According to the framework document on inclusive education in Madagascar (glossary, page 33), inclusive education is a process/approach based on valuing diversity as an element that can enrich the teaching and learning process and, in doing so, that promotes human development. To achieve inclusive education, the whole school needs to reflect on what steps it needs to take to be accessible to all children (including children with disabilities). Inclusive education aims to ensure that these children have equal rights and opportunities in education and is aimed at various groups of children, including vulnerable children or children with special needs, working children, street children, minors in conflict with the law, girls and unmarried girls, children with learning difficulties, and girls who are excluded from school because of certain customary practices.
According to the Education Sector Plan (2018–2022), inclusive education is targeted at four groups: children who have never enrolled in school, children who have dropped out of school, children with mild or moderate disabilities and children with severe or profound disabilities in specialized institutions. Inclusive education ensures that all vulnerable children or children with special needs, whether because of health or socioeconomic reasons, have access to educational opportunities and that schools have every opportunity to accommodate them.
The principle of inclusion aims to reach and include all people by honouring the diversity, uniqueness, talents, beliefs, backgrounds, abilities and ways of life of individuals and groups (framework document on inclusive education in Madagascar). This principle is presented for the different levels of education and includes quality higher education that is accessible not only to the elite, but to every young Malagasy person who wants to succeed, regardless of gender, age, or geographical or social origin.
Special educational needs
The framework document provides definitions of special needs. However, the Education Sector Plan refers to special educational needs and to children with disabilities (children with mild or moderate disabilities and children with severe or profound disabilities) as mentioned above.
Integrated classes (a specific class in a mainstream school for children with the same type of disability and with special needs requiring close support) are uncommon but exist in two of Madagascar’s 22 regions. Instead, the State promotes the inclusion of children who have dropped out of school in the school system through catch-up classes (called CRAN in French), for children aged 7 to 16 who have dropped out of school. National and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society and faith-based organizations are the most involved in enrolling children with severe disabilities in specialized centres, in particular children with a visual impairment, who can attend mainstream classes after learning Braille in a specialized or integrated class.
In terms of legislation, Decree 2009-1147 sets out the general policy for inclusive education. The rights of persons with disabilities are mentioned in the National Report for the universal periodic review. In particular, it is stated that persons living with a disability have the same rights as other citizens to access education and that all children with disabilities shall enjoy an education in a mainstream school environment. No child shall be unreasonably denied admission to a primary school. Act No. 97-044 of 2 February 1998 governs the rights of persons with disabilities, including the right to education. In general, the provisions of Act No. 97-044 comply with the recommendations of international texts. Moreover, Order No. 23144/2004 of 2 December 2005 concerns the rights of persons with disabilities in education and Order No. 23145/2004 of 27 December 2004 concerns the rights of persons with disabilities to vocational and professional training. Lastly, under Act No. 2003-044, persons with disabilities must be able to enjoy all existing facilities, whether public or private, for learning and vocational training.
From the perspective of policies and action plans, the National Disability Inclusion Plan for the period 2015–2019 aims to empower persons with disabilities, in particular through education. The 2018–2022 Education Sector Plan, for its part, proposes solutions to address disparities in access through communities building schools and through strengthening the reception of children with mild, moderate or severe disabilities. It identifies two strategic areas: 1) awareness-raising and identification and 2) implementing quality school provision. The objectives set out in the plan suggest that Madagascar aims to admit 15 per cent of students with mild or moderate disabilities into mainstream education and 15 per cent of students with severe or profound disabilities into special schools. The plan also specifies the inclusion process for children with disabilities in the school system. Once identified, a child with disabilities must, with formal parental permission, be examined by a health care provider (doctor or paramedic). The purpose of this consultation is:
for children with mild or moderate disabilities: to have specific information on the type and degree of the child's disability; to be able to create a health record giving specific instructions for the teacher to follow in order to properly welcome and care for this child; and
for children with severe or profound disabilities: to determine needs for technical aids such as prostheses, glasses, and textbooks in Braille to give students more independence and to facilitate learning; to provide an environment that can be shared, such as by painting the blackboard (to improve visibility), or by designing the acoustics in the classroom.
The Ministry of Education is guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education, and advocates for the elimination of all gender inequalities in education and technical and vocational training. Gender-related initiatives include the Grande sœur [Big Sister] programme launched in 2001 to help girls continue their education. From 2019, sex education will be on the school curriculum for college students.
