Source: UNESCO
Source: UNESCO

Cali Agreement: A Renewed Commitment to Inclusive Education

published 16 October 2019 updated 28 October 2019

The International Forum on Inclusion and Equity in Education held in Cali, Colombia, late last September highlighted the continuing barriers to inclusive and equitable education for all.

From 11 to 13 September, the International Forum on Inclusion and Equity in Education organised by UNESCO, the Colombian Ministry of Education and the City of Cali brought together over 450 education experts, trade unionists, politicians and government representatives from more than 55 countries. The Forum focused on the public policies that will make it possible to work towards equity and inclusion in the education sector. Education International (EI) was represented by Gabriela Castro, coordinator for the Latin American region (EILA).

The main subject of the forum was how to design policies that will strengthen inclusion across the board and in all areas of education. It also analysed the political will and financial contributions made by governments. Participants also discussed the implications for curricula in diverse contexts, in situations where pedagogically evaluated adaptations are required for inclusion and equity.

Empowering Teachers to Implement Inclusive Teaching Methods and Practices in the Classroom

This was the theme of the round table discussion in which the EILA representative participated alongside delegates from the Ministries of Education of Namibia, Canada and Mexico. Castro highlighted EI's definition of inclusive education, which centres on the view of education as a right and the defence of state public education, in line with EI's working and policy documents (“Inclusive education means that all students should be taught together, with the same standards and in the same educational institution wherever possible, regardless of gender, ethnicity, cultural or economic background or physical or intellectual ability”).

Castro focused her presentation on the situation in Latin America, which is marked by times of political upheaval and the predominance of neoliberal policies that impact the education sector. “We cannot have a discussion about what is happening in the classroom and how to motivate teachers without first analysing what is happening in our countries”, Castro said, pointing out that Latin America is one of the most unequal regions in the world. Faced with these realities, “it is important to examine the daily life of a teacher in a classroom in any Latin American country, with 40 or 50 students in the classroom, cases of forced migration or displacement, schools and classrooms in very poor condition and without sufficient resources”.

Inclusion requires adequate funding and structured educational policies to promote inclusion, Castro said, lamenting that there are still many students with disabilities excluded from the classroom due to lack of resources and necessary support. She also called for better teacher training on equality.

Teacher Empowerment and Contextualisation

Castro stressed the need to take into account the environment in which teaching takes place in order to establish policies adapted to the specific context (political, social, educational) of teachers and students. In the same vein, she noted the central role that teachers should play in the development of curricula, which goes beyond a limited view of the "motivation" of the teacher, successfully transforming the curriculum into a tool adapted to the context, free from homogenisation and normalisation.

The conclusions from the Forum can be found in the document available here.