Despite the use of the expression in official documents, an explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found.
Special education needs
Despite the use of the expression in official documents, an explicit definition of special education needs has not been found.
Education for persons with disabilities occurs in special education settings. Special education needs institutions, such as therapeutic pedagogic kindergartens and special schools, have been reported to have led to segregation and exclusion of girls and boys with disabilities. As of 2018, there were six special schools located in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, including four for children with mental disabilities, one for children with visual impairments and one for children with hearing impairments. Special schools for the blind and the deaf accommodate learners from rural areas; however, many families decide not to separate young children from their social environment by sending them to Ulaanbaatar.
Domestic migration has led to overload in the major cities, requiring education to be provided in shifts. Furthermore, children who are defined as ‘non-belong’ – meaning they are not in the population registry of the district in which they are supposed to be studying – or ‘out of enrolment district’ cannot attend schools, and dropouts have increased.
For children from herding families, who move across the vast territory of Mongolia, dormitories have been considered a valid solution. In the 2012/13 school year, there were 502 dormitories accommodating children among whom 90 percent were from herding families.
In 2017, a project financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) planned to construct or expand 5 schools and 12 kindergartens in low-income and poorly served districts of Ulaanbaatar, namely Bayanzurkh and Songinokhairkhan, the main destinations of internal rural migrants. Other schools are expected to be built in the districts of Bayangol, Chingeltei, Khan-Uul, Nalaikh and Sukhbaatar and in the aimag centres of Altai, Darkhan, Sainshand and Sumber, which have large classes and are forced to implement up to three shifts of classes. The project, supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports (MECSS), targets about 11,000 primary and secondary students and 4,500 pre-primary students enrolled in the newly constructed or expanded schools and kindergartens.
The 1992 Constitution of Mongolia, as amended in 2001, prohibits any form of discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin or status, property, occupation or position, religion, opinion or education (Art. 14.2) and lays down the right to education for every citizen (Art. 16.7). The right to obtain education at all levels and to receive free general education is reiterated in the 2002 Law on Education, last amended in 2012 (Art. 6). The law states that education must be free, accessible and adjusted to individual and development needs (Art. 5.1.3).
Within this legal framework, the 2014–24 education policy intends to establish a comprehensive education system to support all citizens, encouraging lifelong learning based on national common values. The 2006–15 education sector plan, approved by Decision No. 192 of 2006, clearly states its intention to make education provision accessible and inclusive at all levels and territories by creating the same opportunities for rural and socially disadvantaged groups. More recently, in 2018, the Government of Mongolia, the Government of Japan and Save the Children signed a memorandum of understanding to implement a project aiming at promoting inclusive education and focusing on children who have been left behind. Among its objectives, the project intends to create an inclusive education system in regular schools, strengthen the structure and capacity of lifelong learning centres, reach out to out-of-school children and institutionalize successful practices of inclusive education by enhancing coordination mechanisms.
The 2006 Law on Social Security of Persons with Disabilities defined the services for and rights of the group, including access to education and vocational skill trainings, and prohibited the denial of enrolment in any education and vocational institutions because of disabilities. Following the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, the 2016 Law on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities expands the right to education of persons with disabilities, providing them with the opportunity to obtain education with their peers (Art. 14.1) and to be included in regular education institutions at all levels (Art. 14.3.1). Informed by the principles of non-discrimination and full and equal participation, it further mandates the national central authorities to provide inclusive education for children and youth with disabilities, ‘regardless of gender, location, social and economic background’, and to align the national curriculum to their needs (Art. 14.3.2).
In education legislation, the 2002 Law on Education, last amended in 2012, reaffirms the right of persons with disabilities to equal education opportunities, while the 2008 Law on Preschool Education allows children with mild disability to be enrolled in regular kindergartens, with up to two children per group (Art. 9.10). To create favorable conditions, higher education fees are covered by the state. The 2002 Law on Higher Education encourages the enrolment of students with disabilities through distance and part-time attendance.
