Last week of June, saw the launch of the Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 by UNESCO. Another day, another global report with no relevance for education in Scotland, you might think.
Except the theme of this report was Inclusion and Education. No, no. Not another debate and set of policy promises about inclusive education.
Well potentially; except this time we face rebuilding education systems in light of COVID-19. Inclusive education as broadly defined in this report offers the road map to a more resilient and inclusive education system.
The foreword to the report talks in straightforward fashion about how we should view inclusive education. Their approach could not be more direct.
The UNESCO Report opens with a bold statement “the Report asks whether it really is necessary to seek justifications for inclusive education to be pursued. It notes that debating the benefits of inclusive education can be seen as tantamount to debating the benefits of the abolition of slavery, or indeed of apartheid.”
In Scotland we have had three debates in the Scottish Parliament over the past three years. The debate mainly features questions about presumption of mainstreaming, level of resources and access to segregated special schools. MSPs rarely spoke up for the benefits of inclusive education, and support for the presumption of mainstreaming lacked the ideas of injustice and inequality that UNESCO discusses.
The foreword views the broad definition of inclusive education not as an access to mainstream but recognition of wider barriers like mechanisms of exclusion.
“Discrimination, stereotypes and alienation do exclude many. These mechanisms of exclusion are essentially the same, regardless of gender, location, wealth, disability, ethnicity, language, migration, displacement, sexual orientation, incarceration, religion, and other beliefs and attitudes.”
The GEM report is published in a full document including charts and tables with boxed examples of good practice for 400 odd pages as well as a summary report and an easy read version. In addition there are a series of short videos and cartoons drawn from the report.
It is well worth a read. After reading the Report or skimming the summary or devouring the easy read you are asked to vote in a poll of the 10 key messages from the Report. You select your own top key message which should be reflected to policy makers in your country. Last we checked Number 1 was winning – Widen the understanding of inclusive education: it should include all learners, no matter their identity, background or ability.
Some other statements from the Report to be further considered within Scotland’s approach would be
“A key barrier to inclusion in education is the lack of belief that it is possible and desirable”
“Financing needs to target those most in need.”
“While some countries are transitioning towards inclusion, segregation is still prevalent.”
“Teachers, teaching materials and learning environments often ignore the benefits of embracing diversity”
The world seems to be taking steps forward and committing to progressing inclusive education while we, in Scotland, are still debating the merits of separate development.
There’s lots to consider in the GEM Report. What’s your opinion?