In Tajikistan, compulsory education (primary and lower-secondary) is guaranteed for all children, free of charge, under Article 41 of Tajikistan’s Constitution. Basic education starts at age seven years and lasts nine years: four years of primary and five years of lower secondary. There are two years of upper secondary education. Together, grades 1-11 are referred to as general secondary education.
Enrolment and completion of the primary cycle are near universal, with gender parity. However, there are some children who still fail to access quality education. The situation has been recognized by the Ministry of Education and efforts have commenced to ensure that all children within Tajikistan are afforded their right to basic education.
The framework for education in Tajikistan is set out in a suite of legislation, ensuring rights of children to education and the roles and responsibilities of government, headmasters, teachers, and parents.The Law on Education, as revised in 2013, stipulates that all children, regardless of health, nationality, race, sex, health status and religion have the right to free education.
The specific arrangements for education are largely described in the National Strategy for Education Development 2020, which was approved by the Government in July 2012. Its main goal is to create the conditions to ensure universal access to relevant and quality education.
Considerable endeavours have been undertaken in recent years to ensure access to education for all children, including the most marginalized.
Within the Ministry of Education, a focal person for Inclusive Education was established under the Department for Boarding Schools and Special Education, which underscores the importance the Ministry is placing on Inclusive Education. The Ministry of Education also annually organises a summer school that promotes and offers inclusive education.
In 2011 the Government adopted the “National Concept on Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities in the Republic of Tajikistan for 2011-2015”, which aims to create a national model for inclusion of people with disabilities into the general educational process. The concept paper emerged from the International Conference on Inclusive Education, hosted by the Ministry of Education.
The Early Childhood Education curriculum, supported by UNICEF and Aga Khan Foundation and adopted by the Ministry of Education in 2013, promotes inclusive education and the accompanying teacher training package offers support and example to teachers on the concept of inclusive education.
With the support of Open Society Foundations, the Ministry of Education established a Resource Centre Chair for Inclusive Education, and the Tajik the Tajik State Pedagogical University has opened a Centre on Inclusive Education and is offering courses to its students (pre-service teachers) in inclusive education.
Moreover, parents’ associations and local NGOs within Tajikistan are actively working to promote inclusive education and ensure the right to access quality education for CwD.
Under the framework of the National Strategy for Education Development 2020 (NSED), the Ministry of Education and the Academy of Education, in cooperation with the World Bank, UNICEF, and other partners, are in the process of revising the general secondary school curriculum. The revised curriculum is envisaged to promote inclusive education through a competency-based framework.
The recently approved Global Partnership for Education grant also includes components for funding of teaching and learning materials and rehabilitation of schools for accessibility, underscoring the importance the Ministry of Education is placing on inclusive education. This work will be supported by a baseline study supported by UNICEF to map and identify children with disabilities for better programming and access to schools.
The coinciding interest in inclusive education and the Ministry of Education’s intentions to revise the INSET programme opens up a unique opportunity to address one of the key bottlenecks to inclusive education: teachers’ skills and competencies to work with children with disabilities. To pursue this opportunity, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, aims to develop an INSET course to train teachers in the concepts and pedagogical methods associated with inclusive education.
The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Open Society Institute, will be hosting another International Conference on Inclusive Education in November 2013 which aims to provide a forum for learning and promoting an inclusive education environment within the sector.
All of this work will contribute to ensuring that every child in Tajikistan has access to quality, inclusive education.