Inclusive Education Policy For People With Disabilities Education Essay

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This research is intended to find out the challenges of education for people with disabilities in Myanmar and the factors that undermine the education development opportunity for them in Myanmar. The objectives of this research are to analyze the concept of inclusive education (IE) and its policy framework and implementation in Myanmar, to assess the government's and stakeholders' perceptions on inclusive education, to identify problems of accessibility to education faced by PWDs, and to identify an appropriate design of inclusive education for children with disabilities (CWDs). It was designed to cover all types of CWDs in the primary and lower secondary school level in Yangon Division. This research uses qualitative method in order to understand the actual situations or phenomenon. Primary data was gathered from individual and group interviews with the responsible officers of the concerned departments, teachers from formal and special schools, Non-Governmental Organizations, CWDs and their parents in August, 2012. Secondary data collection includes government's IE policy and the impact of its strategies, and a review of the International norms of IE. The findings of this research exhibit that the IE policy for PWDs does not yield expected results. PWDs only have benefited a little from the policy rhetoric. There are a number of reasons namely societal negative attitudes, trainings for teachers on disability issues, and inaccessible school environment. Particularly, children with intellectual/ seeing/ hearing disability will need individualized and special education designs for which a lot of improvement must be made. This only indicates that the idea of inclusive education, where people with disabilities learn in the same class as other students, might not be appropriate to Myanmar, where the government cannot support with relevant facilities. In particular, the society where economic vulnerability is still prevailing, inclusive education has become only rhetoric. Myanmar will have to seek other alternatives that integrate the role of community, family and civil society organizations in appropriate local resources to increase a broader opportunity for basic education for the excluded people with disabilities.

Statement of the Problem

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Today, more than 600 million people in the world live with some form of disability and more than 400 million of those people live in developing countries (Sen & Wolfensohn, 2004, online). Sen and Wolfensohn (2004) also reported that in the developing world, 10-20% of the world population could be categorized as people with disabilities (PWDs) in some form. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that 20% of the world's poorest people are disabled, and tend to be regarded as the most disadvantaged people in their communities (UNCRPD, 2008, online). This estimation about the poverty related to disability issue was reported at the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in May, 2008. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) reported that:

"Despite recent achievements, people with disabilities remain the single largest sector of the least served and most discriminated against in almost all societies in the Asia Pacific region." (UNESCAP, 2006, online)

In general, most developing countries do not have statistical information on people with disabilities (PWDs). This lack of statistical information is explained partly by the variable classification of the nature and the extent of disabilities in these countries. This variable classification makes the rates of disability in many developing countries appear unbelievably low (Mont, 2005, p. 9). The same condition conditions apply to Myanmar, the focus country of this study. In fact, prior to 2009, no accurate statistics existed on the extent of disabilities in the Myanmar population.

In 2010, the First Myanmar National Disability Survey was conducted by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and The Leprosy Mission International (TLMI). The survey showed that in Myanmar 2.32% of the population has at least one form of disability. This prevalence translated to approximately 1,276,000 persons living with disabilities or one person with a disability in every 10 households. Among them, 71.6% of PWDs had mobility difficulties. This group comprised of the largest group in terms of disability classifications. The second largest group as the 10.2% of all PWDs in Myanmar was reported as having sight difficulties. The hearing difficulties group constituted more than 9.1% of the disabled population in the country, and the learning difficulties group constituted 9%. From these benchmark figures, the United Nations estimated that more than three million people are physically impaired in Myanmar.

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Figure 1: Type of Disability in Myanmar 2008-09

Sources: DSW and TLMI, First Myanmar National Disability Survey, 2010, p. 14.

Divided by gender, the number of males with disabilities (54.65%) was higher than the number of females with disabilities (45.44%). (DSW, and TLMI, 2010, p. 14) According to the age group, the highest percentage of PWDs was found to be of working age (16-65 years of age) and the second highest percentage of PWDs was found to be of schooling age (5-15 years of age) that translated to approximately 248,948 children who have living with one form of disabilities (DSW and TLMI, 2010, p. 14). In addition, the Disability Prevalence Rate of older people is 19.33% while older people (above 65 years of age) contribute 5.58% of the total population in Myanmar (CSO, 2006, online).

In Myanmar condition, PWDs are one of the marginalized groups with many social issues. The most critical issue that remains to be addressed for PWDs in Myanmar is their ongoing struggle for educational opportunities. Education is central to the well-being of PWDs, but in Myanmar they often face significant obstacles to a full education. While the government of Myanmar subscribes to a policy of Inclusive Education (IE) on the books, in practice, most of the PWDs gain little or no benefit from the IE policy despite the rhetoric due to insufficient resources. PWDs face many barriers to access education mainstreaming system such as ignorance of the community, poverty and remoteness. While some of these barriers are linked to their disability, others are simply the result of social prejudices (Heron, Robert and Murray, 2003, p. 5). Because of these barriers, one third of the PWDs are illiterate in Myanmar (DSW and TLMI, 2010, p. 41). In particular, seeing and hearing disabled people have fewer chances to access basic education. There is a dramatic difference in the educational opportunities provided for disabled and non disabled children around the country. This issue should be considered a critical challenge of PWDs' rights protection in Myanmar.

According to the estimation of UNESCO's Institute of Statistics (2008), the literacy rate of Myanmar stands at 91.9% (males: 94.7%, females: 89.2%) and the government allocated budget for education is only about 1.3% of GDP per year (SEAMEO, 2006, online). However, the progress of integrating the education opportunities among PWDs has been more difficult to determine due to their marginalization as well as poor policy implementation and follow up in Myanmar. According to the First Myanmar National Disability Survey of DSW and TLMI, nearly about 22% of PWDs had finished secondary education but did not complete the high school in 2008-09. The rate of PWDs who achieved higher education degrees was extremely rare; only 2.2% of the disabled population in the country was reported to have a university degree or above. In terms of gender, the percentage of females with disabilities who had never attended school was higher than the males with disabilities. Also, regarding age demographics, more than half of the school-aged children with disabilities (CWDs) had never attended school. The lack of proper education for PWDs has led them to exist at a low standard of living. In this condition, as people without a formal education, they have access, if any, only to unskilled jobs and low income (JICA, 2009, p. 21).

