On 9 July, a webinar reviewing the recently released Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) 2020 from the perspective of teachers was co-hosted by Education International, UNESCO, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, and the GEM Report. The report, “Inclusion and Education: All Means All” was explained. Its findings were mostly based on information from before Covid-19, however, the impact of the pandemic was an important part of presentations and reactions. The global health and economic crises have made the need for inclusion in education even more urgent.
As Education International’s President Susan Hopgood said in opening remarks, “we find ourselves in the midst of a global education crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that has further exacerbated inequalities, particularly for the most vulnerable students and teachers.” One of the issues that she raised in that connection was: “One major concern is that governments in their responses to the pandemic have often left the most marginalised behind.”
Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO, in her remarks, stressed that “our rapidly-changing world is facing major challenges – from the Covid-19 pandemic to climate change, conflict, displacement, technology, intolerance and hate speech – which will further widen inequalities and have an impact for decades to come, unless we take action.” She argued for recovery to include adequate financing for education and spoke of the central importance of teachers on inclusion in education saying, “the Report shows us that inclusive education cannot be achieved without teachers – teachers who are supported and prepared to create classrooms where all learners have their place.”
In a round-table discussion, Mark Potter, Principal of the Berhampore School in Wellington, New Zealand and National Executive of the NZEI Te Riu Roa shared practice examples of how inclusion works at his school. He stressed that it is essential to “fit the school to the child, not the child to school.”
Sonia Alesso, General Secretary of the Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina, said that in order to ensure a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity in the classrooms “it will be essential to review and adapt current frameworks and regulations for decent work including for teachers and education support personnel with disabilities or from other marginalized backgrounds. And this should of course happen in consultation with teachers.”
While the GEMR supported the importance of inclusion and the vital role of teachers, Hopgood raised the concern that “the recommendations of the GEM Report could have given the importance of dialogue with teachers more attention and we welcome that this webinar gives teachers and their representative organisations a voice in discussing inclusive education from a teachers’ perspective.”
The round-table discussion also invited Dr. Jobicks Kalumba, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Zambia, to provide a government perspective. He stated that he was confident that, as part of ongoing reforms, teachers in all training colleges will receive the basic knowledge of inclusive education. Teachers are key components to make inclusive education a reality.
The report and the webinar discussed a wide range of groups that need to be touched by inclusive education. Baguma Filbert Bates, General Secretary of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union, addressed the importance of equity and inclusion to the education of refugees and host communities. He also highlighted the serious problems in refugee camps, including high rates of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.
The webinar was part of an ongoing process of reflection, discussion and action on inclusion and education. The co-hosts of this webinar will continue to work together on an issue that is vital for education, but also for building more decent and sustainable societies.
The full GEM Report 2020 can be found here.