The Education Department had, as of 2019, conducted consultation to develop the education policy to contain sections on inclusive education and special education needs. The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III defines inclusive education as a means to provide ‘enabling learning environments for special needs students’.
The Tuvalu National Curriculum Policy Framework cites 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 education needs require special attention from teachers and schools due to varying levels of disabilities they face, recognizing that these learners often have ‘special abilities and gifts too.’ Children with disabilities are identified as a disadvantaged and vulnerable population. ‘Vulnerable students’ include those from low socio-economic-status backgrounds, urban groups, those in remote and isolated areas, those with disabilities and special abilities as well as school dropouts and push-outs.
Inclusive classes and schools
Education in mainstream school is open to all children. The National Curriculum Policy Framework states that ’every effort will be made to include them into the mainstream school’. According to the initial report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2017, the Fusi Alofa Association opened a school for the education of children with disabilities in Funafuti in 2011; however, Fusi Alofa reportedly is not a special school but a centre. Some children who had attended the Fusi Alofa school tried to be integrated into Nauti Primary School but for various reasons, including bullying and teasing, 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 ...’. A majority of children with disabilities attend the separate Fusi Alofa school, 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.
In 2000, the Education for All 2000 assessment mentioned that non-government organizations in Tuvalu managed special education for children with disabilities. The Red Cross was the main actor for the provision of quality education to children with disabilities. The government was committed to providing financial assistance to strengthen efforts made to this effect by non-government organizations.
There is no mention of inclusive education in the current Education Act, written in 1978. Tuvalu has not ratified the UN Convention Against Discrimination in Education but ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995. The 1986 Constitution does not enshrine the right to education, but discrimination (based on race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or religious beliefs) is prohibited under Article 27 on freedom from discrimination. Disability is not included as a ground for discrimination. That said, the 1976 Education Ordinance 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.’ The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III identifies four cross-cutting issues, including gender equality, disability inclusiveness, child protection and HIV/AIDS. To improve inclusive education, the Ministry of Education was to 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 multisector approach to support the Fusi Alofa centre. For the moment, there is no inclusive education policy.
The Education Act states that education is compulsory for all children, including children living with disabilities. The 2005–15 National Strategy for Sustainable Development (also called Te Kaneega II) also sets out equal education opportunities for all, where special needs education for preschoolers and people with disabilities is provided with the support of non-government organizations. Finally, the 2016–20 Tuvalu National Human Rights Action Plan aimed to include the study of human rights in the education curriculum. It also planned 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 2016–20 National Strategy for Sustainable Development (Te Kaneega III) addressed education and training and aimed to ‘[p]rovide high quality education; equip people with knowledge and skills to develop more self-reliance; [and] promote Tuvalu’s cultural and spiritual values’. Among the strategies listed to attain this goal was ‘inclusive education’, outlining the following dimensions for achievement: school readiness (implement and monitor early learning development standards and conduct the Tuvalu Early Human Capital Index survey to ensure children are ready for school); intervention programmes and strategies developed and implemented; early grade reading assessment; a multisectoral approach developed to support the health, cognitive, social and emotional development of young children; and an inclusive pre-service scholarship scheme for formal and vocational training. One of the objectives of the World Bank Tuvalu Learning Program was to support implementation of the disability and inclusive education plan being developed with support from the Australia Support to Education in Tuvalu (ASET) programme.
Tuvalu ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013. The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III makes no direct mention of disability; however, of the 10 key policy objectives of the Te Kakeega II, one key objective related to students with disabilities was to ‘expand services and facilities for special needs students, including pre-schoolers 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.’ At that time, the government planned to establish a national centre for the education of children with disabilities.
According to the 2017 initial report on the implementation of the CRPD, the government was drafting a national disability policy. The 2016–20 National Human Rights Action Plan aimed to review government allocation to Fusi Alofa, the only umbrella disabled persons’ organization in Tuvalu, in line with increasing demands to provide such services; to strengthen partnership with this organization to ensure broader consultation on an inclusive education curriculum; and to strengthen initiatives aimed at mainstreaming students with disabilities in primary and secondary schools. Finally, the 2015–19 Tuvalu National Youth Policy makes references to youths living with disabilities.
While boys and girls are almost equally represented in primary and secondary education, boys are underrepresented compared to girls in secondary and tertiary education.