Figure 2: Educational Attainment of disabled people in Myanmar

Sources: DSW and TLMI, First Myanmar National Disability Survey, 2010, p. 21.

The study of this research is the primary and lower secondary school-aged CWDs in Myanmar, from five to twelve years of age. These children are the victims of inequity and stigma by long ignored, shunned, and isolated from their community. By the experience in other countries, a proper education for CWDs not only become literate but also become valuable family members and citizens and can achieve a level of satisfaction and independence enjoyed by their non-disabled peers. Educational equally is not just a civil responsibility; it is an investment in human resources that will reward the nation as well as its individual citizens.

There are many international frameworks and agreements that support the educational rights for disabled children. The UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, released in 1948, spells out the universal right to education (see Annex 1). Article 26 states that,

"Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages." (UDHR, Article 26)

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Also, the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) mentions that schools should assist all children with a child-centered pedagogy capable of meeting the child's needs. Myanmar ratified the CRC in 1991. Following the ratification, the Myanmar Child Law was enacted in 1993 and the National Committee on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) was formed in October 1993. The CRC states that "all states parties need to recognize the right of persons with disabilities to education with a view to realizing this right without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity" (see Annex 2).

Another international framework that supports educational rights of children with disabilities is "Education for All" (EFA). In 1990, the Jomtien World Conference on "Education for All" set up the framework of EFA as a historic initiative and a global commitment to a new and broader perspective on basic education. The EFA initiative emphasizes greater access, equity and achievement in learning. According to Education for All (EFA) assessment of the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal (1999), most countries adopted the EFA Plan as a long-term education development plan for the years 2000 to 2015. It was based on the framework of the Dakar EFA Goals and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), along with other UN agencies, and a number of international and local NGOs, have been working towards achieving this goal by adding to the efforts at the country level. Yet, unfortunately, many countries could not achieve their targets of Educational Development especially in least developing countries, like Myanmar.

Myanmar formulated the Education for All National Action Plan (EFA-NAP) in 2003. This plan aimed to improve the basic education sector with equal access, good quality and relevance from primary to lower secondary levels for all school-aged children. The EFA-NAP aimed to reduce illiteracy rates of PWDs by implementing the formal and non-formal education system through the concept of IE. IE is an approach seeking to address the participatory learning strategy for all children, and youth who feel vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion (UNESCO, 2008, online).

In another international agreement that is aimed at improved the lives of PWDs, Myanmar also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The United Nations formally agreed to the CRPD on 13th December, 2006 in order to protect and enhance the rights and opportunities of the world's estimated 650 million disabled people. Out of the eleven countries in Southeast Asia region, there are six countries; Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, and Thailand, ratified the CRPD and other four countries signed the Convention. Under this convention, PWDs are afforded equal rights with others, for example, the right to education; the right to employment; the right to cultural life; the right to own and inherit property; and the right to live without discrimination in marriage, childbearing, etc. Myanmar ratified the CRPD on 7th December, 2011. The ratification is meant to ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning directed to human development potential with respect to the rights for all PWDs.

However, Myanmar often remains a rather inhospitable country for PWDs. Myanmar does not have the national policy on the rights of PWDs. From 1993 to 2002, the Central Law Scrutinizing Committee reviewed the disability laws in Myanmar but the special law for PWDs is still being drafting by the time the country ratifies CRPD in 2011. Also, the community supports that provide the accessibility of participation and the efforts of aid effectiveness for PWDs are limited. Moreover, the widely-held traditional Myanmar belief that people are disabled as punishment for bad deeds done in a previous life leaves PWDs neglected, viewed as abnormal and considered inferior. Therefore, most CWDs face discrimination within their communities in terms of social functioning, education, recreational and religious activities. These societal negative attitudes are the main barrier of equal educational access for CWDs.

According to the facts of UNICEF's stated that approximately 150 million children around the world have a disability and the country report of MOE claimed that nearly about 20,000 students with disabilities were able to attend in formal schools and less than 1,500 had access to an education in special schools in 2007/08 school year that a bit statistics on the extent of the exclusion from education faced by children with disabilities (MOE, 2008, p.1). These facts show that CWDs in Myanmar are disproportionately excluded from basic education that enables them to be more competitive for the wide range of future income-generating opportunities.

The traditional belief about education is that basic education plays a particularly important role and deserves the highest priority for all children. It is the key of human rights such as freedom from subjugation, fear and want and also the effective weapon to fight poverty of all PWDs. Moreover, it increases the productivity, social and political development progress of Myanmar and gives the chance to improve the lives of children with disabilities. Basic education is not only learning how to read, write and calculate, also encompassing the positive sense of formal and non-formal education at any stage of life. Basic education is not a clear-cut concept in most developing countries that restricts as the first stage of formal and special schooling of primary level.

Today's exclusion children become tomorrow's marginalized youth. Many CWDs enter adolescence with the basic skills necessary to fully join society that represents a huge barrier to achieving the millennium goal of primary education for all children by 2015. Also, basic education is most often a necessary step to understand the risks and responsibilities of their future lives especially for CWDs. However, Myanmar IE policy implementation processes cannot give fully guarantee for CWDs who are still denied their fundamental right to education.

Education and People with Disabilities in Myanmar

The history of education for PWDs in Myanmar has seen numerous plans made by the government for the benefit of PWDs but has yet to find success in implementation.

