Progress in Introducing Inclusive Education for Primary and Secondary School in Indonesia

Children activities in primary education in Indonesia

All Indonesian citizens have the right to obtain the right to quality education. No one can be discriminated against based on their different talents and needs. Different ethnicity, religion, race, disability, gender, and other social conditions must not prevent one to receive equal access to quality education. 

Improved access to quality education will equip Indonesian citizens with the life skills they need and will allow them to participate equally in Indonesia’s development as enshrined in Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution.

Improved access to quality education will equip Indonesian citizens with the life skills they need and will allow them to participate equally in Indonesia’s development as enshrined in Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution.

Indonesian Ministry of Education and Cultures through its Directorate of Public and Special Education have continued its efforts to implement Law Number 8 of 2016 on Disability and other legal regulation including Law No. 20/2003 on the National Education System that requires Indonesia to guarantee access to quality education for children with disabilities and practice inclusive education at the primary and secondary level. These legal frameworks also require education institutions to continue to adopt and adjust the local, national and global challenges. 

Reform towards achieving an inclusive education sector requires well planned, directed and sustainable pathways. Consistent with this, the Ministry of Education and Culture drafted a Roadmap for the Implementation of Inclusive Education for 2019-2024. The roadmap includes attempts to strengthen the adoption of  inclusive education principles with a modified model in primary education; broaden  the implementation of inclusive education at the secondary education; promote diversity; improve  the quality of services to students  by involving parents and the community.

Although inclusive education has been mandated in the National Education System regulation, its implementation is still far from the expectation. To date, there are only 29,315 primary and secondary schools that have introduced inclusive education principles. It means only about 11 per cent of the total schools in Indonesia have implemented inclusive education.

In order to continue to develop an inclusive culture one strategy that is considered important by the Ministry is by creating a forum where institutions and stakeholders can discuss challenges and achievements in improving and practising inclusive education. 

I was invited to be part of this forum and attended the meeting in September. It is one  positive sign that comes from the Ministry to include people with lived experience like myself. This is an inclusive practice where a person with disability is invited and included to participate in the decision making process. My work at the Centre of Disability Services and Research (PSLD) at Brawijaya University and at Australia-Indonesia Disability Research and Advocacy Network (AIDRAN) have been important in how I can contribute to the discussion. My colleague, a researcher from AIDRAN, was also invited to be part of this activity however he could not fly to Jakarta from Surabaya due to Covid-19 restriction. 

During the meeting, we discussed how to develop strategies to foster and progress with implementing inclusive education at primary and secondary schools as well as at early childhood education. We review the Roadmap for the Implementation of Inclusive Education in 2020-2024; the General Guidelines for the Implementation of Inclusive Education; develop Guidelines for the Admission of Students with Disabilities (PPDB) in Regular Schools; develop Guidelines for the Implementation of Learning Process and Assessment of Children with Special Needs in Schools that provide Inclusive Education; prepare the Campaign Materials for Inclusive Education; and, prepare Monitoring and Evaluation Instruments for the Implementation of Inclusive Education at the Provincial, Regency/City, and the Education Unit levels.

The meeting was done through online and face-to-face. A focus group discussion was carried out through the working groups based on the thematic issue. I was in a group where we discussed the new student admission guidelines (PPDB).

The discussion started by mapping exercises to look at the challenges and issues faced by inclusive schools, special schools, and public schools that accommodate students with special needs. Then, we continued with drafting the PPDB guidelines based on existing regulations, including Government Regulation Number 44 of 2019 concerning New Student Admission and Government Regulation Number 13 of 2020 concerning Adequate Accommodation for Students with Disabilities. There are 5 points discussed regarding the contents of the guidelines.

The five main points being discussed include the 1) the provisions for the admission of new students with special needs, 2) the requirements for admission, 3) the regulation on Age restrictions, 4) the regulation on the school Capacity, and 5) the Schedule for the acceptance of new prospective students with special needs. 

One of the interesting discussions that came up during the coordination meeting was on the issue around how children with severe disabilities should be admitted to public / inclusive schools or directed to special schools.

The issue of age restrictions for prospective students with disabilities who intend to enter both primary and secondary education levels is still a matter of debate. 

Similar to the problem of age limits, school capacity was also one of the concerns since each school does not have the same infrastructures in accepting students with disabilities.

Overall, the most significant issues that were discussed is the need to finalise the guidelines given that this needs to be used next year. Therefore, this activity will continue and be held regularly with the objective to  finalise the guidelines so that it can be introduced immediately. 

In conclusion, I can see the progress is evolving and that the Indonesian government, through the Ministry of Education and Culture, is striving to improve and accelerate the implementation of inclusive education in accordance as regulated in Law No. 8/2016.

The fact that the government involves academics, educators, people with lived experiences demonstrates a participatory and inclusive process. This gives hope that as a community, we can engage with the government and other stakeholders to advance the inclusion of people with disability in the community through the promotion of the rights to education for children with disabilities.

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