tuvalu five-year National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2016–2020. This involved the development of a competency Standards Framework for teachers and school leaders. Other actions concern the establishment of school committees; Upgrade/strengthen pool of school leaders and teachers; teaching quality and learning quality.
There is no Inclusive Education monitoring framework at the moment. In 2017, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, in collaboration with UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Pacific Community published the Tuvalu Education Data Quality Assessment Report. This Report mentions inclusive education in Sub-sector 5: Teacher development: “Teacher training curriculum that includes mandatory course on Disability-Inclusive Education” (p. 32). It also monitors the proportion of schools with access to adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities. With regard to the health of the students, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports asks schools to provide information on assistive devices, human assistance, difficulty (disability), and on immunization to produce education statistics. The government notes that there is an “urgent need” to fully include persons with disabilities in national data gathering and statistics.
According to Tuvalu five-year National Strategy for Sustainable Development, 2016–2020, the Department of Education has concluded that a more comprehensive Education Management Information System (TEMIS) is needed to support evidence-based reporting and intervention in areas of need (p. 38). One of the strategies to achieve goal 7 on education concerns monitoring and assessment: “improve monitoring and assessment of learning outcomes and learning programs”. Actions to be carried out over the period 2016-2020 include the development of TEMIS in schools; the drafting of a quarterly progress report on the implementation of the current national sustainable development plan of Tuvalu; the development of core indicators for TEMIS; the publication of an annual statistical summary; the publication of an annual policy progress report in relation to national education indicators.