After gaining independence in 1948, the government launched the new education system as part of the "Welfare Plans" in 1953. In that plan, the government intended to educate PWDs with significant vocational technologies as rehabilitation services for them (Office of the SUPDT, 1953, p. 7). In addition, the curriculum for the state schools introduced vocational subjects according to local needs rather than a unified qualification system. This system only brought about an academic-vocational divide, an urban-rural divide, and an inequality of opportunity for all children (Thein Lwin, 2000, p. 8).

In 1962, the system of education in Myanmar was reorganized as the basic education system. It had three levels of education amounting to a total of 11 years/ grades: five years of primary level (Grade 1 to 5), four years of secondary (middle) school (Grade 6 to 9) and two years of high school (Grade 10 to 11) (Thein Lwin, 2000, p. 9). In 1974, the government changed the constitution. In that constitution, "Article 152" stated that "every citizen shall have the right to education" and that "basic education would be compulsory" (Thein Lwin, 2000, p. 11). The right to education was theoretically for all; however, it was a different story for PWDs in Myanmar.

Based on a UNICEF report from 2000, at least 40% of Myanmar children never attended school and almost 75% failed to complete primary education before 1990 (Khin Maung Kyi, et al, 2000, p. 146). Although there is no breakdown of statistics for CWDs, based on the current situation in Myanmar, it is safe to assume that the significant majority of CWDs fell into this uneducated category.

The Myanmar government continues, with national plans, to highlight education as important for the nation. The country report of Myanmar Education Development Strategy Focusing on Inclusive Education, 2008, stated that Myanmar traditional belief about education is that education is "a basic human need, also an essential part of the quality of life, and a supporter of social values and an instrument of economic efficiency" (p. 11). In recent times, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has adopted the EFA-NAP plan for reducing the illiteracy rates of PWDs by implementing the regular and special education system.

As explained previously, IE was adopted at the Salamanca World Conference on Special Needs Education and the Dakar World Education Forum (2000). That conference affirmed that all regular schools with IE are the most effective means of combating discrimination, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all. (Salamanca Statement, Article 2) IE system is designed to produce an equitable system of formal and special education.

Research Questions

This research intends to find out "How can Inclusive Education policy meet the challenges of better education opportunities for PWDs in Myanmar and what are the factors that undermine the education development opportunity for PWDs in primary and lower secondary school level?"

Objectives of the Research

In order to satisfy the research questions, the researcher sets four ruling objectives of the field research. The following are the objectives of the research;

To analyze the inclusiveness of education principles, policy framework and implementation

To find out the government's and stakeholders' perceptions on inclusive education

To identify problems of accessibility to education faced by CWDs

To identify the most appropriate design of inclusive education

Conceptual Framework of Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education is a concept built upon a rights-based approach. This research framework covers the IE policy framework and rationale through to the implementation stage and also assesses the benefits of the policy implementation for PWDs. For analyzing the IE framework, the researcher based the inquiry on two UNESCO guidelines on IE: The Guidelines for Inclusion: Ensuring Access to Education for All, 2006 and Policy Guidelines for Inclusion in Education, 2009. The Guideline for Inclusion: Ensuring Access to EFA focuses on the changes needed in the school setting with respect to teachers, parents, educational policymakers and curricula. Also the Policy Guidelines for Inclusion in Education provide information and awareness for policymakers, educators, NGOs as a tool of revising and formulating EFA plans. Both of them are based on the actual needs of the formal and special schools, the infrastructures and the strategic plans of IE. According to these two guidelines, key characteristics of IE will be analyzed in this research.

Equitable access for PWDs means learning achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their education without discrimination. This practice rises above the inclusive understanding of physical location, and incorporates basic values that encourage participation, relationship and interaction in both mainstream and special schools (UNESCO, 2006, p. 15). In this research, the measurement of equitable access means the proportional increasing of student with disabilities that are enrolled in, attending and completing basic education level and compulsory primary and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities.

Quality of basic education is the primary concern in the assessments of learning outcomes. In attempting to assess learning outputs, there is a risk of simply taking a numeracy of enrollment and literacy skills of PWDs as a measure of the impact of IE. Such measurement must focus on teachers' education aligned to inclusive approaches in order to monitor the characteristics of students with disabilities, the curriculum, teaching methods, capacity development of CWDs and the determination of continuous learning (UNESCO, 2006, p. 16). These results are interrelated, and dependent on an integrated development to ensure that each student with disabilities is able to participate effectively in society.

In the case of service efficiency, this research can focus on different sector efforts that are designed to strengthen the available services for students with disabilities. If PWDs are to participate to their fullest capacity, it is crucial that services and supports are in place based on individual student needs, the attributes of the school, and the expertise of building professionals. The Policy Guidelines for Inclusion in Education stated that all students with disabilities can attend schools in the least restrictive environment available especially in the regular classroom (UNESCO, 2009, p. 21). In this research, the service efficiency of IE is investigated by the size of the class and resources available in structurally safe classrooms, a pragmatic context and incentives for teachers to pay attention to students with disabilities in mainstream and special schools.

Aid effectiveness for students with disabilities can increase their opportunities of the benefiting the educational services beyond primary and secondary schools. They are based on initial stages of IE strategies and policies which constitute the framework within the aid coordination and harmonization. Students with disabilities need some assistive devices or some aids and equipment to access the general curriculum (UNESCO, 2009, p. 11). In this research, the evaluation of aid effectiveness includes the accessible content and assistive technology such as Braille, large print, audio and video formats of the curriculum, sign language interpreters, and other assistive devices.

