EI Deputy General Secretary, Jan Eastman, encouraged 80 participants in the inclusive education breakout session to devise practical union-based experiences that respect children's diverse experiences and realities in order to secure Education for All (EFA).
Sylvia Borren, from Global Call to action Against Poverty, insisted that inclusive education was possible but more needed to be done to achieve it. She noted the leadership EI was giving on the issue, through the comprehensive education policy, and challenged delegates to ensure inclusive education did not remain a ‘dream’ but the ‘biggest ambition that EI should foster on paper and in implementation’.
The gender gap, stereotypes and barriers in education were addressed by EI’s Co-ordinator for Arabic-speaking countries, Huda Khoury, who explained that, EFA is a major challenge, especially for girls and women. She encouraged participants, as trade unions, to: “invest in female education and help in social and economic development of countries.”
Fatima da Silva, from CNTE (Brazil), described how teaching in a multicultural setting is increasingly important. “Inclusive education can be transformed into reality but teachers working in schools must be trained in public universities, and have access to continuous training.”
Christine Blower, from NUT (UK), emphasised the role of unions in valuing diversity and respect: “As trade unionists, we must provide anti-racism awareness training, be visible at Black and LGBT prides, and link this to work that our unions do to oppose privatisation, because when you move from public education, you are more likely to have a narrower curriculum that is not inclusive, and does not promote skills for problem-solving or working together.”
Carmen Vieites, from FETE-UGT (Spain), shared experiences of education unions and inter-cultural classrooms, before presenting her union’s Aula Intercultural programme, which provides 4,000 resources on inclusive education, and uses technology for students to learn tolerance and respect towards each other. “We defend interculturalism as a way to reach all people, to promote dialogue, social justice, equal rights and richness of cultures,” said Vieites.
With these stimulating presentations, participants discussed how to evaluate the success and failure of education diversity policies to target under-achievement and inequality among different groups. The participants also agreed that by sharing experiences of inclusive education it helped to achieve good quality, public schools that were secular, safe and free for all.