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Dubai private schools to be fully inclusive by 2020

Dubai Inclusive Education Policy aims to transform all private schools to be fully inclusive by 2020

Dubai: Students with determination, or those with special education needs, may enroll in any mainstream private early childhood learning centre, school or university in Dubai without the risk of rejection by 2020, officials assured on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the launch of the Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework by the Inclusive Education Task Force headed by the Knowledge of Human Development Authority (KHDA) that aims to transform all Dubai private schools to be fully inclusive by 2020.

The policy framework for inclusive education is in line with the Dubai Disabilities Strategy, which aims to make the city a fully cohesive and inclusive society, one where the rights and access to equitable opportunities for people of determination are assured and protected.

The inclusive education framework has been developed to support the UAE’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as well as federal and local legislation that calls for the inclusion of all learners, regardless of ability, in the education sector. 

Fatima Belherif, Executive-Director of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau, said the policy was launched after listening and talking to 537 stakeholders composed of parents, children with determination, teachers, childcarers, and others.

Belherif said the policy aims to make sure that the journey of differently-abled children is barrier-free.

"We're not anymore [adopting] the medical model. 'They have to be treated, they have a disease, they need to be fixed.' No, on the contrary, we're here promoting the social model, where they have an impairment, they have a disability, when they interact with the environment, then something is created as a barrier. It could be an attitudinal, physical, or educational barrier. So these are "created" because we're not trying to focus on how to accommodate the child but rather focusing on "fixing" the child or the issue," Belherif said.

Belherif said the policy ensures that every child, regardless of his or her ability, will be admitted to their school of choice. That the child is seen as a child first and is able to learn with their peers in their natural setting.

Under the policy framework, all private educational bodies under KHDA are required to transform their schools into a common learning environment that can accommodate regular students and students identified as experiencing special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The policy will be implemented in stages. All private education will have to be fully inclusive by 2020. 

The framework provides 10 key standards that will serve as action plans for all schools to provide inclusive education services.

Based on the guidelines, school admission, including in the early years, will not be conditional on the submission of a medical diagnosis.

This means, students who experience SEND should not be denied admission but should be given a ‘sibling priority’ status for admission.

Schools will have to retrofit their current premises and facilities to make it accessible to everyone in accordance with the Dubai Universal Accessibility Code. The code ensures that everything from the thickness of handrails to the minimum distance of accessible toilets in public buildings are accessible to older people, and people with or without disabilities.

The framework also requires schools to establish Inclusion Support Teams composed of the principal, a support teacher, and learning support assistants.

Schools must provide a minimum of one support teacher per 200 students and one learning support assistant per 125 students.

Higher education providers should also establish an ‘Accessibility Office’ to provide support to students who experience SEND.

More details to follow...

- with inputs from Faisal Masudi, Staff Reporter