The implementation of the IE policy takes into consideration the process through which stakeholder responds for accessing the inclusive education services such as priority setting, policy making, and resource allocations. This research will assess the benefits of the policy implementation for PWDs with GO and I/LNGOs strategies as follows:

Government (GO): Assessing the policy implementation for PWDs statistically by looking at school enrollment data and completion rates and assisting the full potential development of formal and special education. Analyzing the Inclusive Education policy by researching the government's budget for the program's that aimed for more accessible on Basic Education in formal and special schools, as well. This is a critical factor in determining the success of the policy implementation.

International or local Non Government Organizations (I/LNGOs) and Disabled People Organizations (DPOs): This research will investigate the I/LNGOs' and DPOs' approaches on the context of basic education and implementation strategies for changing the attitudes of the community, setting up the organizational supports, capacity building of teachers, integrating the ability of students with disabilities. The researcher can also analyze the perspective of I/LNGOs and DPOs that work with PWDs on the government's IE policy.

People with Disabilities: This research tends to find out the benefits and the challenges of the Inclusive Education policy for PWDs and benefits on the implementations of I/LNGOs on the Inclusive Education policy with the major achievements and constraints.

Challenges for PWDs: For the challenges faced by PWDs in obtaining education opportunities and assessing the participation of PWDs in the Inclusive Education policy implementation process, the researcher will use an EFA flagship of The Right to Education for PWDs: Towards Inclusion, 2004.

To identify different alternatives, this study will attempt to analyze the prominent education designs for PWDs used in different countries, namely,

The integrated education design; this educational design is based on in regular classes combining with special education services. It can assert more inclusion for students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers and create more academic effectiveness of for their long learning. However, the insufficient skills of the teachers and classroom setting lead to the regression for students with disabilities in formal schools.

The individualized education design; it is designed with a unique approach to help disabled children individually at the least restrictive environment. In this design, the teachers and service providers improve the student's learning in an appropriate place by determining the child's condition and reviewing the child's current level of performance. It also considers the role of parents and special services of the child needs.

The alternative education design; this design focuses on determining essential learning elements that will help the CWDs as home-schooling. It serves a wide variety of interests, backgrounds and abilities of CWDs. Their parents can choose the curriculum that suits the needs of the children, and give extra time to subjects that need it at home. However, the parents would need to be able and willing to do this, because this education design is only depend on the parents' enthusiastic, regardless of the needs of the child, and their education level.

The special education design; it addresses the students' differences and needs by accordance with their disabilities. Special schools provide with the specific curriculum, equipments, and accessible settings for students with disabilities. It can reduce the social stigmas with different instructional strategies such as accommodations, response, and schedule.

Each education design represents the procedure of inclusive education. Strategies of achieving IE by these designs and their gaps will be assessed. From this analysis, the researcher will give recommendations for the most appropriate education design for CWDs in Myanmar at the end of this research.

Hypothesis

In reality, most of the PWDs in Myanmar cannot fully benefit from the Inclusive Education policy despite the rhetoric because of the insufficient resources. This is based on the problem of inclusive education policy formulation and implementation for PWDs. There are several barriers to reaching the goal of EFA. The provision of training for teachers of students with disabilities has been limited and many teachers from formal schools feel unprepared to teach students with disabilities. Additionally, the country also struggles with limited facilities, high poverty rates, and resistance to change in terms of the community attitudes towards PWDs. To overcome these challenges, the country needs to improve the quality of special education services and to expand the availability of these services.

In the Myanmar context, an individualized educational design can solve many issues currently faced by students with disabilities since it has a specific target for IE for CWDs. In other contexts it has been known to enhance the effectiveness of student-centered approaches, and aided in the selection of appropriate learning styles for each student. In this design, the teachers can contribute with particular techniques for teaching CWDs that address students' individual needs. It can reduce some environmental barriers for CWDs and the cost for making new equipment or special schools cost-effective. By means of working with community helpers support directly some cost-saving strategies to assist CWDs. Also, the strong role of parents and teachers can give more inclusion. Supporters of individual education design believe that this design allows for consideration of how disabilities interrupt the student's learning and development of skills. The best practices of individualized education can help choose the least restrictive placement and able to participate in formal school activities for that student with disabilities. In this way, students with disabilities receive specialized assistance and maintain the freedom to interact with his or her peers.

For a better policy setting, active participation of PWDs in the government's education policy formulating and implementing processes can bring their issues and the root causes of their problems directly to the government.

Research Methodology

This study will be conducted in Yangon Division. Yangon, located in the heart of Lower Myanmar, is an administrative region and the former national capital city of Myanmar. It has 33 townships with nearly six million people and is the largest city in Myanmar. Yangon has the best education facilities for implementing the EFA-NAP, for accessing primary education opportunities, as well as offering quality education for all students. Also, Yangon has a lot of opportunities for children who need special care and attention to access Basic Education in formal and special schools. This is the national commitment of Myanmar for achieving EFA goals. Moreover, some disabled children in Yangon, who have graduated from the primary schools in the special education system, can join the ordinary or formal middle and high schools.

In Myanmar, there are seven special schools for disabled students by cooperating with GO and I/LNGOs, most of them are in Yangon.

For blind children, there are three schools; two schools in Yangon and one school in Sagaing, the upper part of Myanmar. The school in Kyeemyintdaing Township, Yangon and the school in Sagaing are both run by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

Also, there are two schools for deaf children from grade one to seven. One is Mary Chapman private school in Yangon and another one government school in Mandalay. After the students from these schools passed grade seven, they can continue their education in normal government schools.

The School for Disabled Children in Mayangone Township in Yangon is operated by the DSW. That school accepts both physically and mentally disabled children from the age of six to eighteen and teaches the standard curriculum up to grade five. In addition, some disabled children who graduated from the primary schools of special education can join the ordinary or formal middle and high schools.