As a matter of policy, the 2004 Child-friendly School Policy was adopted with the aim of increasing the quality and efficacy of education provision for children with disabilities, in part by providing opportunities for equal learning through special support and assistance. Learning modules were developed at school level and national training was organized focusing on equal opportunity and a learning-friendly school environment.
The 2006–15 education sector plan outlines specific actions for children with disabilities in order to provide them with comprehensive inclusive education, such as early and ongoing needs assessment, additional learning support and assistance for professionals. At the primary and secondary education levels, it reiterates the intention to enrol children and youth with disabilities in regular schools, while at the early childhood education level, it aims to formulate specialized policy. More recently, a 2016–20 action plan called for the creation of adequate conditions to enable children with disabilities to study together with their peers. Within this policy framework, the 2017/A/321 programme to support the rights, participation and development of persons with disabilities was approved by the MECSS, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
To support the priorities set out in the Mongolia Sustainable Development Vision 2030 and the 2016–20 action plan for the education sector, the 2017 ADB-financed project set out to provide equal, inclusive and practical education services, allowing every child in urban areas to enrol in a kindergarten. It further intends to address the issue of over-enrolment and eliminate the three shifts in schools and has planned to introduce a system of quality management at all levels of education.
The 2011 Law on Promotion of Gender Equality lays legal foundations for equal gender rights. It ensures equal rights in the sphere of education and culture, in particular in terms of opportunities to obtain preschool, primary, secondary, vocational and higher education, to be enrolled in professional training and re-training, and to receive a scholarship or technical counselling (Art. 12.1). Gender discrimination is not admitted but differentiations are made in the case of education provision designed to cater for the specific needs of one particular sex (Art. 6.5.1) and for the recruitment of certain workers, such as in preschool education institutions (Art. 6.5.6). To implement the law, the 2013–16 Mid-Term Strategy and Action Plan on the Implementation of the Law of Mongolia on Promotion of Gender Equality aims to mainstream gender across sectoral policies.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
According to Article 8 of the Constitution of Mongolia, national minorities have the right to use their native languages to learn and communicate. The 2002 Law on Education, as amended in 2006, permits the use of the local language for communicating in the school environment (Art. 30.1.12). In Mongolia, Kazakh and Tuvan people are considered ethnic minorities. They have the right to free access to pre-primary and primary education in their mother tongue. Special quotas are reserved for Tuvan students to access higher education in national higher education institutions.
The 2017 ADB project includes activities that promote education among indigenous people, for instance by improving textbooks and other teaching and learning materials in the Kazakh language, developing standards and gender and ethnic diversity-sensitive criteria, and by providing tailored training programmes for the education of managers and teachers.
People living in rural or remote areas
Urban and rural, downtown and outskirt districts report disparity in terms of access to primary and secondary education. The 2006–15 education sector plan committed to addressing these disparities in conditions and access by creating multi-optional services for children in rural areas and children from very poor families, such as family-centred, mobile and seasonal early childhood education service in rural areas.
Rural-to-urban migration has resulted in overcrowded schools in the city suburbs, hampering education access and challenging the quality of education provision. Domestic migration is expected to be taken into consideration in education policy and planning.
Since 2000, the country has undertaken several measures to reduce the burden of education expenses on poor households. The cost of dormitories, the distribution of textbooks, and the provision of school uniforms and learning tools have been covered. As stated in the 2002 Law on Education, residence in school dormitories in secondary and vocational training centres is free of charge (Art. 43.2).
Since 2004, for example, the Child Money programme has issued a monthly education grant for poor households with more than three children. A school lunch programme has been in place since 2006 as an incentive to reduce absenteeism and school dropout in primary school. The 2006–15 education sector plan intends to expand the programmes, in particular to support rural and peripheral areas.
In 2003, an Inclusive Education Unit was set up under the MECSS. A committee was established to enhance collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare for promoting inclusive education initially at the preschool level, later extended to primary level.
