Education minister says the ministry plans to establish one special needs education programme in each dzongkhag

For inclusive education, the education ministry aims to have 12 schools with Special Education Needs (SEN) programme in the 12th Plan.

There are today 14 general schools with SEN programme and two special schools.

Programme officer with special education section, Karma Norbu, said the ministry is in the process of identifying the 12 schools that would have SEN programme. “We can’t concentrate all people with special needs in one setting as it will then be exclusion, not inclusion.”

The general schools are selected based on enrollment of children with disabilities and if the school has boarding facilities.

Karma Norbu said that after the schools are identified, teachers are trained and infrastructures for children with disabilities built so that they can gain access to the existing school facilities such as the academic blocks, library and laboratories.

He said teachers of general schools with SEN programme are given basic trainings to identify students with disabilities and to teach them.

Karma Norbu added that special schools focus on one form of disability or education while general schools with SEN programme cater to all forms of disabilities.

During an education dialogue on April 4, education minister Norbu Wangchuk said that 30 percent of the children are born with special needs and requires special education. However, according to the two-stage child disability study done in 2010-11 among children between 2-9 years, about 21 percent of children in the country are born with a disability.

Lyonpo said that in the 12th Plan, the ministry intends to establish one special education needs programme in each dzongkhag. “We need to develop about 15 more special needs education programme,” he said. “Our teachers use inclusive education standards to teach children who may be requiring special attention.”

He added that although people recognise children who are physically disabled, there are a lot of disabilities, which are not perceptive. “While we may not be able to reach out to the totality of the special needs children, we will be able to mainstream and put them into the whole education process.”

The first draft of the Policy for Persons with Disabilities January 2018 states that education is a basic socio-economic human right, and all children, including those with disabilities have a right to education. “The lack of proper education remains one of the key reasons for poverty and exclusion of children from wider community affairs, both those with disabilities and without disability,” the policy states. “The RGoB shall make reasonable accommodations to increase access to early education, school, vocational, tertiary and lifelong education through inclusive admissions policies, inclusive approaches and SEN programmes, as well as strengthening access to the specialised institutes.”

According to the annual education statistics, 2017, there are about 535 children with disabilities enrolled in the 14 schools with SEN programme and the two special schools today. There are more than 480 teachers in these schools.

A two-stage child disability study found the prevalence rate to be higher among children aged 2-5 with 26.8 percent compared to those aged 4-9 at 15.5 percent.

The study found prevalence rates to be highest for cognitive disabilities at 15.1percent followed by behaviour at 5.6 percent and fine motor at 5.5 percent.

It states that prevalence rate of any disability is highest in central Bhutan with 23.3 percent while the west and east have 20.8 and 20 percent respectively.

Tsirang has the highest prevalence rate at 33 percent followed by Trashiyangtse at 32 percent, Trashigang at 30.9 percent and Dagana at 30.5 percent. Lhuentse has the least prevalence rate at 8.9 percent.

Karma Cheki