The IE programme was initiated as the Myayadanar, a self-reliant primary school, which was founded in 1993 and now has become as No.25 Basic Education Primary School in Yangon. It is one of the participants of MOE's implementation for IE.

Therefore, this research concentrates on all types of disabled students in primary and lower secondary level from grade one to seven as formal and special education.

This study uses qualitative methods in order to understand the actual situations or phenomenon that occurred in the target community for the significant strengths or advantages within a limited time frame. In that limited time frame, this research only concentrates on basic Education level (primary and lower secondary level) of formal and special schools. Key informant interviews will be used to allow the researcher to get insight into the story of PWDs' access to IE and obstacles of policy implementation.

Data gathering will be from secondary and primary sources. Primary sources of data include two processes; individual and group interviews. For individual interview, the respondents are working for the disability issue in the concerned departments, particularly the DSW and teachers from mainstream and special schools under the Department of Basic Education. In addition, some representatives from INGOs and DPOs who are working in disability field will be conducted interviews for their perspective on the inclusive education policy. Group discussions will include dialogues on what factors promote or inhibit CWDs to obtain basic education opportunities and the problems that faced by CWDs in accessing their education. Primary data collection is done through the information received during the research field work in the target area. The focus group discussions and interviews will be conducted in appropriate places for CWDs due to lack of opportunities and other barriers.

Secondary data collection will be obtained by gathering information and records related to the government's IE policy and the impact of its strategies through the review of the relevant legislative documents of EFA, literature related to PWDs, statistical data for Educational Status of PWDs in Myanmar and other documents related to the subject of this research. The secondary data primarily focuses on the existing documents and literatures related to the thesis purpose and the research questions.

Key Informant Interviews

Government Officials

CWDs, PWDs, DPOs and I/LNGOs

Department of Social Welfare

Department of Basic Education

Department of Myanmar Education Research Bureau (DMERB)

School Principal and teachers from formal and special schools

Representatives from DPOs and I/LNGOs

Students with disabilities from formal and special schools

Children with disabilities

Family members of CWDs

Community representatives

Scope of the Research and Limitations

The field research will be conducted in Yangon Division because most of the special schools and trainings for PWDs are based in Yangon, Mandalay and Sagaing. The target group of this research was limited to student with disabilities who are attending Basic Education level (primary and lower secondary level) of formal and special schools. In Myanmar, there are not many INGOs to empower PWDs and most of the LNGOs and DPOs are only providing awareness for PWDs and vocational training, or rehabilitation activities for PWDs and do not have many other activities, especially related to basic education for PWDs. An example of this is the Myanmar Disabled People Network only as a rehabilitation site for PWDs, both for the young and the old. Also, there is no available research analyzing the IE of PWDs in Myanmar. This study will be significant in highlighting the key factors that impact the IE policy of PWDs in Myanmar. The research will also provide a better understanding of the main contribution of the IE policy for CWDs that will provide an understanding of the problems that are being faced by CWDs as well as to evaluate whether the government policy on education benefits for CWDs sufficiently.

The main limitation experienced in this study was the time constraint of conducting the field research. Key format interviews were conducted with PWDs in Yangon Division, some parents of CWDs, I/LNGOs and DPOs that are working in disabled issue. It would have been useful to broaden the scope of the research to include other government departments. Also some Ministries were not entirely available for interview although the proper aspects of interviewing were followed. Thus, the additional information for the research and limited the extent of the field work that could be undertaken.

Significance of the Research

There is currently a lack of available research analyzing up-to-date data on the educational level of PWDs in Myanmar. This study will be crucial in highlighting the increasing inequality and discrimination against PWDs. It is hoped that this research can help people to become aware of disability issues and to acknowledge the current role and future potential of the IE policy in dealing with educational opportunities for CWDs, particularly those involved with IE policy. Overall, the main contribution of this research will continue to provide an understanding of the problems that are being faced by people with disabilities as well as to evaluate whether the government IE policy on benefits CWDs sufficiently or if it should be amended. Furthermore, it is hoped that this research can become a valuable document for future researchers of disability studies to use in their research projects as their secondary data.

Ethical Issues

Ethical issues have been carefully considered. For the security concern as well as for the privacy issue, it is necessary to consider the ethical issues of the respondents participating in this research work. Most PWDs are exposed to stigmatization and prejudice within the community so there will be some ethical considerations in processing the field research in the targeted community. The interviews with key informants will be only conducted after participant's understanding and agreement to participate are attained. The participants or respondents shall be informed of their approval beforehand, and they also will be given the right to withdraw from the interview at any time.

Analyzing the concept of inclusive education and its policy framework and implementation in Myanmar

International Norms on Education for children with disabilities

The commitment of IE was made by the governmental and institutional agreement of Salamanca in 1994. After a few years, EFA and the Millennium Development Goal for universal primary education were also adopted as the global education agenda to be achieved by 2015. After fifteen years getting agreement of Salamanca, the UNCRPD recognizes a right to education for people with disabilities. So the global commitment of IE has strengthened between Salamanca and the CRPD. By the Article 24 of the UN CRPD stated that all state parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

Facilitating the learning of Braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication and orientation and mobility skills, and facilitating peer support and mentoring;

Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deaf-blind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.

In order to help ensure the realization of this right, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to employ teachers, including teachers with disabilities, who are qualified in sign language and/or Braille, and to train professionals and staff who work at all levels of education. Such training shall incorporate disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, educational techniques and materials to support PWDs.

Also the right to an education without discrimination is stated in the UDHR (1948) and CRC (1989).  The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically declares the rights of CWDs to enjoy a full and decent life in conditions that promote self-reliance, and facilitate the child's active participation in the community. Moreover, Rule 6 of the UN's Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for PWDs (UN, 1993) provides for equal rights for children and adults with disabilities and for the provision of an integrated school setting.  

