In alignment with the 2012 Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE)’s inclusion strategy, an inclusive education (IE) pilot program was launched in 2018, covering 30 public schools from all five Lebanese governorates. The program sought to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education (i.e., those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis).1
Prior to the program, children with disabilities in Lebanon were more likely to receive little formal education or be taught in specialized institutions than in the mainstream education system, which contributed to promoting a culture of exclusion and segregation of people with disabilities.2
The Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) launched an inclusion strategy in 2012, but the implementation of this strategy was hindered by a lack of funding.3
In 2018, MEHE initiated the implementation of the inclusion strategy through an IE pilot program funded by donors. The 30 public schools involved were chosen according to geographic distribution across the five Lebanese governorates, making them accessible to as many children with disabilities as possible. The IE Program aimed to enroll children with disabilities in public schools and increase capacity in both the education system and communities to provide an inclusive education. Children with disabilities were accepted unconditionally into these 30 schools, and they were granted seats in regular classes, but their access to specialized disability services within the school required a doctor’s or a psychologist assessment.
Under the program, 30 full-time special educators, one per school, and a team of part-time specialists (psychologists, psychomotor therapists, and speech therapists) provide specialized educational support. The Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD) and the Lebanese University Faculty of Education trained teachers and principals in inclusive education, including the MTSS methodology (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) and differentiated instruction (i.e., tailored lessons to the student’s needs).
A Special Education Needs unit was established under MEHE to monitor the program and to develop teacher training materials, such as teaching guides for cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, and intellectual development disorders. A referral system was established to ensure that children with disabilities could access intervention services and equipment if needed (technical supplies, assistive devices).
Awareness raising sessions were held for the community and parents to introduce the concept of inclusive education, the positive impact it has on learners and the community, and the rights of children with disabilities.
The program is part of a wider USD 15 million project titled “Education Access and Quality Learning in Lebanon,” financed by the Canadian government and implemented by UNICEF. The amount disbursed for the inclusive education program is not clear.4
The 30 schools benefited from special educators, specialized equipment, and services, in addition to teachers that were better trained in inclusive education practices. Community awareness and engagement initiatives reached over 3,500 persons, and a further 5,910 children with disabilities received support to enroll in education, both formal and non-formal (i.e., school trips, after school activities, and social interactions).5
A 2021 UNICEF evaluation highlighted that with the specialized support on offer, the pilot schools had been able to adopt inclusive policies (i.e., MTSS and differentiated instruction mentioned above). As a result, by the 2019-20 school year, the 30 public schools targeted had 1,547 students (59 percent boys, 41 percent girls) with disabilities enrolled into public classes, up from 1,147 in the 2018-19 school year. 75 percent of newly enrolled learners had learning difficulties, 18 percent had behavioral difficulties, and 5 percent had intellectual disabilities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was adapted to provide inclusive distance learning, such as tailored videos and audio files addressed to different types of disabilities, which were distributed through Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, voice calls, and emails. The adaptation process was closely monitored through weekly logs.6 Despite the crisis management plan for inclusive education, many children with disabilities still dropped out of education.7 Moreover, due to the economic crisis, many families could no longer afford to send their children to school: in 2022, 72 percent of parents reported that they could not afford their children’s education, leading to a decrease in school enrolment from 60 percent of all school-age children in 2020-21 to 43 percent in 2021-22.8
In 2021, due to the success of the pilot, the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office financed the expansion of the pilot to 60 schools (evaluations are not yet available). The MEHE plans to gradually transform all public schools into inclusive schools as part of the 2030 Agenda.9 However, given the extreme economic crisis Lebanon started facing in 2019, the ability to roll out the program nationwide depends on donor funding.
- 1. UNICEF Lebanon. “Case Study on the Inclusive Education Pilot Study in Lebanese Public Schools,” June 2021, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/media/8391/file.
- 2. Wehbeh, S. “The Challenges of Inclusive Education in Lebanon,” 2006, https://doi.org/10.1080/09687590600679980.
- 3. British Council Lebanon, “Inclusion and education, The Journey of Inclusion in Lebanese Schools,” retrieved March 7, 2023, https://www.britishcouncil.org.lb/en/partnerships/success-stories/inclusion-education.
- 4. Government of Canada, "Project Profile - Education Access and Quality Learning in Lebanon," https://w05.international.gc.ca/projectbrowser-banqueprojets/project-projet/details/D003764001.
- 5. Ibid.
- 6. UNICEF Lebanon, “Case Study on the Inclusive Education Pilot Study in Lebanese Public Schools,” June 2021, https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/media/8391/file.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Asmar, A., “Lebanon crisis forces children to drop out of school: UNICEF,” Anadolu Agency, 2022, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/lebanon-crisis-forces-children-to-drop-out-of-school-unicef/2488822.
- 9. "A disabled student in a wheelchair in primary school," ©Adobe Stock/andreysha74