Tuvalu ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III makes no mention of strategies and policies for gender inclusion but intended to ensure 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 in consultation with the Government of Tuvalu launched the 2015–18 Pacific Women Country Plan, which endorsed initiatives to support gender equality in education in Tuvalu. One of the key activities was to support the Fusi Alofa Association.
The 2016–20 National Human Rights Action Plan aimed at including young mothers and encouraging more girls to enrol in male-dominated fields, including science, technology and engineering, improving sanitation facilities in schools and increasing girls’ dormitories facilities.
Finally, the 2014–16 National Gender Policy 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 UN Country Team endorsed the 2018–22 UN Pacific Communication and Advocacy Strategy. The 2018–22 UN Pacific Strategy result framework sets out 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 [Pacific Island Countries and Territories] 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’.
According to the 2016–20 National Strategy for Sustainable Development, the Government of Tuvalu ‘will formulate the National Hardship Assistance Policy, designed to deal with rising poverty rates, and have it implemented as early as possible.’
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III and the National Curriculum Policy Framework make no mention of strategies and policies for the inclusion of ethnic groups in education. English and Tuvaluan are taught from the early primary years up to form 7. The Tuvalu Language Policy guides the implementation of the curriculum in Tuvalu. The 2012 Tuvalu Cultural Mapping, Planning and Policy Report recommended including a stream on Tuvalu culture in the national curricula at all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary. It also prioritized the promotion of a policy on vernacular languages in education (including use of local language in school, teaching of local language in school, and teaching of youth by elders in cultural practices).
Rural and remote areas
The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III makes no mention of strategies or policies for students living in rural and remote areas.
Overall, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports 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 for overseeing all education institutions in Tuvalu. The unit, however, is limited in staff. In late 2019, support from the ASET programme allowed for the provision of technical advisors looking into inclusive education in the Education Department. The programme was set to recruit a local consultant 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 of the 2016–20 National Strategy for Sustainable Development was the implementation of a revised structure for the Department of Education through the creation of new posts and the realignment of functions, the implementation of which was the responsibility of the minister of education, youth and sports.
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 committee includes the secretary of home affairs as its chairperson; the Office of the Attorney General; the departments of planning, education, health, statistics, public works, labour and rural development; Fusi Alofa; the Gender Affairs Department; and the Tuvalu Red Cross Society. Among other aims, it is intended to coordinate 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 coordinate storage and updating of data on disability in Tuvalu.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports works closely with the Ministry of Health in promoting healthy living in both the working environment and schools. Other line ministries, with the approval and support of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, can organize activities in schools to educate students on awareness programmes.
The Fusi Alofa Association, a non-government organization, provides services in inclusive education. With support from the ASET programme, technical advisors and local consultants specialized 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 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III aimed 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.
As 2015, no school transportation was provided, so only children who were able to get to school were eligible to attend.
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’.
There is no policy to ensure that textbooks promote the inclusion of learners from different vulnerable groups nor is there a policy to ensure technology is used to promote the inclusion of learners from different vulnerable groups. The 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III intended to develop e-learning support for children who cannot attend schools.
Among the strategies in relation to strategic goal 7 in the 2016–20 National Strategy for Sustainable Development was 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 2016–20 Education Sector Plan III aimed at ‘improving teacher attitude and efficacy towards inclusive teaching’. To this end, teachers must provide planning that addresses the varied ability levels of children in their classroom cohort and to utilize 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 works with an inclusive education technical adviser 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 2017 initial report on the implementation of the CRPD, 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 disabilities and does not cover severe ones.
Improving teaching and learning was one of the strategies to achieve strategic goal 7 of the 2016–20 National Strategy for Sustainable Development. This involved the development of a competency standards framework for teachers and school leaders. Other actions concerned the establishment of school committees, upgrading and strengthening the pool of school leaders and teachers, teaching quality and learning quality.
There is currently no inclusive education monitoring framework. In 2017, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, in collaboration with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Pacific Community, published the Tuvalu Education Data Quality Assessment Report. This report mentions inclusive education in sub-sector 5 on teacher development, noting a teacher training curriculum ‘that includes mandatory course on Disability-Inclusive Education’. 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 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 the 2016–20 National Strategy for Sustainable Development, the Department of Education has concluded that a more comprehensive Tuvalu education management information system (TEMIS) is needed to support evidence-based reporting and intervention in areas of need. 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 2016–20 included 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; and the publication of an annual policy progress report in relation to national education indicators.