Myanmar is undertaking the ASEAN Decade for PWDs, Bali Declaration on the Enhancement of the Role and Participation of the PWDs in ASEAN Community, BIWAKO Millennium Framework, and BIWAKO plus Five in close collaboration with regional countries.

Policy development on Education for people with disabilities in Myanmar

Myanmar Child law for especially for education

Myanmar Child Law was enacted in July 1993 in order to implement the rights of the child recognized in CRC. The Article 20 of that Child Law stated that (a) every child shall have the opportunities of acquiring education and the right to acquire free basic education (primary level) at state schools. Also the Ministry of Education shall have an objective of implementing the system of free and compulsory primary education; lay down and carry out measures as may be necessary for regular attendance at schools and the reduction of untimely drop-out rates and make arrangements for literacy of children who are unable for various reasons to attend schools opened by the States to become literate. Article 22 stipulates that every child shall have the right of access to literature contributory to his or her all-round development and to acquire knowledge. According to Article 18, a mentally or physically disabled child (i) has the right to acquire basic education (primary level) or vocational education at the special schools established by the DSW or by a voluntary social worker or by a non-governmental organization and (ii) has the right to obtain special care and assistance from the State.

Myanmar basic education law

The basic education law was promulgated in 1973 and amended in 1989. The aim of the government's education policy is to create an education system that can generate a learning society capable of facing the challenges of the knowledge age (MOE, 2007). According to the Basic Education Law (1973), the main objective of basic education especially for children with disabilities is to enable every citizen of the Union of Myanmar to become a physical or mental worker well equipped with a basic education, good health and moral character.

The National Constitution of 1974 specified that every citizen shall have the right to education and shall be given basic education which the state prescribes by law as compulsory. By the principle of compulsory education, the only five years, from grade 1 to 5, covers free education for all children. Primary education is organized with two level; kindergarten level from grade 1 to 3, and upper primary for grades 4 and 5. Also, the new Constitution of 2008 fulfilled with the educational policy for every citizen; (a) has the right to education; (b) shall be given basic education which the Union prescribes by law as compulsory; and (c) have the right to conduct scientific research explore science, work with creativity and write to develop the arts and conduct research freely other branches of culture.

According to the education policy of 1989, MOE is organized with nine main departments such as Basic Education I, II, and III; Educational Planning and Training; Higher Education (Lower and Upper Myanmar); Myanmar Board of Examinations; Myanmar Education Research Bureau (MERB); and Myanmar Language Commission. The departments Basic Education I, II, and III are implementing the basic education policy. Special education is under the authority of DSW. For the decision making process at all level of MOE, the decision making committee is set up with the Minister, two Deputy Ministers, Director General and Chairperson of the departments. The decisions of this committee are implemented by those responsible departments of all levels.

Based on the Dakar EFA Framework for Global Action and the Millennium Development Goals, Myanmar has formulated national EFA Goals as Myanmar's needs and context through a participatory process involving the UN organizations, various Ministries and I/LNGOs. The four concerned areas for achieving the goal of EFA in Myanmar are access to and quality of basic education, early childhood development, non-formal education, and education management and information system. To implement the goal of EFA, MOE uses six main strategies especially for developing and expanding Child Friendly Schools and making more accessible in basic education for all children with disabilities. Through the EFA National Action Plan (EFA-NAP), therefore, the Ministry of Education has established an inclusive education framework in accordance with international standards and goals that addresses EFA goals directly.

The latest curriculum for primary was revised since 1998 for having a more balanced rather than emphasizing only academic subjects. The school principals and teachers are the main task for monitoring and evaluating on the impact of curriculum for children's development. "Life skills" was made mandatory for inclusion at the primary level as a separate core curriculum in 1998 and at secondary level as separate co-curriculum in 2001. Contents, teaching-learning methods and hours have been carefully specified for primary and secondary school curricula.

Inclusive education policy

In the past decade, there has been significant traditional progress to ensure CWDs who have access in mainstream schools. However, with cultural and knowledge barriers from some school principals and teachers, the journey towards fully inclusive education has only just begun.

A clear understanding of the meaning of IE in the Myanmar context, it has a clear definition in all policy statements along with references to international normative instruments.  In addition, the current implementation processes of IE are following the guidelines of the EFA framework.  IE policy acts on both the national and local level.  At the national level, the government is implementing with new policy of inclusive education, while at the local level schools and the community are participating in the process of capacity building, and resource mobilization for those children with disabilities. The national policy on IE is grounded in international legislation and policy. 

Implementation of IE policy in Myanmar

This research focuses on the primary and lower secondary level students with disabilities for the purpose to address the educational needs of CWDs in Myanmar. The political and social context is discussed in terms of international policy on reforms and initiatives, especially the Salamanca Statement that agreed to ensure a basic education for all children, including CWDs. The Salamanca Framework for Action (1994) was a significant milestone in the education for CWDs: The Statement defines and recommends the mode of service delivery of timing and intervention that linked to inclusive practices. National-level policy and laws as they relate to CWDs are briefly described for service delivery, and increase awareness about the educational opportunities for them.

Myanmar is now implementing 6 sectors for PWDs across the nation such as Enhancing Education Standard, Improving Vocational Trainings and Job Opportunities, Promoting Health Care Service, Enhancing Reintegration into the Society, Upgrading Capacity Building and Morale, and Providing Social Needs. Moreover, the government tries to make the concerted efforts harmoniously for the quality of life of PWDs at pleasant.

According to the guidance of the EFA-NAP, the following activities are being implemented:

Providing primary school textbooks worth over 1835.51 million kyats in free of charges for over 5 million primary students to initiate free, compulsory primary education;

Preparing the programs for scholarships and stipends which will be implemented starting from 2012-13AY in basic and higher education sectors; and

Enacting the private school registration law and developing rules and regulations in coordination with concerned departments to contribute the education services by private sector.

