Inclusive Education for All: from Ideas to Action A student-centred approach to support social cohesion
ZAGREB – Ensuring every child’s full potential should be the top priority for education policy makers and practitioners worldwide. If the visions of UN Sustainable Development Goals and EU European Education Area are to be achieved, legal and policy frameworks, as well as effective delivery systems, have to be in place and implemented.
As a part of coordinated effort to generate more impact on the issue, with the support of the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union, SIRIUS – Policy Network on Migrant Education and Network of Education Policy Centers (NEPC) merged their annual policy conferences into the “Inclusive Education for All: from Ideas to Action” event that took place in Zagreb at the beginning of May.
The two networks brought together their audience to share the knowledge and experiences from their geographies, the EU and its neighbourhood. About 130 participants from education ministries, universities, research institutions, civil society’s organisations and schools from 33 countries gathered to discuss ways in which education systems contribute to secure fairer societies.
NEPC and SIRIUS naturally “bond” as they share the same core values and goals. «What is also needed though – stated Lana Jurko, NEPC Executive Director – is bridging. A society that has only bonding and no bridging is in serious danger of coming apart. Modern pluralistic democracies have special needs for bridging social capital».
In this light, education has a huge role in achieving social cohesion and the question of how to promote and foster inclusive education arose.
Thomas Huddleston, Chair of SIRIUS network, reminded how European policies directly influence our public sphere, including the education systems: «For me inclusive education means that everybody should be able to use the opportunities of our education systems and should be our duty to explain why it matters so much». Representatives from UNESCO, European commission, Open Society Foundation and Latvian Parliament stressed the following priorities: all countries should grant the same rights and obligations to all students, and they should make sure that the students’ different needs are always taken into account.
Policies and practices to overcome low socioeconomic status effects on students’ achievements, multilingual educational settings and synergies between formal and non-formal education were explored in different thematic panels and they rendered the complexity of the current educational challenges, but also the potential that a multi-perspective framework could bring. School autonomy, shared leadership, a school climate that respects and acknowledges fluid and coexisting identities, universal policies, socioemotional skills contextual to school subjects were enlightened as key elements of effective and adaptive educational systems.
The conference was also an opportunity to give the floor directly to the beneficiaries of these policies and practices: the students. Representatives of the Zagreb Student Debate Forum gave their – at times sharp-edged – feedbacks and they shared their perspectives on the current educational debate. Living the challenges of education on daily basis, they strongly and urgently demand a clear outcome: «The system should cater to the student’s needs».