Ethnicity and languages
The Education Sector Plan 2018–2022 makes no direct mention of inclusion of minorities, although it was developed with "minority representatives". With regard to languages, one of the plan’s objectives is to create a basic-education system that will be organized into three subcycles, each lasting three years. At the end of the first subcycle, students must be able to read in their mother tongue to allow the introduction of a second language in the second subcycle. However, as stated in the same plan, a language policy needs to be defined. This policy:
includes the planned and developed choice of contextually appropriate languages of instruction
pays particular attention to the daily management of bilingualism/plurilingualism (dialect/French), and to managing alternation between languages in classroom practices, which should be formalized
promotes teaching based on a plurilingual approach so that the uses of the various languages enrich each other in order to develop students’ communication skills
focuses on early learning (reading, writing, mathematics) and the transition from the mother tongue to the second language.
The Education Sector Plan 2018–2022 makes several references to rural areas. The Centres d'éducation et de renforcement scolaire [Education and Remediation Centres – CERES] programme has been trying to tackle school failure among young people in rural areas in the Fianarantsoa region for the past 10 years. Since 2007, nearly 9,000 students have been supported by the CERES system. They achieved an 83 per cent success rate in the BEPC [first cycle of education diploma] (2016–2017) and an 86 per cent success rate in the baccalauréat [high school diploma] (2016–2017), more than double the national success rate. Among the objectives included in the plan for the first two subcycles is that access should be improved in rural and remote areas and for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. In these areas, the public effort will also concentrate on the development of preschool education.
In order to strengthen the presence of teachers in rural and remote areas, it was decided in the Education Sector Plan that every newly recruited teacher should start his or her service in a rural area, where the needs are the greatest.
The National Social Welfare Policy (PNPS) aims to "reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by 15 per cent." Measures have been implemented to achieve this. For example, the Ministry of National Education has a dedicated budget line for school feeding. In addition, primary education has been free of charge since 2002 and since 2004 all students have been provided with a kit containing school supplies and textbooks at the start of the school year.
The catch-up classes, which are part of the Education Sector Plan 2018–2022, are part of the strategy to integrate/reintegrate and retain in school those children and young people who are out of school or who have dropped out of school.
The Independent National Human Rights Commission is responsible for ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are respected. The Ministry of National Education is responsible for taking actions towards combating school exclusion and promoting the integration, reintegration and retention in school of vulnerable children and young people. The Department of Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly of the Ministry of Population, Social Welfare and the Advancement of Women is the only government branch that is specifically responsible for promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities. On the whole, responsibility for inclusive education is shared by various authorities and remains rather fragmented, with limited coordination among these authorities.
The Education Sector Plan explicitly includes strategies to improve governance. Several sets of measures have been planned at two levels:
decentralized and participatory management of schools: the objective being to generalize the operationalization of FEFFI (Farimbon'Ezaka ho Fahombiazan'ny Fanabeazana eny Ifotony meaning Partnership for the Development of Basic Education)
the progressive decentralization of financial resource management to the FEFFI and the Direction Régionale de l’Éducation Nationale [Regional Education Department – DREN].
Curricula and textbooks are free from gender discrimination, but there is little in the way of encouragement of equity and inclusion. With regards to teaching materials, the textbook design and publication unit (in partnership with the Ministry of National Education) offers low-cost textbooks.
The strategies in the Education Sector Plan 2018–2022 include reforming the curricular – in particular around languages and teaching methods – to meet the sociocultural, economic and environmental needs of the country. This reform will be carried out gradually.
The Education Sector Plan 2018–2022 provides for quality schooling by training teachers responsible for the catch-up classes. It wishes to facilitate allocation planning and ensure allocation to remote areas. On the ground, however, a very small proportion of teachers in both public and private schools have received training in inclusive education. In this regard, the National Teacher Training Institute (INFP) trains primary school counsellors and teachers from general education secondary schools in 19 regional centres.
The country does not have a national monitoring report on education. Given the virtual absence of reliable data to measure the efforts undertaken in inclusive education, the Education Sector Plan 2018–2022 aspires to create an updated and reliable inclusive education database, regional and local platforms that will support the decentralized services of the Ministry of National Education, and steering committees. Finally, the plan identifies certain indicators related to inclusive education, including the number of children recorded as being out of school or having dropped out of school, the percentage of children with disabilities enrolled in the formal education system and in special schools respectively, and the number of children and young people who have dropped out of school enrolled in the catch-up classes.