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The Impact of the Inclusive Education Strategy on the Education of Primary School Students with Disabilities in Vientiane, Lao PDR

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posted on 16.11.2021, 04:10 by Heu, Nor

The inclusive education (IE) strategy promotes the inclusion of all children regardless of their abilities into mainstream schools. Little, however, is known about its impact on the inclusion of children with all sorts of disabilities at the primary school level. This study explores this issue. The main objective of this study is to analyse the impact of the Lao IE strategy in developing the public mainstream primary school system so as to be responsive to the needs of primary school students with impairments in Vientiane, Lao PDR. This is a qualitative research project which adopted semi-structured interviews, observations, and document analysis. Data was gathered from 45 participants from different backgrounds; notes recorded direct observations in primary schools; and documents such as reports and statistics were collected during the field work in Vientiane over the two month period of May and June 2015. The study established that many countries have experienced challenges in translating the IE concept into practice. Lao PDR also faces similar challenges.  The study suggests that despite the ongoing continuous improvement of the Lao IE, the principle of inclusion is not yet fully employed. Children with more complex disabilities, such as being blind, deaf, mute or having an intellectual impairment, are still restricted to studying in special schools. This practice appears to be in contradiction to the principles of inclusion, to the social model of disabilities, and to a rights-based approach to education. In addition, the lack of government funding allocated specifically to implement the IE strategy at both national and local levels indicates the current weakness of the Lao IE system. As a consequence, children with more complex impairments still cannot receive meaningful and quality education in almost all public mainstream primary schools.  Furthermore, it is evident that, although the Lao IE policy officially targets all children, in practice there has, as yet, been little impact on mainstream primary schools that are the focus of this research. Data regarding students with impairments is not collected by the relevant authorities in a consistent system. The IE policy has not been fully translated into mainstream primary school policies and development plans. The existing ‘IE’ schools continue to experience challenges in accessing the essential financial and technical supports they need to prepare to accept children with disabilities. Basic facilities and disabilities-related services are mostly unavailable. Importantly, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) has not yet officially recognised and approved the use of braille and sign language, even though these languages have been developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Centre of Medical Rehabilitation (CMR) to teach only children with disabilities who are enrolled in the Centre. Many people have criticised MOES for not taking the lead in the provision of education for children with disabilities. Although MOES has depended on the CMR’s expertise and resources to support its IE strategy, children with disabilities continuously experience obstacles in accessing and learning together with none disabled students in public mainstream primary schools that adequately meet their basic needs. This is why many people believe that children with disabilities cannot attend mainstream primary schools and the best place to learn was the CMR.  Finally, participants still retained a medical perspective regarding disabilities. The Lao government itself still translates ‘disabilities’ as medically defined health issues. An understanding of disabilities in terms of the more recent social model was not common among participants in this study. Given that many people hold the medical perspective, individual impairments continue to be blamed as barriers to accessing services such as education, which is opposed to the social model approach to disabilities. The present stage of development of Lao IE strategy still seems to reinforce the exclusion of children with disabilities from accessing the education that is their human right.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John; Stupples, Poly