For improving the quality of school education, monitoring and supervision mechanism has been strengthened since 2006-07 AY by focusing on the teaching and learning process. Basic education schools were classified by 5 levels (A, B, C, D, E) based on applying the following monitoring and supervision criteria-

(a) Accomplishment of the school principal;

(b) Level of school attendance;

(c) Implementation of monthly lesson plans;

(d) Students' achievements;

(e) Use of teaching aids, facilities & laboratories;

(f) Cultivating morale and ethics;

(g) Capacity of teaching staff;

(h) Adequate classrooms and furniture;

(i) School sanitation and tidiness;

(j) Adequate teaching aids and multimedia facilities;

(k) Greening of school campus; and

(l) Good physical setting of schools.

Myanmar has been making progress in education sector to fulfill MDG 2: "Achieve universal primary education" with the target of ensuring that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling: however the dropout rate still high in secondary school level. A total of 92 governments including Myanmar and 25 international organizations reaffirmed commitment to the goals of Education for All (EFA), recognizing the necessity and urgency of providing an education for children and youth with special needs within the regular education system. By the official data of net enrollment in primary schools was 84.6% in 2010 (MOE, 2010, EFA in Myanmar) and the gender discrimination has mostly been removed for basic education enrollment. However, the net enrollment rates in secondary and tertiary education are very low. The quality of education at all levels remains a serious concern.

At the present, MOE is making special arrangements for the disabled and other excluded children to attend formal schools and to continue their education receiving special care and attention. In Myanmar, IE programs were formulated to accommodate for all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. These programs include all vulnerable children such as CWDs; children form mobile families, orphans, street children, and other disadvantaged children. No.25 Basic Education Primary School (Yangon) is the best witness of MOE in implementing IE. A new multi-pronged strategy for the capacity building in Teacher Education can promote the progressive adoption of effective teaching and learning methodologies for to all CWDs at all levels. MOE and other partners strengthen educational management for the Basic Education Sector Plan that supports the Government's education services delivery to meet commodities needs at the school level.

IE is a programme that creates opportunities for CWDs to pursue education together with non-disabled children in mainstreaming schools. It can bring about the educational opportunities for them. Nowadays, CWDs who have completed their primary education through special schools are now able to continue their education in mainstreaming schools by keeping abreast with other non-disabled children. IE According to the statistics data from MOE in 2011 showed that, there were 801 disable children in mainstreaming schools, 1450 children in special schools for the blind and the deaf, 30 disable students in universities and colleges and 6 disable students in master degree courses in 2010-11 AY.

The government policy was developed and practiced with policy reform to fill the gap in legal and policy development. As par hearing from media, the advocacy for helping disabled issue more and more in Myanmar. The government policy and legal change occur on resetting criteria for definition of PWDs. Out of nine criteria (international norms), some implementation processes of IE use four criteria to define the PWDs. To be more specific about education opportunities for CWDs, the government agrees to provide all children (including all regardless of physical condition) equal opportunity to learn basic education. In actual situation, there has a gap between policy and practice.

The concept of IE means welcoming all children, without discrimination, in formal schools. Indeed, it is a focus on creating environments responsive to the differing developmental capacities, needs, and potentials of all children. Inclusion means a shift in services from simply trying to fit the child into 'normal settings'; it is a supplemental support for their disabilities on special needs and promoting the child's overall development in an optimal setting. It calls for respect of difference and diversity of individual characteristics and needs. This has to include a consideration of overall organization, curriculum and classroom practice, support for learning and staff development.

The government's and stakeholders' perceptions on inclusive education

IE is under the umbrella of EFA. Myanmar has an IE policy, which most of CWDs has an opportunity to join mainstream schools but obviously limited to those with mild disability because of the lack of capacity, skills and knowledge as well as infrastructure for the teachers and schools. Government ratified EFA goal at UN organization. It is over ambitious and hardly meet its goal due to poverty that causing low income for all poor families. It is more positive as regard to authority inclusive education in future since the new government has practiced its openness policy and more transparent with people. IE policy in Myanmar strongly based up on last three years experiences not only for officers and teachers from MOE in Yangon Division but also other divisions and other stakeholders such as DSW, other I/LNGOs those who work in inclusive livelihood programs so that they can include disabled people in their development activities.

Understanding the concept and philosophy of IE is vital need for the sustainability and success of the project. After implementing the awareness raising activities on this issue especially for CWDs and their parents, the effectiveness of understanding disability and inclusive education concept correctly and it is very encouraging. It is one of essential program for the country and will need to promote amongst other disabled related organizations. IE policy for PWDs has been implemented by its own strategies. It was not seen as an active engagement in formal basic education. The goal is set based on its definition for PWDs. This means that IE policy, itself, needs to be redefined to reach its goal. So far, the current policy and goal work hand in hand. The effectiveness and quality of outcome is not up to the mark due to the government's poor budget allocation in Education Sector.

The effectiveness of IE at this stage seems not only at the government schools, also next to the special schools such as blind school or deaf schools to take students from special schools to arrange exams etc. So there need to have wider understanding of IE, whereby every school need to prepare to accept CWDs to provide same opportunities like other children. And also need a dedicated education department on this. The strategies of inclusive development and mainstreaming everything for PWDs will be very costly and never finish. There has no objection but they need a lot of support. The only problem is prioritization.

