Inclusion and education: All means all – even during the COVID-19 crisis

Article, 24.06.2020

The international community has committed to ensuring  access to quality education for all by 2030. However, nearly 265 million children and young people are currently neither in school nor in training. UNESCO's 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report reminds countries to focus on those who are left behind and progress towards   inclusion in education. Inclusion plays a very important part in Switzerland's development cooperation.

Girls and boys are in their classroom sitting around a table in front of the blackboard. They each make a coloruful drawing.
Programme under way in Kosovo to improve Roma communities' access to public services such as education and healthcare. © Voice of Rome Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE), 2015

According to UNESCO, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to school closures  in more than 190 countries, affecting the schooling of nearly 1.6 billion learners. The ongoing crisis should not make us forget the girls and boys who were out of school due to poverty, gender, ethnicity or other reasons, even before COVID-19 disrupted access to education. Education stakeholders must continue to mobilize for inclusive education that meets the needs of all, so that millions of children and young people are no longer left behind, without  prospects for a better life.

The concept of inclusive education draws attention to groups most likely to be excluded from education or training, such as girls, children with disabilities, refugees and IDPs, children affected by conflicts, and children from families affected by poverty or from ethnic or religious minorities. Exclusion from education reflects social inequalities and is context-specific.

The 2020 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report will be launched in Switzerland on 30 June 2020, with the participation  of the Director of the Report and a panel of experts (see box below). The report analyses the barriers  to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and promote lifelong learning). It also provides concrete examples of public policies that have successfully addressed these challenges.

Inclusion and equity in education: an SDC engagement priority

Basic education is a fundamental human right. For SDC, promoting education is a way to improve inclusion and social cohesion,  economic empowerment and resilience, while strengthening sustainable development.

In many countries where SDC operates, certain segments of the population face sometimes considerable obstacles in gaining access to basic education and training. SDC is working to prevent discrimination against vulnerable groups and to improve inclusion and equity in education. Around 80% of Roma in Europe live below the poverty line, have a lower life expectancy and experience discrimination and social exclusion on a daily basis. With Switzerland's support, 4,335 Roma children, including 2,147 girls, were able to go to school in 2019. Tutoring and mentoring enabled 1,106 schoolchildren to do better at school, avoiding dropping out of primary school and allowing transition to secondary school with better job prospects. In the Gaza Strip, an SDC-supported project gives 320 children and young people with Down's syndrome and autism access to basic education and vocational skills development adapted to their specific needs. This project empowers young people and help them  transition from beneficiaries  and promotes their social inclusion and economic integration.

Education offers prospects for the future throughout  life. It enables gender equality and equal participation in society and the economy. Today, many girls and boys are deprived of their right to quality education. The Global Education Monitoring Report calls on all stakeholders to rethink their education systems in order to include all children and young people regardless of their identity, background, gender or ability. This is a particularly important message, as governments rebuild their school systems following the upheaval of the COVID-19 crisis.

Swiss launch of the Global Education Monitoring Report

A launch event, entitled 'Inclusion and education: for all without exception', will present the UNESCO GEM Report and its main findings to the public on 30 June from 3pm to 5pm. Following a speech by Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report, a panel of experts will discuss experience gained in the context of inclusion in education in Switzerland and international cooperation.