Among the many resolutions that the recent Sherig Conference in Zhemgang adopted was identifying at least one school in every dzongkhag as a special education needs (SEN) programme school in the 12th Plan.

Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk said that about 30 percent of children in the country is born with some form of disability.

He added that the country’s population is decreasing and therefore making education accessible for every child is crucial. “Irrespective of his or her birth status, we have to ensure education is accessible to all. Education must adapt to the special needs of every child.”

Unlike special schools, which typically includes children with one specific disability, the special education needs programme will include children with different kind of disabilities.

Chief programme officer of ECCD and SEN division, Sherab Phuntshok, said that students with autism, dyslexia, other physical and learning disabilities could be brought together on a similar platform to study.

He added that providing a “perfect” inclusion services would be difficult, but the schools will provide the basic facilities. “Basic needs include footpaths with appropriate support for movement, accessible classrooms and toilets for children with disability.”

For every SEN programme school, a team led by a coordinator would be trained.

Sherab Phuntshok said that even if the training periods were short, they should be enough since the curriculum remained same and the methods and approach of teaching would be changed.

“Every policy in our country is very inclusive, but when it comes to action, people with disabilities are usually left behind,” Sherab Phuntshok added.

According to programme officer with Ability Bhutan Society (ABS), Namgay Dorji, introducing SEN programme school would encourage and provide an opportunity for meaningful inclusion and education.

ABS provides clinical intervention services to children living with disabilities. About 203 children are registered with ABS today.

There are 15 SEN programme schools in the country today.

Phurpa Lhamo