The departmental structure for the dedicated handle affairs for CWDs needs either at mainstreamed schools or at special schools and needs to incorporate trainings components for teachers. This has not been done yet a lot. Participation by PWDs in the policy formulation and implementation processes, there need to go a long way for the current Myanmar condition. The government's perspective IE for PWDs;

Myanmar has signed & ratified the UNCRPD on 7th December 2011

IE is already in the discussion & pilot phase in collaboration with concern I/LNGOs

Inclusion is a new concept for Myanmar, where only 12% of I/LNGO are inclusive of PWDs, where inclusive is commonly mistaken with Automatic Beneficiary and part of beneficiaries rather than inclusion as a process.

For ensuring that significant progress is achieved so that all school-age children have access to and complete free and compulsory basic education of good quality, the completion of basic education by all CWDs is the basis form of achieving Universal Basic Education. Nonetheless, the provision of schooling and policies determining how education opportunities are distributed across priority target groups in Myanmar clearly will have far reaching effects on opportunities for productive work. The status and education level of women and girls can exert particularly strong inter-generational effects, and are thus crucial for reducing poverty. Following concerted efforts by the Government, I/LNGOs and communities, the primary school intake rate has increased sharply during the EFA period, although the drop-out rate after finishing the primary level remains high. Quality assurance in basic education is especially important, because low quality can lead to low access if CWDs and their families do not see the impact of enrolment in low-quality schools.

Most of the I/LNGOs do not take part in the position of formulation and implementation process on basic education for CWDs, where mainly focus on the Rights of PWDs and promote equal rights and inclusion through involvement of Law Drafting and Social Policies development. As I/LNGOs, they can only include all children out of school in process of giving second chance of learning basic education. In dealing with government line department, they have not yet involved in formulation process.

Implementing processes of IE by I/LNGOs

TLMI is involving a little part in this area of IE implementation processes. They only conduct trainings for teachers on disability issues, importance of CWDs to get opportunity to attend schools like any other children and providing some barrier free arrangement in selected schools. TLMI is working with the parents of CWDs to convince to send the formal school and on the other hand they also try to engage with school principals to accept and pay attention for those children. Also they proposed the education need of PWDs in the Draft disabled law, advocate the decision makers and teacher, and we are working together with U Tin Nyo, retired DG from MOE who is very interested in IE for CWDs.

Eden initiated the project of IE implementing in formal schools and the plan for barrier free renovation such as walkways, seat toilet and one handrail that fixed in the toilet. In that project, 80 IE students were gathered at Eden Centre for CWDs. Also Eden celebrated the township level awareness meeting for introducing to the teachers for successfully implemented IE policy. It means that the principals and teachers from 21 schools are introducing IE awareness about IE at their schools. Therefore, IE process can only succeed through strong collaboration and cooperation amongst all shareholders especially from the government site and donor site as well.

Eden is cooperating with DSW and MOE. According to their advice, they held workshops and trainings for awareness raising workshop with DSW and MOE and shared awareness about IE and disability issue to other I/LNGOs' staff, local authorities, other stakeholders and teachers from mainstream schools. EDEN organizes a series of mobile training courses throughout Myanmar aimed at helping improve the lives of disabled people which focus on activities such as CBR, IE and disability development. Through the help of DSW and Department of Basic Education No.(1), (2) and (3), awareness training not only about IE but also the Social Model of Disability were conducted at mainstream schools.

"PWDs in Yangon have more chances to access this information with help from NGOs and DSW, but those living in rural areas have difficulties due to inconvenient transportation and lack of mobility," U Hta Oke said. "I'm pleased about the growing number of people working in the field, but most of them are using a charity approach, which involves giving food, money, tools and other necessities," he said. "Not many are using a life-based approach, which means providing training so they can stand on their own feet."

Moreover, for the education status of children with hearing/ seeing/ intellectual disabilities in Myanmar is inadequate and behind-the-times. There is only the DSW has one project on sign language especially for people with hearing disability. There is no standard educational practice. Teachers learn by copying the methods of older teachers. The Mary Chapman School in Yangon uses the philosophy "Total Communication" that is method has been a widely adopted language policy in deaf education from the 1970s. But this philosophy is out-dated. Graduation rates are very low. In Yangon Division, only 14 students with hearing disability have passed high school and only six have graduated from university until 2011-2012 academic years. According to the UN CRPD agreement emphasizes bi-lingual/bi-cultural education for people with hearing disability. Also, Braille e-mail and Internet have been developed and utilized in the training school for persons with visual impairments since 2006.

In general, the technical for education and training initiatives are not new to Myanmar. As a result of some recent educational developments and reforms, it is new to some teachers and learners both in curriculum and methods of delivery. One of the most important concerns in the Myanmar educational sector is how CWDs can be provided with opportunities to take responsibility for their learning throughout the concepts of community involvement and technical assistance to achieve a sustainable future.

Special schools which are supported IE for CWDs

Myanmar has a policy of IE, which means disabled students, including those who are blind, are allowed to attend classes in mainstream schools. Despite the policy, mainstream schools are not properly equipped to cater for students with disabilities which mean that most CWDs are forced to attend special schools. There are challenges to implementing the policy, since schools lack the required resources and facilities.

Myanmar Christian Fellowship of the Blind (MCFB) was founded on 4th August, 1975, to upgrade the basic level of education afforded to blind people in order to increase opportunities of leading independent in life styles. That foundation encourages beneficiaries in education specific to their needs including vocational training, as well as a focus on how to cope as a blind parent and job placements. The MCFB accepts children aged five and above and enrolls a similar method to the government mainstreaming schools. At that school, students can learn from grade 1 to 5 and then they can continue their secondary education in formal school. That school charges Kyats 15,000 a year for day students and Kyats 40,000-50,000 for boarding students, which covers accommodation, meals and tuition fees. However, there are over 700 blind and visually impaired students receive a formal or vocational education.

"The schools should be equipped with teaching materials in Braille, and teachers who know how to teach the blind by using Braille," said Mr. Thein Lwin, the general secretary of MCFB.

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