Concerning gender, the National Committee on Gender Equality was established in 2005 under the Prime Minister’s leadership to coordinate gender equality policies across ministries at the national level. With the adoption and implementation of the 2011 Law on Promotion of Gender Equality, its roles and responsibilities were redefined to strengthen intersectoral coordination.
The implementation of the 2003–08 national programme on inclusive education for children with disabilities, run by the MECSS in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, has marked a shift in the approach towards inclusive education, involving multiple actors, from international non-government organizations, such as Save the Children UK, to schools and communities, including the Association of Parents with Disabled Children. A bilateral cooperation with the Swedish International Development Agency followed in 2006–12. As of 2017, UNICEF Mongolia was collaborating with the MECSS on an inclusive education policy document with the goal of expanding the provision of quality education for children with disabilities in regular schools.
The standards BD 31-04 on planning buildings address design standards for persons with disabilities. The Law on Construction reiterates the commitment to considering the special needs of persons with disabilities (Art. 9.1.3 and 10.1.3). The Law on Education also states that building and construction, technical tools and equipment of education institutions must meet specific requirements in order to cater for the special needs of all learners.
Curriculum and learning materials
A curriculum for special needs education was approved in 2005 and implemented starting in the 2005/06 academic year. It takes into account the needs of children with disabilities, adopting a more flexible approach.
Special curricula have been developed according to type of disability. For example, in 2013, separate curricula for schools for mentally disabled children, schools for children with hearing impairments and schools for children with visual impairments were developed. In 2018, a correctional and rehabilitation programme was developed, followed by the adoption of a methodology for designing individual lessons.
In collaboration with the Ethnic Minority Children’s Unit of the Education Institute and local teachers, UNICEF Mongolia developed textbooks and guidelines specifically for ethnic minority children. In 2013, the curriculum for primary schools was translated into Kazakh and Tuvan. In 2018, a curriculum of mother-tongue language and culture was developed for children overseas.
As regards gender, gender content, methodology and evaluation are required to be incorporated into education standards and curricula. Textbooks, learning materials and aids used in general education schools and other education institutions must respect gender equality.
In conformity with UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guidelines, a regulation on professional training for teachers and staff of primary and secondary education institutions was adopted. However, systematic inclusive teacher trainings and available inclusive education teaching staff have been reported to be lacking.
The 2006–15 education sector plan aimed to train teachers to work with children with development disabilities both at early childhood education level and at primary and secondary levels. The School of Education Studies and the School of Teachers of the Mongolian State University of Education, the country's main pre-service teacher training university, have introduced different curricula for training preschool and primary teachers in inclusive education for children with special needs. Yet, although Mongolian Sign Language is formally recognized by law, neither systems to train sign language teachers nor steps to promote professional training and accreditation of sign language interpreters are available. Braille can only be learned in special schools, and teaching materials are prepared and provided to an insufficient extent, only produced by the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind and mostly with the support of donors. Mongolian teachers receive training on sign language outside the country.
Specific initiatives have been implemented over time. For example, a course on special needs education was introduced in 2004 as part of in-service training, and basic sign language training was organized in some provinces for teachers and others. On a larger scale, teachers of primary and pre-primary schools received training on needs identification, the special needs education concept and inclusive education for children with disabilities, with support from the UN Child fund, the ADB and Save the Children UK.
According to the latest amendments to the 2002 Law on Education, from 2013 and 2016, professional physicians, nurses, assistant teachers, rehabilitation workers and psychologists are to be recruited in regular secondary schools and in special secondary schools in order to deliver rehabilitation, recreational and basic medical services to children with disabilities.
Teachers are entitled to receive additional benefits or assistance when deployed in remote areas. Legal and economic encouragement mechanisms are encouraged to contribute to the supply of teachers in rural areas.
The MECSS organized teacher training on teaching in Kazakh and Tuvan in 2019.
The MECSS is responsible for collecting data on the number of children with disabilities studying in preschool and secondary education institutions, while the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for data on the number of persons with disabilities receiving education services, by age cohort.
The ADB project includes several indicators to be computed for its monitoring and evaluation.