By Tungalag Dondogdulam, “All for Education” (AFE) Mongolia
The need for action to improve access to education of children with disabilities was articulated in the 2005 education sector review, and in the Master Plan (2006-2015) of Mongolia. In 2019, nearly 70% of school-aged children with disabilities are enrolled in primary and secondary schools, according to data provided by the Association of Parents with Differently-Abled Children (a member of AFE Mongolia).
Children with disabilities tend to start school later than the official school entry age and they are likely to drop out, especially from Grade 1. The majority of children with disabilities who did not enroll in schools and dropped were children who have multiple disabilities, children with mobility impairment, and children with mental disabilities (JICA, 2017).
The idea of inclusion has been promoted by international organisations and local NGOs since 2003, and led to a 2016 amendment of the Mongolian Education Law after adoption of the ‘Law on the Rights of People with Disabilities’. The Ministry of Education has taken several steps towards inclusive education, especially groundbreaking regulation on inclusive education of children with disabilities in regular schools, and instruction on providing support for children with disabilities.
Detecting learning difficulties and including children who have them in mainstream education settings is very new to Mongolia (MIER, 2019). Teachers in crowded schools were not confident about including children with cognitive impairments, citing large class sizes and their own lack of training as reasons for this.
Mongolia has unique challenges of a dispersed population living across a vast territory. There are a handful of special schools concentrated only in Ulaanbaatar. There is little other choice but to implement an inclusive education strategy for children with disabilities
“It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education. Those who do not believe, this have small imaginations”, as Nelson Mandela once said.
AFE Mongolia has big aspirations to bring all children into schools.